Thirteen candidates are vying for five at-large City Council seats this year, with a range of backgrounds and plans for Keene’s future.
Voters will cast ballots Tuesday in the primary election, narrowing the field to 10 candidates who will move on to the general election Nov. 5. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Four of the 13 candidates in the race are already on the council.
Bettina A. Chadbourne, 60, is self-employed and has been a councilor for eight years. Her experience is an asset, she said, because the job comes with a learning curve and requires working relationships with other councilors and city staff.
Chadbourne said she’s encouraged by many ongoing projects, such as the overhaul of the city’s land-use codes and plans for an arts corridor along Gilbo Avenue, and, if re-elected, hopes to find opportunities to support more public art installations and promote a more bikeable and walkable city.
The council’s biggest success in the past two years, she said, is hiring City Manager Elizabeth A. Dragon. And while it can seem like requests move slowly through the council process, Chadbourne stressed the importance of listening to everyone involved, from the 15 councilors to the mayor, staff and citizens.
“They need to know that they’re being heard,” she said of constituents. “They need to know that we listen.”
Randy L. Filiault, 63, has served two stints as a city councilor, totaling 21 years. Born and raised in Keene, Filiault works in promotions and sales for Monadnock Ford.
In response to comments he’s heard that people have “been there too long” on the council, Filiault pointed out that voters decide who serves.
“Council’s not just because somebody’s moved to Keene and they want to run because it sounds interesting,” he said. “… Make sure you’re running for the right reasons, and mine has always been to make Keene a better place.”
He enjoys being a neighborhood representative while also advocating for local concerns at the state level. He named overall stability and quality of life as the City Council’s biggest success in recent years, noting the vibrant downtown area, but said affordability needs to be addressed. Filiault’s biggest goal in the next two years is to aggressively pursue “the state for the money that’s owed us,” referring to the state sharing a higher percentage of taxes like rooms and meals with local communities.
Kate M. Bosley, 40, is the newest at-large councilor, having been elected by the council in August to fill a vacancy. She is the general manager of Comfort Keepers and works in real estate investing with her husband, Craig Henderson.
Despite the plethora of candidates, which she said is exciting, Bosley (BO-slee, not BAH-slee) said she still feels like her demographic isn’t being represented, as a mother of two school-age children.
Joining the council, Bosley’s interest was fiscal responsibility and finding ways to broaden the tax base. While that’s still a main goal, she recently authored a letter asking the council to consider a review of speed limits in residential neighborhoods.
She also lauded the council for the pressure put on the owner of the former Kingsbury property, which she said resulted in an agreement for taxes to be paid and could lead to future development at the site.
Stephen L. Hooper, 69, is a Ward 1 councilor but is seeking a term as an at-large councilor in this election. A professional photographer and owner of Hooper Visuals, he said he wanted to switch to serving in two-year intervals, now that both he and his wife are retired.
In his four years as a Ward 1 councilor, Hooper said he learned the ropes and feels more prepared to do “more aggressive work” on the council. Experience is necessary to understand the rules and relationships of the job, he said.
If elected, Hooper plans to support downtown revitalization and lower taxes, as well as more activity at the Keene-owned Dillant-Hopkins Airport in Swanzey. He said he’ll be paying close attention during the city’s search for a full-time airport director.
“If we’re going to be paying him or her close to $100,000, I want him or her bringing businesses into the airport,” he said.
Ex-councilor seeks office
There’s one former city councilor running for office again.
Nathaniel M. Stout, 67, was a councilor in Ward 3 and then at-large, serving for 10 years until leaving in 2011. A recently retired communications professional, he said he stepped down from the council because turnover is important to a public body.
That doesn’t contradict his candidacy, he said, because he’s gained new experiences since then.
While he doesn’t have one single issue he plans to champion, Stout said he’s well-suited for planning and zoning projects because of his history serving on those boards. Through planning, he said, the city can affect change in many areas, including addressing homelessness with workforce housing.
Newcomers vie for office
With varying levels of public service experience, many newcomers are running with specific goals for what they plan to accomplish if elected.
Peter A. Starkey, 27, served on the Keene Board of Education until losing his bid for reelection in March. He wasn’t discouraged, though, calling it a great opportunity and seeing the City Council as another chance to serve.
The executive director of Monadnock Peer Support said he brings valuable experience as a millennial who moved away from Keene and returned.
Tackling homelessness would be a major goal, since the city hasn’t done enough to address the issue and nonprofit organizations have picked up that slack, he said.
John W. Therriault, 65, has run for a position on the council twice before, and he hopes to use his experience as a retired general manager of high-tech businesses to help attract companies to Keene.
He also thinks he could work with staff to make the delivery of the city’s services more efficient with better or newer technology, which could lower taxes as a result.
