Three Candidates for Two Open Selectmen’s Seats
March 3, 2017
by Barbara O’Brien
Among the multitude of decisions to be made by registered Windham voters when they cast their ballots on Tuesday, March 14, are which candidates should serve as selectmen for the next three years. Two of the five selectmen’s seats are up for election this year, including Chairman Joel Desilets and Bruce Breton.
Both Desilets and Breton have chosen to seek another term as selectmen. In addition, former selectman Galen Stearns, who took a break from the job for several years, has filed for another term. During the annual Woman’s Service Club of Windham’s annual candidates’ forum, the three candidates were given time to address residents and to answer a few questions from those in the audience.
Joel Desilets, who was born and raised in New Hampshire, said he is proud to call Windham home. Desilets said he considers it an honor and a privilege to have served as selectman for the past three years; the last of which he has been the board chairman. Desilets said he feels he has served residents with integrity and that he and the other board members have accomplished a great deal; labeling it a team effort. “It is refreshing to see the many talents and capabilities of the people who volunteer in local government at all levels, and to know that a big part of our jobs is to support an environment that permits everyone to contribute to the success of our town,” Desilets said. “This especially involves actively engaging our employees, to build support for initiatives and ensure inclusivity,” Desilets explained. “Our greatest strength is our people, and we value their insights,” he said.
Bruce Breton, not related to school board candidate Rob Breton, agreed that the multiple goals accomplished by the board of selectmen have been a group effort. Breton, who has served the town in several capacities, over many years, said he considers himself to be fiscally responsible and that he is always mindful of taxpayers’ pocketbooks. “I do my homework and I am an independent thinker,” Breton said.
Galen Stearns commented that in addition to serving as a former selectman for six years, he was also a former member of the Windham School Board, as well as other committees, including the planning board, capital improvement plan committee and the establishment of Griffin Park. Stearns said he grew up in Windham and remarked how drastically the town has grown in the past 30 years.
The candidates for selectmen were each asked their opinion of the watering ban currently in effect and whether it should be enforced. The ban was enacted early last fall due to the severe drought. All three candidates said they are in favor of keeping the ban in place as necessary. “It should be enforced,” Breton said. “Our aquifer is severely stressed.” “Drinking water is more important than green lawns,” Stearns added. “This is not a typical drought. It is the worst in a century,” Desilets added. “We need to conserve!”
In response to a question regarding expanding the $500 veteran’s credit on real estate taxes to include all veterans, not just those who served during wartime, all three selectmen’s candidates said they fully supported the expansion.
Selectmen’s candidates were also asked what they thought the biggest challenge facing the town in the next three years might be. Stearns noted the traffic situation. “It’s a nightmare from Wall Street through the center of town,” Stearns said. Desilets said there needs to be a balance between town and school issues. “All sides need to be taken into consideration,” Desilets said, noting the importance of appropriate economic development. “We also need to deal with traffic impacts,” he added. Breton referenced the annual tax rate and the need to increase incoming revenue. “There needs to be a balance,” Breton said, adding that he would like to see government stream-lined.
Another question posed to the candidates was in reference to their support of building a municipal building for the town. “We need to differentiate between wants and needs; to balance these needs with the school district,” Desilets said. Desilets also commented that he doesn’t think building a municipal building at this point would be a prudent idea. “It’s not likely to happen within the next several years,” he said. Stearns’ answer about a municipal building was “Ultimately, yes.” Stearns said he is a strong proponent of the Capital Improvement Plan. “This would need to be planned for long-term. It’s not going to happen in the next couple of years,” Stearns added. Breton’s answer to the question was “maybe”; explaining that he feels there needs to be a re-use plan created for existing municipal buildings, before moving on to building something new. “It would need to be a two-step approach,” Breton said.
Recently, selectmen voted to improve the town’s website. A question from the audience asked candidates what their opinion of this decision was. Breton said he believes the website will become more of a benefit to employees and residents, as it becomes more user-friendly. Stearns said he approves of the decision. “It will be easier for everyone to access information,” he said. “Absolutely, I have supported this from the outset,” Desilets said. “In the next six months, Windham will have one of the best websites in the country. It will be really incredible,” Desilets said.
The candidates for selectmen were also in agreement on keeping the traffic signal in place across from ConvenientMD. Originally, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation had intended to remove the light once the road construction was completed. “It works well, we’ll have to see what the State does,” Stearns said. “Keeping it is the correct decision,” Desilets added. “I hope it stays,” Breton said. All three candidates also agreed with Windham having become a member of the regional energy consortium, which gives member communities the opportunity to get greener energy at a lower price. The three candidates also said they are fully in support of purchasing a multi-use “Quint” fire engine. “It’s a very useful piece of equipment,” Breton said. “We can’t just rely on mutual aid from other towns.” “It’s very versatile,” Stearns said, offering his support for the purchase. “It’s a matter of safety; potentially life and death,” Desilets said. “It’s a prudent financial decision to purchase the Quint this year.”
In summing up his candidacy, Stearns said, “I will listen and then weigh both sides of an issue.” Stearns noted his years of professional experience and common sense. “I will put in my time and do my homework,” he said. “I take pride in doing my civic duty.”
Breton’s final comment was that his record speaks for itself. “I ask questions and I want answers,” he said. “Most of all, I am passionate about this town. Breton has served for many years as one of Windham’s selectmen, taking a three-year break, a few years ago, due to health and family concerns.
Desilets said his interests in continuing as selectman include economic development, renewable energy and employee appreciation. “Public service is a privilege,” Desilets stated. “Town and school needs must be balanced to keep taxes from climbing,” Desilets emphasized. “We need to continue looking for ways to leverage technology and other efficiencies to cut costs. I believe we can accomplish this while still improving community services (seniors, regional transportation, website, road maintenance and public safety),” Desilets continued. “As a strong fiscal conservative, I believe we need to look for ways to save your money – not spend more of it.” “We should accomplish this with strategy and vision, not kicking costs down the road,” he said. “I strive to round out the board with fresh ideas, business and economics expertise,” Desilets said
Windham polls will be open on Tuesday, March 14, from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. and will be located at Windham High School. Be an informed voter.