Candidates for the Keene City Council’s ward seats are gearing up for Tuesday’s election, emphasizing plans for everything from housing and flooding to workforce and renewable energy.
The city’s 10 ward councilors — two from each ward — serve staggered four-year terms, though there’s an additional seat on the ballot this year. In Ward 4, there’s also a two-year position, which is for the remainder of former councilor Margaret M. “Maggie” Rice’s term, since she resigned midway through.
Polls are open from 8 a.m to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Crowell, 67, said he has his eye on a few issues in the city, including the future of the former Kingsbury Corp. site on Laurel Street. He said he’s glad the property owner, Brian Thibeault, submitted a payment plan and has started reducing some of his tax debt.
“I don’t want the city, no matter what, to take it over,” Crowell said of the massive industrial property, which has potential environmental hazards. “… It’s in my backyard. I wanna see the guy that owns it develop it.”
He also prioritized finding creative solutions to workforce needs and the opioid crisis, and said he wants to review the traffic-flow portion of plans for the ongoing revitalization of the Marlboro Street corridor.
Given his background with the fire department, Crowell said he knows how to work with city staff and councilors. Calling out his opponent for just moving to Keene two years ago, Crowell said it takes longer than that to learn about a place and its needs.
“The difference between him and me is the fact that I’ve been here all my life,” he said. “... I’ve been here. I know the city, understand the city.”
Ormerod, 53, defended his right to run for office.
“I’ve been in Keene long enough to have served on the school board and to have been asked by my constituents to serve on the council,” he said.
His priorities include attracting more socially responsible businesses and the young families who might start such companies. Energy and infrastructure security is also critical, he said, adding that Keene needs to treat broadband access as a necessary utility.
“My advantage would be the experience of making things happen,” he said, noting he’s launched 100 products and advised companies. “... Plus, my daughter’s in sixth grade. I’ve got a young family here as well.”
O’Rorke, 65, is a semi-retired hairdresser, an author and was a volunteer emergency medical technician. She lauded the council for its strides toward 100 percent renewable energy, calling its efforts proactive. As a councilor, she said she’d like to join the movement and help foster relationships with groups like the Monadnock Progressive Alliance’s Clean Energy Team.
She said she’s enjoyed canvassing and the chance to learn more about her neighbors as a candidate.
“I have no platform, I have no agenda,” O’Rorke said. “I just want to be a fresh face on the council and just do my best for the city. That’s it, really. It’s simple.”
Williams, 42, is a software developer and owns his own consulting business. He previously worked with the United Nations for seven years and said he felt compelled after moving to Keene in 2017 to find a platform through which serve the public.
Infrastructure has proven to be high priority in his conversations with Ward 2 voters, he said, and many people want to see sidewalks repaired. Keene wants to be a walkable city, he said, but there is a significant population of seniors and people with disabilities that struggles on sidewalks that aren’t maintained.
“The result of that is people who should be out and about in our community end up staying home, and I don’t think that’s right,” Williams said.
He said he also hopes to use his technical prowess to lead the council on issues like cyber security and broadband access, and he wants to examine Beaver Brook’s history of flooding and the effect on lower-income neighborhoods.
Mike Giacomo is challenging incumbent David C. Richards, who is seeking his sixth term as Ward 3 councilor.
Giacomo, 37, didn’t file to run for the position, but launched a last-minute write-in campaign after noticing Richards was unopposed. Giacomo received 14 votes in the primary, securing him a spot on the general election ballot.
A chemical engineer at Markem-Imaje Corp., Giacomo said the old homes are deteriorating and becoming difficult to fill or sell, and there should be a concentrated effort to examine and improve the housing stock.
He also wants to find ways to attract and retain the next generation of workers, which he clarified is not about “kicking out” older populations but taking care of them while broadening the tax base. A major part of that task would be marketing the city, he said.
Giacomo noted that Richards has worked toward the same goal, but said his own work with groups like the Keene Young Professionals Network and Stay Work Play NH have better prepared him.
“We need to understand that demographic in order to attract that demographic,” he said. “And really, the future of Keene depends on it.”
Richards, 55, is a senior security manager at C&S Wholesale Grocers.
“The only thing I know about my opponent is that he said in the paper we need new ideas,” Richards said, referring to Giacomo’s letter to the editor this week.
Richards said he has a few projects he’d like to pursue or continue if reelected, including finding more opportunities to install solar panels and other green technology. As the chairman of the council’s planning, licenses and development committee, Richards said there’s also been discussion about tweaking the city’s bidding process.
“For example, say we’re paving five streets,” he said. “Now, do we put out five bids, or should we put out one bid for all five so we get a better price and we only have one company to hold accountable?”
He also underscored the importance of broadband access and said the college city commission is bringing the information technology directors of Keene State College and the city together to brainstorm solutions.
O’Connor, 50, is a career law enforcement officer and works as a safety officer at Brattleboro Union High School. A former councilor before deciding not to run again in 2017, he said his experience and established relationships with staff are assets.
“I‘ve also learned one thing with that, and you don’t necessarily have to listen to what staff presents. They’ve done their research … but it may not be right for my constituents as a whole,” O’Connor said.
This go-round, he said he’s eager to work more with City Manager Elizabeth A. Dragon, who was being hired by the city when he left office two years ago. He’s also watching out for a few ongoing projects, such as the crosswalk installation by Symonds School and developments regarding the Kingsbury property.
Workman, 35, is a welfare eligibility worker with the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. She said she has always wanted to run for a public office and is thrilled to be part of the “wave of young candidates” in this election.
Her background in social services will be beneficial, she said, especially in building partnerships to help address homelessness and substance use disorders in the city. Workman also has experience working with state agencies.
“I understand that red tape and how to work around it or cut through it,” she said.
While she’s concerned about keeping young people in the area, Workman said she wants to hear more from voters. She’s hosting a chili cook-off Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Keene Recreation Center and hopes to get more feedback from her potential constituents there.
“I feel I’m pretty relatable, approachable, and I feel that’s a good, strong characteristic that will bring out the disenchanted voters,” Workman said.
For the four-year term in Ward 4, the candidates are Robert J. Call and Gladys Johnsen, a former state representative. Call declined to comment Thursday, and Johnsen wasn’t reachable Thursday or Friday.
Councilor Thomas F. Powers, 71, is running unopposed for reelection. This would be his third term and he wrote in a candidate questionnaire that he has no plans for a fourth, citing the importance of turnover on the council to “stimulate new ideas and projects.”
This article has been edited to correct Terri O'Rorke's career description and Robert Crowell's age.