LACONIA — A human services professional has joined the list of those seeking to fill the seat of the late City Councilor David Bownes.
Kelley Gaspa said Friday that she would diversify the council as well as bring a fresh perspective to issues that affect many of the city’s residents.
Bownes, who represented Ward 2, died July 3 at the age of 71. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Gaspa has an extensive background in the public health field, in particular dealing with issues of substance abuse and mental illness.
Until recently she was assistant director/director of behavioral health initiatives for the Partnership for Public Health. She now is the suicide prevention coordinator for NAMI NH, which works with people affected by mental illness.
“Being in the public health field I have an understanding of the needs in our community and I see an opportunity to facilitate locally a way to touch the lives of the most vulnerable people,” she said.
Gaspa came to Laconia 13 years ago to take a position in the Laconia school system, working with at-risk students at Pleasant Street School.
Three years ago she was recognized for her outstanding contributions in the field of substance misuse prevention as New Hampshire’s Prevention Specialist of the Year. Last year she was honored by NAMI NH for her work in the fields of substance abuse and mental health.
Three other Ward 2 residents are also interested in being considered to fill Bownes’s seat. They are: Phil Spagnuolo who is active in the drug recovery community, and is a case manager at a treatment center in Effingham; Gregg Hough, a hardware store employee who is also a caregiver for an octogenarian family member who has diabetes and is legally blind; and Robert Soucy, who served one term on the council in the 1970s.
Gaspa said she sees one of the roles of the City Council is to have “its fingers on the pulse of the community.”
She said there is a need for the council to focus on concerns related to COVID-19, as well as to a rising problem with homelessness, along with behavioral issues, and children who suffer from traumatic experiences such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
She said such issues should be considered by the council as it pursues strategic planning and community-building initiatives.
The deadline for submitting applications for the council vacancy is Monday at 4 p.m., according to City Manager Scott Myers. The council is scheduled to interview those who have applied on July 27.