2 first-time politicians seeking to succeed Lavin on Gilmanton Selectboard

GILMANTON — While both of the candidates who want to be the town's new selectmen are long-time residents, this is the first time either of them has tossed his name into the political arena.

Ralph Lavin's  term on the board ends next month and he is not seeking re-election.

James Barnes has a 40-year career in propane sales who is also a musician who describes himself as "New Hampshire-flavored". He writes and records his own CDs.

He said he is running because some people in town have asked him to run.

He said he thinks the town is going in the right direction and is "delighted" that his property tax bill was lower this year, but is concerned over the polarizing of the town over issued like the Gilmanton Year-Round Library and the Fire Department.

"Because it is a small town these issues can be resolved," he said.

He described the library as an "incredibly emotional" issue but one that can be solved. When asked what his plan was, Barnes said he would explain it at the candidates forum scheduled for March 6.

"All I'll say is that we need to proceed with a certain amount of caution," he said, noting that the town needs to come up with some kind of solution that in long term because the year-to-year divisiveness is unnecessarily driving a wedge between people in a community that everyone wants to see prosper.

"My agenda is I'm pro Gilmanton," he said, saying he wants to make a great town just a little bit better through "reasoned debate" and "good listening".

Opponent Stephen McCormack spent 21-years in the U.S. Military, first in the Marine Corps and then as an Army Officer. He retired with rank of major.

As a recently retired state employee, McCormack also was a senior representative for the N.H. State Employees Union.

He said he feels some of the town's employee feel devalued and that in general the current selectmen are listening to what the town and its employees want.

"Your town is only as good as the employees who work for it," he said.

One of his goals is to form a labor-management committee in town to talk through some of the departmental issues that he feels may not be handling as effectively as possible.

He also wants to get to know the people who work in the town on an individual basis so he can better understand their jobs and the support they need from the selectmen to do them.

McCormack said is is committee to "open and transparent" government, noting that this board of selectmen seems to have a lot of non-public meetings.

"Town government should be open and responsive," he said.

McCormack's other goal is to encourage a review of some zoning regulation that could enable some high-tech manufacturing to relocate in Gilmanton.

He said he has met with the Gilmanton Firefighters Association and believes the department should stay the same size that it is now.

As to the Year-Round Library, he said he is "kind of neutral" and has some concerns about some of the information distributed at the annual deliberative session.

McCormack and Barnes will both be at the candidates forum on March 6 at the Gilmanton School that begins a 6 p.m.