Keene city councilors filled two seats — which had been vacant for more than six weeks — at their meeting Thursday night.
They elected Robert J. O’Connor to represent ward 4 and Kate Bosley to fill the at-large seat. Both new councilors have been assigned to the planning, licenses and development committee. Their terms expire Dec. 31, and their positions will appear on the ballot in the city’s elections in November.
The seats opened when two councilors resigned in June: Ward 4 Councilor Margaret M. “Maggie” Rice and Councilor At-Large Bartlomiej K. “Bart” Sapeta, both of whom cited moves as their reason for stepping down. While Sapeta’s term ended this year, Rice still had another two-and-a-half years to go.
The city charter mandates that the remaining councilors vote on a replacement when someone steps down before their term is complete.
Bosley and O’Connor both said they intend to run in the fall. While Bosley’s seat will show up on the ballot as a typical, two-year, at-large term, O’Connor will be vying for the remainder of the ward seat’s term, which will run two years, from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021.
O’Connor faced David Lanier and Michael Remy for the ward 4 seat.
A former city councilor, O’Connor was chosen to fill a vacancy in ward 4 in July 2012 and reelected in 2013. He said he didn’t run again in 2017 because he wanted to focus on family. A career law enforcement officer, O’Connor now works as Roxbury’s part-time police chief and the safety director at Brattleboro Union High School.
In his five-minute presentation to the council Thursday, he discussed his past service with the city, including his participation in the vote to deny an event license for the Keene Pumpkin Festival. As a Keene State College graduate, O’Connor said he understands the importance of educational institutions to the surrounding area.
“If appointed, I look forward to the challenges ahead, such as tackling the budget and having a less restrictive process for residents in deals with city government,” he said.
In the primary and the final round of voting Thursday night, O’Connor beat Remy 10-3. Lanier did not receive any votes.
Councilors Bettina A. Chadbourne, Terry M. Clark, Randy L. Filiault, Mitchell H. Greenwald, Stephen L. Hooper, Philip M. Jones, Gary P. Lamoureux, Janis O. Manwaring, Thomas F. Powers and David C. Richards supported O’Connor.
Voting for Remy were Councilors George S. Hansel, Carl B. Jacobs and Robert S. Sutherland.
The field for Bosley’s seat included five other candidates: Bradford Hutchinson, Teresa “Terri” O’Rorke, Rice (the former ward 4 councilor), John W. Therriault and Catherine “Catt” Workman.
Bosley is the general manager of her family’s in-home senior-care facility in Keene, Comfort Keepers, and she and her husband, Craig Henderson, also work together in real estate investing.
Her role at Comfort Keepers, she said, gives her “specific insights into concerns of seniors, veterans and other people with disabilities in our community.” She added that, on the council, she hopes to address affordable housing, too.
“I have a strong interest in seeing our community thrive because my business and family are here,” Bosley said. “I represent the voice of a woman and a mother and an entrepreneur, and I hope that you find value in my experience and what I will bring to the table.”
She ultimately defeated Rice, 9-4.
In the primary round of voting, Councilors Chadbourne, Filiault, Greenwald, Jacobs, Jones, Lamoureux, Powers, Richards and the recently sworn-in O’Connor voted for Bosley.
Hansel, Hooper, Manwaring and Sutherland voted for Rice.
In the second round of voting, Clark switched his vote from O’Rorke to Bosley.
Before Rice resigned from her seat in June, she told The Sentinel she was moving to ward 3, which made her ineligible for her position as a ward 4 councilor.
She told the council Thursday she hoped to provide some consistency in the transition by filing for the interim at-large seat. She does not plan to run in the fall.
“My intent in filing for the at-large vacancy is to fulfill [my] responsibility to the people who elected me in 2017,” she said.
This spring, Rice also took on the role as Hansel’s mayoral campaign manager and referred to him at the launch event as her partner. In declaring her candidacy for the at-large council seat, she listed his address as her own.
When asked after Thursday’s meeting why he didn’t recuse himself from the vote for at-large councilor, Hansel pointed to the city charter, which says conflicts of interest occur when an elected official or a relative has a “material or financial interest which differs from the interest of other citizens.”
He did recuse himself on another matter at the meeting, however, that pertained to contracts with the Monadnock Economic Development Corp. Because Hansel is a board member with MEDC, he asked to be recused.
When Councilor Clark asked for clarification on recusals, City Attorney Thomas P. Mullins explained that conflicts of interest are generally financially related.
“The council, though, has the right, when a [recusal] request is made, to make a determination as to whether or not they want to grant it, you know, outside of those parameters,” Mullins added during the meeting.
Though he doesn’t personally benefit from any actions regarding MEDC, Hansel told The Sentinel his recusal in that case was in the interest of transparency, noting that it’s ultimately up to the other councilors to decide whether he can sit out on a vote.
“I’ve made it a practice to disclose those things,” he said. “Obviously my relationship with Maggie is public information, and everybody on the council knows that.”
He said that stepping away from the MEDC vote isn’t comparable to Rice vying for the vacancy, because he has no financial interest in the latter.
“We all have personal relationships with the candidates. I served with Rob O’Connor, I’m friends with all the councilors and the mayor,” Hansel said. “That doesn’t mean that I recuse myself from every decision having to do with those individuals.”