After 6 years on school board & 6 years on selectboard, it's time for some travel

GILFORD — After serving as an elected official for 12 years, on March 12 Selectman Kevin Hayes will chair his final board meeting.

Hayes, who served for six years on the Gilford School Board and six years as a selectman, chose not to seek re-election for an additional three-year term.

"I have absolutely loved being a selectman," Hayes said last week as he read through one of his final packets of information before one of his final meetings.

In the past 12 years Hayes has seen Gilford through some trying times, like three police chief changes, as well as some prominent successes, like the clean up of lower Liberty Hill.

"When I first ran in 2008, were were doing a site study at Liberty Hill," he said.

"It's taken six years to get here," he said. By here he means that nearly 10 years after a natural gas company notified the N.H. Department of Environmental Services about a forgotten toxic coal tar dump site and six years of working with the state and the various entities deemed legally responsible for the toxic waste, site remediation is slated to begin in the spring of this year.

"We've also been able to control the growth of town government and keep the tax rate level over the past six years," he said, recalling having to make some very painful decisions about eliminating positions, not giving raises, redefining some of the duties of existing employees, and not filling empty positions as a way of keeping the costs of government down.

Hayes said he believes that under his watch, Gilford has hired a great town administrator and a great finance director and under the board's guidance, the town has prospered without overspending. He also said it was challenging to go through two police chiefs but said, without tipping his hand, that he is confident the board has had three excellent choices to take over the department and hopes to name a new chief within a week.

He remembered that the day after he was first elected selectman, the former board fired former Town Administrator Evans Juris.

"What the hell did I get myself into," he said was his first thought, adding that since then the town went through two interim town administrators before hiring Scott Dunn.

Another challenge, he recalled, were the issues the town faced over the former Kings Grant Inn night club.

One of his biggest ongoing concerns is the recent increase in drug abuse and the crime that comes with it. Hayes serves on the Gilford Alcohol and Drug Task Force and hopes the new Board of Selectmen will allow him to continue on as the selectman's representative to the task force.

Reflecting on his time on the school board, Hayes said he was a member of the board during the time when the Middle School built. He was one of the members who opposed building in the Gilford Meadows but was outvoted by his fellow board members.

"I think we have a very good model in the schools right now," he said, saying he like the idea of having all three school close together and virtually sharing one campus but yet able to keep the younger children (the fifth graders) at the middle school separate from the older children.

He said he worked very closely with some people during the building process who really didn't want to spend the money on the school but said the board and the some of the naysayers on the Budget Committee came up with a school building plan that would get everybody's support.

Looking forward, he said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the proposed police station expansion and renovation is passed at the March 11 town vote.

"I would have liked to see it done five years ago," he said.

When asked what he would miss about being selectmen, he said he would miss the town employees the most, followed closely giving the speech at the Memorial Day celebrations and marching in the Old Home Day parade.

"I won't miss the time commitment," he said.

As for his future, Hayes, who is a civil engineer, says he plans on working for another four years but, because he runs his own business, hopes to incorporate a little more travel time with his wife Pam into their near future.

"We love to travel," he said, saying he and Pam spent a few weeks traveling in France last year and had a wonderful time. "We really want to do more of that."

He said he wants to spend as much time as he can being outside and enjoying long-time family pursuits of walking, skiing, hiking and biking. He also likes going to his alma mater, UNH, and watching their hockey games.

When asked what he was most proud of in his years of service, he said it was the great inter-municipality working arrangements Gilford enjoys.

"We have no border wars," he said.

"I'll really miss it," he said, adding that he hopes that if the new board has any questions about anything they wouldn't hesitate to call.

CUTLINE:(Hayes) Outgoing Gilford Selectman Kevin Hayes sits at his desk in the selectmen's room on the second floor of Town Hall. After serving six years on the school board and six years as selectman, Hayes decided not to seek re-election. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)