On the last day to file by declaration for Keene’s municipal elections, Mayor George Hansel has officially announced he is running for a second term.
After making a few remarks before a small group at city hall — including a few city councilors — Hansel, 35, filed for re-election on Tuesday afternoon at the city clerk’s office.
He was the second person to file to run for mayor this election cycle, after retired engineer and Ward 4 resident Mark J. Zuchowski filed last week. Also entering the race Tuesday was Aria DiMezzo, a local activist who is currently facing multiple charges stemming from what federal prosecutors describe as an unlicensed scheme to sell virtual currency.
Candidates can still file by petition through Friday.
Hansel said his first term has been full of surprises, particularly the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the city has been able to accomplish a great deal despite the challenges, he said, including overhauling Keene’s zoning codes and establishing a committee to study racial-justice issues and recommend ways the city can improve.
Keene’s downtown has not only survived, but thrived during the pandemic, Hansel said, adding that a number of businesses have opened in the city’s core since the pandemic began.
“The downtown is booming,” he said. “Every year that goes by, we have more foot traffic, we have more potential being realized. And I really want to continue that over the next couple of years.”
During his brief address before filing, Hansel laid out several things he’d like to focus on if he wins another two-year term, including infrastructure work and addressing the city’s housing shortage.
On the infrastructure front, Hansel says some objectives he’d like to see the city concentrate on include replacing dated underground infrastructure downtown as well as in areas of Keene where flooding is of significant concern, especially considering the high levels of rain the area saw over the summer. Hansel also said he wants to continue expanding Keene’s trail system.
“These are priorities,” he said. “These are in the wheelhouse of the city government and something we can do something about. And we will.”
When it comes to housing, Hansel said he wants to use information from a recent plan by the N.H. Council on Housing Stability, of which Hansel is a member, to start working to address the shortage in Keene. He said the council’s research showed that the state needs to add 13,500 new housing units across New Hampshire over the next three years to stabilize the housing market.
“That’s a huge number,” Hansel said. “It translates to about one new unit of housing per 100 people in population. So you’re talking about 650, 700 in our region.”
But he said this isn’t something Keene can tackle alone, explaining that he’d like to see the city work with community partners such as Cheshire County, other towns in the area, Keene State College and Cheshire Medical Center on the issue.
He added that the city is also working through its “21 in 21” program, in which Keene aims to have 21 homes renovated and weatherized this year, with 22 homes the following year, and so on, to improve its housing stock.
Tuesday was the final day of the filing period for Keene’s municipal elections, except for candidates filing by petition, who must obtain the signatures of 50 voters in Keene. The primary elections for mayor, City Council and to serve as elections officials is Oct. 5, and the general election is Nov. 2.