LACONIA — Only two men have served as both chairman of the School Board and mayor of the city, Rod Dyer and Mike Seymour, who steps down on Monday, after his second term. "We did in the opposite order," Seymour remarked.
Seymour was elected mayor in 2010, joining a veteran city council with five members — Matt Lahey, Henry Lipman, Brenda Baer, Bob Hamel and Armand Bolduc — who had been together for two terms. "I learned a lot from everybody around that table," Seymour said.
Seymour counted the search for a city manager to replace Eileen Cabanel, which began near the close of his first year in office, as "the biggest challenge and, in hindsight, one of the most impactful decisions the council made." He said that in guiding the process, he sought to impress upon the council that "we need to focus on where we need to be going, not where we've been." The process, he described, as lengthy, consuming a considerable amount of time and requiring a significant investment in research.
Seymour recalled that when Scott Myers, the only candidate who appeared at the final interview without an armful of documentation, left the room Bolduc said flatly "well, we can stop right here." Only one councilor expressed strong reservations, preferring a more experienced candidate. Seymour said that he was encouraged by the near unanimity in the face of such an important choice, which suggested that the council would work well together as other issues arose.
Seymour had high praise for Myers, who he said quickly became engaged in the life of the city. Without acting as a seventh councilor, "he is always bringing ideas and suggestions to the council," he said. At the same time, he noted that Myers has used his relationships in Concord and even Washington to the advantage of the city. "We've charted an amazing course with Scott at the helm," he said.
As a candidate, Seymour touted strategic planning and as mayor initiated the process. "It worked out well," he said, explaining that the council, in partnership with the city manager and department heads set priorities and monitoring the progress toward pursuing them. "We were proactive and looking long-term," he said. "The council began dealing with issues it chose, not only reacting to circumstances that arose."
Likewise, Seymour convened what he called "business roundtables" designed to foster a closer relationship between City Hall and the business community. He said that "some positives" came from the 18 months of meetings, referring specifically to a "relocation package" created to enable those doing business in the city to navigate the regulatory and permitting process.
Confessing that his service on the School Board was initially aroused suspicion abut his role as mayor, Seymour said that the tension that had marked relations between the City Council and the School District was overcome during his tenure. He said that councilors, particularly Bob Hamel, recognized that the renovation and expansion of the Huot Regional Technical Educaiton Center, together with improvements to the high school and its playing fields, would prove assets to the city. Meanwhile, Myers and School Superintendent Bob Champlin established a close working relationship that contributed significantly to "charting a different course."
As mayor, Seymour cast only one deciding vote, that in favor of introducing a mandatory recycling program rather than "Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT)." He said that "until five or 10 minutes before the vote I knew exactly what I was going to do. Vote for PAYT." He explained that his turnabout was the result of suddenly concluding that residents ought to be given the opportunity to do the right thing by recycling more trash and only have PAYT imposed on them if they failed. "If we have to go to PAYT," he said, "it should be their fault."
Seymour said that so far the mandatory program appears to meeting its targets.
Reflecting on his tenure, Seymour said "it's easy to do a good job when you're surrounded by good people. This team is so good, " he continued,. "I benefited and I'm thankful." He said that "the mayor's work should be done before you sit down at the council table, on the phone behind the scene."
Not only is Seymour stepping down as mayor, but also leaving his position as a vice-president of Franklin Saving Bank to become the chief operating officer of Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center. He said that he grown weary of banking, where he spent his working life, and for the past year had discussed the move with R.J. Harding, a personal friend. "It would have been difficult to make the move as mayor," he said, explaining that "it's not that I've lost interest, "but I wouldn't be able to devote the time and master a new career."
At Meadowbrook, he said he will oversee day-to-day operations, including marketing and facilities, freeing Harding to pursue the relationships with agents and artists essential to offering shows that fill the seats.
However, Seymour, who at 46 has also served as president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of LRGHealthcare, a director of the WLNH Children's Auction, said that he expects to return to community service "once I get settled in my new position. What that will be," he continued, "only time will tell. A project? A committee? Absolutely."