The results are in: Keene voters want new, younger leaders in their city government.
That’s what Tuesday’s election results and conversations at the polls indicate, at least.
Discussions with voters at multiple polling places Tuesday afternoon were full of buzz words about electing the next generation of leaders — fresh ideas and new blood.
In the mayor’s race, Ward 2 resident George Thompson, 36, cast his ballot for George S. Hansel, and said his biggest concern is taxes.
“Mitch [Greenwald] has been a longstanding businessman in town and has done a lot of good for the town,” Thompson said of Hansel’s opponent in the race, “but I do wonder if a new face will make some changes that are gonna be positive for everybody.”
Hansel, 33, whose roles include serving on the Governor’s Millennial Advisory Council, succeeded in his bid to be Keene’s youngest mayor in at least 30 years, besting his fellow city councilor Greenwald, 67, by a margin of 2,587 to 2,313.
Meanwhile, two out of three ward council incumbents lost their bids for reelection: Robert J. O’Connor, 50, a former councilor who was appointed to fill a Ward 4 vacancy in August and who was seeking another two years, and David C. Richards, 55, who came to Ward 3 voters asking for a sixth term.
Nancy Howard, a voter in Ward 4, said she supported Catherine “Catt” Workman, 35, over O’Connor because she’s young and will bring “new life to the council, which I think we need.”
Wards 1 and 2 had no incumbents on the ballot. But in each of those contests, a longtime resident of the city or region lost to someone who’d moved from out of state within the past three years.
The at-large council race seemed fairly insulated from calls for change: All three incumbents kept their seats, and Ward 1 Councilor Stephen L. Hooper, 69, succeeded in switching roles to represent the entire city. Mike Remy, 30, was the only newcomer to snag a seat.
The top vote-getter could be another indicator of electorate interest, though. Kate Bosley, 40, tallied 2,695 votes, more than 300 beyond second-place finisher, fellow incumbent Bettina A. Chadbourne, 60. She also raked in the most votes in the primary. Before being appointed by the council to fill a vacancy in August, Bosley had never served in public office.
Out of Keene’s 15 City Council seats, 11 were on the ballot Tuesday. Come January, there will be six new faces on the council, with a new mayor at the head of the room.
In all but one of the six contested races for ward seats and mayor, the younger candidate prevailed. (In Ward 4, Gladys Johnsen, 77, beat Robert J. Call, 28.)
Ken Shaknites, 67, a Ward 2 voter, noted the importance of bringing the community into the 21st century.
“I think younger people, you know, bring that enthusiasm that maybe older people don’t,” Shaknites said. “They may have the experience, that kind of thing, but they may not be thinking beyond and able to reach the younger population, which I think is really important for a community to thrive.”
Anita Sabina, 67, voted in Ward 2, as well, and said she’s noticed a similar craving for youthfulness in the presidential election.
“And I think there are a lot of people our age who share those ideas. It’s just that we don’t necessarily find others to share them with, and so to have a fresh new crop of people that really understand what it can do for us,” she said.
Ward 4 resident Jane Lane said she voted for Hansel for mayor and at-large candidates Remy and Peter Starkey, 27, because they’d bring new blood to city government.
“I think it’s time for the next generation to take over,” Lane said, pointing out that she was elected as a county commissioner when she was just 37 and served for eight years.
Starkey came in sixth place in the at-large race, losing his bid to serve on the council by less than 200 votes.
Maddie Phaneuf, 19, is a Keene State College student and an Elm City native who voted in Ward 3. Keene is a college town, she said, and it’s important to make students feel welcome. She voted for Greenwald for mayor, but regarding the council races, she emphasized the potential benefit of new perspectives.
“I love that there are some older energies on the council, but I think getting some younger voices, some younger opinions on the council would be awesome to see,” she said.
Voting in Ward 5, Katie Carbonara, 26, said issues like affordable housing, high student debt and low minimum wage can make living in Keene difficult for young adults.
“So I was glad to see a lot of young people that I went to school with now running because it will be really good to get some younger people’s voices in our town government,” she said, “because there does seem to be a pretty big disconnect between the generations and what our city needs.”
Staff writers Paul Cuno-Booth and Olivia Belanger contributed to this article.