Therriault’s other plans have less to do with tech and taxes and instead tap into his beekeeping hobby. The city should plant wildflowers on fallow land, he said, which would cut back on maintenance, add to the aesthetics and create a grazing area for pollinators.
He also pointed to the need to replace pine trees in the city, which he said were planted after the Hurricane of 1938 tore down many of the older trees in Keene. The city needs a plan to supplant the old pines over several years with mixed hardwoods, he said. That would remove the threat of trees falling in roads or on homes, and the city could sell the timber, to boot.
It’s good for the environment and saves taxpayers money, he said.
Todd A. Rogers, 51, filed as a City Council candidate two years ago at the last second, he said, and got “600 votes as a no-name.” Now he’s trying again in the hopes of furthering his goal of promoting sober work programs, which employ people experiencing homelessness or addiction with the goal of improving their lives and connecting them better with their community.
Self-employed, Rogers owns Life Construction and has been running his own sober work program for 15 years. He would like to see the city do something similar.
“We need to have a better solution to helping, which I believe is a work program coinciding with all the other programs we have in life,” he said.
He also hopes to help diversify the City Council, which he said needs a better mix of people from different generations who bring experience as well as new ideas.
Anthony Boame, 25, has a similar goal. He’s a digital sales representative at The Keene Sentinel who moved to Keene two years ago from Washington, D.C.
With his background, Boame (bo-AH-meh) hopes to bring a different perspective and new ideas to the council, especially as a young person and the only non-white candidate in the at-large race.
Boame wants to pursue two issues: addressing homelessness and encouraging Keene State College students to take a stronger interest in the city.
“I just wanna know how I can help with that and to see if there’s ways of getting college students integrated more into the community,” he said.
New voices ask for votes
Two candidates say their first goal is to listen to their constituents.
Allen Raymond, 28, is the produce manager at the Monadnock Food Co-op and is stepping into politics for the first time. This felt like the right time to step up, he said. With a new mayor and several changing council seats, it seemed like there was a potential for new voices to be heard, he said.
Raymond said he’s concerned there isn’t enough communication between residents and their councilors, and he hopes to change that dynamic by being accessible to the public.
He’s keeping an eye on certain issues in the city, such as the infrastructure downtown and easing the property tax burden. But while there’s a place for candidates with specific goals in mind, he said, but he wants to fill a different role.
“I feel like I am a person people feel comfortable coming to ... somebody who can actually be level-headed and hear from multiple sides,” he said. Because of that, he thinks he could connect to people on a broader basis if elected.
Michael J. Remy, 30, plans to take a similar approach to governing. The director of operations finance at C&S Wholesale Grocers was born and raised in Westmoreland and settled in Keene a few years ago.
A board member with the Keene Young Professionals Network and Monadnock United Way, Remy wanted to get as involved with the city as possible, he said. Knowing his strengths and his financial background, he said the City Council was the “best option for me to have an impact.”
Most conversations he’s had with voters have turned toward the budget and the tax rate, and he plans to apply his work experience when examining the city’s budget. But Remy said he hopes to represent constituents in all areas of concern, getting the job by showing his thought process in how he considers a problem and what approach he takes to solving it.
Preaching less is more
Two candidates are running on platforms of reducing the government.
Ian Freeman, 39, said the council needs voices that are “friendly to freedom.” He’s the founder of the Bitcoin Embassy in Keene and host of the radio show “Free Talk Live.”
Calling the government intrusive and expensive, Freeman said as a councilor he would work to stop police enforcement of so-called victimless crimes, such as underage possession of alcohol and carrying an open container, and eliminate the city’s parking, zoning and code enforcement.
“They basically get in the way of people having productive lives and doing what they want with their property,” he said, accusing the departments of harassing businesses and property owners.
Freeman was a defendant in a lawsuit the city brought alleging harassment against city parking enforcement officers and seeking an injunction for a “buffer zone” around the officers. The city lost the case and its appeals.
Freeman acknowledged that his goals might be difficult to achieve if he’s elected as the only councilor who “cared about freedom,” but said he could still draw attention to the issues.
Matt D. Roach, 43, is an area representative for Trupanion pet insurance who moved to Fitzwilliam in 2013 and to Keene three years later. His goal is to lower taxes by cutting unnecessary city programs and jobs.
“We need to be able to separate our needs from our wants,” he said, noting that art falls into the latter category and shouldn’t have public money dedicated to it.
If elected, Roach would vote down any measure that “seems intrusive that’s gonna impact the lives of Keene residents when they didn’t ask for their lives to be impacted.”
“Money adds up quickly and you’re always gonna have somebody burdened by that,” he said, adding that taxes shouldn’t threaten a person’s livelihood.
As for why he chose to run now, Roach credited a politically charged environment, and he guessed that’s why there are so many people running in the race, too.