February 27, 2019TILTON – Voters in Tilton were invited to Candidates Night at the Tilton Town Hall last week, where those running for offices this year had a chance to introduce themselves and answer questions from the moderator and audience.
With only three contested races, two for Board of Selectmen and one opening on the Sewer Commission, Town Administrator Jeanie Forrester, filling in for Town Moderator Chuck Mitchell, began the evening with candidates for selectman.
Opting to run for a one-year term that will fulfill a position vacated earlier last year, Katherine Dawson said the short term would be a good opportunity for her to wind down her lengthy tenure with the board and allow others an opportunity to join next year.
Asked by Forrester to explain her greatest strength and how she would use it if elected, Dawson said, "Undoubtedly my 20 years of experience as selectman."
She went on to say she would continue to use her diverse knowledge and familiarity with municipal government to do her best for Tilton.
Her final question was what she believed to be the greatest need or problem facing the town and how would she resolve it. Dawson said town, county and school taxes were a problem.
"We have to look at the needs and not the wants. When taxes go up it hurts everybody," she replied.
Her challenger this year is Jason Wright. Wright introduced himself as a native of New Hampshire who moved to Tilton in 1996. The opportunity to run for a one-year term he felt was not only a good way to get acclimated to the Board of Selectmen but the best choice for his family at this time. Wright's background is in engineering and he currently runs the New Hampshire State Surplus. His previous work experiences included real estate and jobs in both the corporate and industrial fields. Wright said he would bring his experience in managing budgets to the board, adding that he would use his creative thinking skills to find more creative ways to handle how money is spent. When asked his greatest strength, he stated that he does his homework, checks his facts then makes solid decisions that he can both defend and support. As to the greatest need or problem in the town, Wright said the town needs to develop a plan, to look at the town and emergency services and decide what it should look like in 20 years.
"I don't think we can do it in a year but it's something the selectmen and every committee in town needs to look at," he said.
For the three-year term, candidates include incumbent Joe Jesseman and challengers Eric Pyra and Dick Olson.
Raised in Tilton, Jesseman said his strength is his two-term experience on the board and many other town committees, and his willingness to collaborate. He said he approaches everything with an open mind and has even voted against his own self-interests at times because "it was the right thing to do." The biggest problem he sees is the drug issues that affect families, children and the community and said he would continue to support programs that care for children and young adults. Jesseman also said that he is involved in many ways with the community outside of his role in town government in his desire to make Tilton a better place.
"I want to continue to make this a better place. I've seen other thriving communities and I want Tilton to join in on this," he said.
Pyra said he has been a resident of Tilton since 2001 where he and his wife chose to raise their two children. In 2012 he joined the Planning Board, has been a past member of the Budget Committee and Zoning Board, and is currently a fire commissioner and member of the Tilton Police Department Building Committee.
"There's a lot of potential here and I like to be part of it," he said.
He feels representing residents of the town is an important role for selectmen while economics is the biggest problem the town faces. If elected, he said he would like to encourage more business along Main Street and work to attract commercial industry to Business Park Drive.
At the age of 26, Olson, who received an honorable discharge from the Army due to an injury, is the youngest candidate for selectman. He sees his age as a benefit however, bringing new ideas and new perspectives to the board. When asked what he believes to be the most important role of a selectmen Olson said he felt it to be the negotiation of contracts, weighing decisions carefully and having the ear of the people.
"I want to leave the town better for children," he replied.
His greatest strength is in contract negotiation, something that benefitted him with a shop he had in Derry. As to what the greatest needs or problems of the town, Olson stated that the town needs to take a second look at itself and someone his age might bring things to light that others might not have noticed over the years. He said he would also like to see the community do more for veterans.
He and Wright are also running for Sewer Commission, where Wright is the incumbent. Wright said that he has a lot of experience and knowledge of the sewer district and that means a lot. Running for his fifth term, he has been part of expansion and improvements to the system but it's not done yet.
"I'd like to see the project through to continue up West Main Street where buildings back up to the river," he said.
As for experience, Olson on the other hand said he has already been accompanying Commissioner Peter Fogg to some of the town's pump stations so he can learn more about it. At times he has even helped with some repairs.
"I'm very familiar with different types of pumps and I'm able to fix them," he said.
Elections for these and other positions in Tilton will take place on Tuesday, March 12, at Winnisquam Regional High School.