Keene’s newest city councilors have their eyes on the budget and business-friendliness.
Earlier this month, the council elected Robert J. O’Connor and Kate Bosley to fill vacant seats until the end of the calendar year. O’Connor was tapped for ward 4, whereas Bosley (pronounced BO-slee, not BAH-slee) is a councilor at-large.
Originally from Marlborough, Bosley — who ran against five other candidates for her seat — worked for 10 years in sales and marketing for businesses based overseas that wanted to come to the U.S.
“So I traveled all over the country, and I would always appreciate coming back to New Hampshire. This is where my heart is,” she said.
She lived in Portsmouth for four years, and while visiting a friend in Keene for a day, met her future husband, Craig Henderson. They eventually settled in the Elm City together and had their two children, Liam, 9, and Lilah, 7.
During her transition into parenthood, Bosley began working for her family’s in-home senior-care facility in Keene, Comfort Keepers, where she is now general manager. She and Henderson also work together in real estate investing.
This is Bosley’s first stint on the City Council, though she filed Wednesday to run again in November for another two years.
“I want to represent a group of people that I didn’t feel like were currently being represented on the council,” said Bosley, 40, referring to women as well as her age group.
Though her business background makes her a clear candidate for the council’s finance, organization and personnel committee, Bosley said she’s glad she ended up on the planning, licenses and development committee. As a former president-elect of the Montessori Schoolhouse of Cheshire County’s board, she said she was heavily involved in the school’s move to Hurricane Road, and found development and architecture a new and fascinating world.
She opted not to take the president role, she said, and focus on helping move the school, which was not an insignificant project.
“I love that type of work, and so being put on the PLD committee was amazing for me,” she said. “That’s 100 percent what my brain wanted.”
Ideologically speaking, Bosley describes herself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. She agrees that green energy initiatives and social safety nets are vital to a community’s success, but says they must also be fiscally responsible.
Clarifying that she doesn’t have reason to believe the council is handling its budget poorly, Bosley said she looks forward to using her skills to help scrutinize spending.
While the budget is her first priority as councilor — particularly if she’s re-elected in November — making Keene a business-friendly city is second. Whether the perception’s accurate or not, she said, the council should revamp its image of having too much red tape, to make Keene more inviting to all generations of professionals, especially young people.
O’Connor, who is also on the planning, licenses and development committee, expressed similar goals. He stressed the importance of trimming the budget and streamlining business with the city so that it’s not so burdensome and expensive.
As someone with a long career in law enforcement, he also hopes to ensure the city’s police and fire departments remain well funded and equipped.
O’Connor, who beat out two other candidates for his seat and plans to run again, moved here in 1995 from his hometown of Simsbury, Conn., for a job with the Keene Police Department, where he worked until 2000.
He then took a position as a highway enforcement officer with the N.H. Department of Motor Vehicles, where he worked for three years before joining the enforcement division of the N.H. Liquor Commission.
In 2009, O’Connor, 50, was hired by the Swanzey Police Department and served as the school resource officer at Monadnock Regional High School in Swanzey Center, where he remained until that position was eliminated at the end of the school year.
He now works as Roxbury’s part-time police chief, as well as the safety director at Brattleboro Union High School.
In the same fashion as this go-round, O’Connor was chosen by councilors to fill a vacancy in July 2012. He was reelected in 2013, but decided not to run again in 2017 because he wanted to focus on family.
His wife is Kate Leinster-O’Connor. Their children — Claire, 17, and William, 16 — were in high school at the time Robert decided not to run again. With the children’s extracurricular activities on top of an already major transition in their lives, he said, he wanted to be home with them. Now they are nearer to graduating, O’Connor said, so he felt ready to seek a return to city government.
O’Connor said he’s eager to begin work on the planning committee, which will be new to him after having served on the municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee during his last stint on the council.
“One of my goals is to really go to more of the standing committees and get a better understanding of what they do,” he said.
He also plans to revive something he tried during his last tenure: “coffee with a councilor,” an open invitation for the public to meet him or any colleague who joins at a local establishment. It’s meant to be a low-key way for people to offer complaints, suggestions or thank-yous.
“That way the constituents, even people not in my ward, can come talk to me or another councilor,” O’Connor said.
Another priority for him, he said, is strengthening relationships with all area colleges and universities.
The vacant seats opened up 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 would have ended this year, Rice still had another two-and-a-half years to go.
Bosley’s and O’Connor’s terms expire Dec. 31, and their positions will appear on the ballot in the city’s elections in November. The filing period opened Wednesday morning (see related article on A3).