New planning director working in his third career


02-22 city planner TrefethenLACONIA — Dean Trefethen already had careers as a broadcaster and an engineer when he went before the zoning board in Dover for a variance that would allow him to build an addition to his home. That experience got him going on his third career, municipal government.

Trefethen was named Laconia planning director last month.

“I was last on the agenda and there were four or fives cases ahead of me and they had all gone through their process and it was like, 'This is kind of interesting. I could do that. I could do that.'”

He also learned something about the best position on a governing board's agenda.

“One thing I learned that night, and it was reinforced over the years – being last on the agenda is sometimes a big advantage because everybody is tired, they want to get it done, you come in with a typically simple, straightforward request and they are like OK, OK, OK.”

Trefethen (pronounced Treh-feh'-then) ended up applying for and winning an appointment to an opening on the Dover board.

He was later elected to the position and served on the panel for 17 years before gaining a seat on the Dover City Council, where he served for nearly a decade. He also earned a term as Dover mayor.

He retired to Florida, but he was attracted back to New Hampshire.

“Florida was wonderful, but we missed family and decided to move back,” said Trefethen, who turns 63 on Friday.

He is excited with the challenges presented by his new job, which pays $75,000 a year.

His first priority is a rewrite of an outdated master plan, the overarching document that sets parameters for future growth and improvements in Laconia.

“The demographics that are in the 2007 master plan are primarily from the 2000 Census,” he said. “The socio-economic demographics may be substantially different.”

The portion of population in Laconia living below the federal poverty level climbed from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2014.

“The master plan drives economic activity because there is a workforce you need to have,” Trefethen. “Are those people here and if they are here, are they working in Laconia or are they driving south and going to Manchester or wherever to get the jobs or the money they want to get.”

He said the Planning Department has a role to play in economic development, depending on what the community desires.

“The question before the community is: What direction do you truly wish to go?” he said. “Increasing the commercial base requires that land be zoned to do that. Because if it's zoned residential, you can't put commercial there. By the same token, if it's zoned commercial, depending on what you want to do, you can put some residential there.

“Everybody is big, and Laconia is no exception, on mixed-use projects. You have a little bit of office and commercial space and above it or behind it you build residential. That works well from a community standpoint, gaining commercial but also gaining residents.”

He also said the Planning Department, can, through increased flexibility, find ways to foster development by fine-tuning some regulations.

In some cases, certain setback, parking and green space requirements could make it difficult for a proposed business to be profitable.

“Sometimes you have to make tradeoffs that are different from what people are used to,” he said.

“There are repercussions either way.

“I used to tell my kids when they were teenagers, 'Everything you do has a consequence. Sometimes it's a good one, sometimes it's not, so choose wisely.'”

Trefethen said another big priority will be code enforcement and making sure the city's housing stock is in lawful shape.

“It's a very difficult subject,” he said.

“We do have a part-time code enforcement officer and part of his responsibility is to go and drive around the city and look and see what properties may have issues and see what we can do about it. The first response is, 'We want to work with you. We want to make you aware of an issue, please to try to come into conformance.”


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Laconia to begin new system of assessing student progress

LACONIA — The Laconia School District is preparing to become one of a number of a "PACE" districts in the state by introducing "Performance Assessment of Competency Education," an accountability system designed to offer students greater opportunities to acquire critical knowledge and practical skills while measuring their performance by assessments developed and administered locally.

Academic Coordinators for Teaching and Learning Gail Bourn and Angel Burke told the School Board this week that the district applied to participate in the pilot program in January and recently learned it has been accepted by the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Bourn explained that the accountability will be designed and implemented by local educational officials, in collaboration with their counterparts from other district working together in a network and with support and guidance from the New Hampshire Department of Education. The system will be accompanied by competency-based approaches to instruction and learning aimed at preparing students to enroll in a higher educational institutional institution or begin the pursuit of a career.

Bourn stressed that PACE will provide several benefits for students, foremost among them less standardized testing and more instructional time. Students will still sit the Smarter Balance tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics in the fourth and eighth grades as well as the SAT in the 11th grade, but otherwise undergo the local performance assessment, one of which will be common assessment administered by all PACE districts, in the remaining grades.

At the same time, Bourn said that PACE applies the recent understanding of of people learn through "project-based learning," which enables students to acquire knowledge and develop skills they can apply circumstances and problems encountered in the world beyond the classroom.

Mal Murray of the School Board was skeptical. "How much more paperwork will this mean for out teachers who are already overworked and underpaid?' he asked. Bourn replied that that before seeking to participate in the program, the teachers were consulted and responded positively. Unconvinced, Murray said "we keep piling more things on our teachers. I'm going to stop, because I'm not happy at all."

School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said that the initiative would have no significant impact on the district budget. "It ties costly into a lot of what we are already doing," he said. The program is expected to begin with the 2017-2018 school year.

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Biathlete qualifies to compete in Finland, Estonia


LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Alex Howe of Gilford has qualified for International Biathlon Union Cups 7 and 8 in Finland the first weekend in March and Estonia the following weekend, the local biathlete reported.
Howe competes in biathlon, a winter Olympic sport combining cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship. On Dec. 14-19, his team from Craftsbury Green Racing Project of Vermont entered the Biathlon trials at Mt. Itasca Winter Sports Center near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
Following the conclusion of trials races, Howe, Emily Dreissigacker and Hallie Grossman of Craftsbury Green Racing Project were named to the U.S. Biathlon Association International Biathlon Union Cup Team.
The first weekend of IBU Cup competition is in Kontialahti, Finland. The second weekend is in Otepaa, Estonia.
Howe said his qualifying races were this past weekend in Lake Placid, New York, and the previous weekend in Jericho, Vermont.
"Both qualifying weekends went pretty well for me, I shot 80 percent in all the races and felt pretty good skiing," he reported. "That is good enough here in the states, but I know that when I get over there I need to up my game. Generally the winners of the IBU Cups are shooting in the high 80's and even low 90's percentages."
Howe said he is excited to qualify to go back over. "It's such a different level over there, and it's always exciting to race the best," Howe reported. "I am also excited because this time I will have gotten my nerves out of the way and can just relax and do what I know how to do. It's going to take great shooting and awesome skiing to even break into the top 30 for me but that is my goal. Another problem I have been working on the past couple weeks has been my shooting time. I need to cut my times down by 10 seconds for each shooting at least to be competitive with the leaders."
Racing in Finland and Estonia also provides the opportunity to earn a start spot on the World Cup, "which would be incredible," he noted.
"That would be an awesome ending to the season but who knows what will happen. Biathlon is really a sport where anyone can win because the shooting is such a huge part. It really makes things exciting!" he reported.
To follow Howe's progress, visit his team's website at

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