Typically, Town Meeting ballots will have four candidates running for three positions or elected races will remain uncontested. These volunteer positions are subject to public scrutiny and the will of the residents.
But with a vacancy on Warner’s three-member board, there has been unprecedented interest in an interim six-month position. In a public interview on Tuesday, seven candidates explained their interest in the role.
At one end of a folding plastic table, Karen Coyne introduced herself as a mother of seven, a two-time cancer survivor and a Warner resident since 2019.
And on the other end of the table, Alan Brown said he knows what it’s like to be on the other side — in the seats of Warner board members Harry Seidel and Faith Minton. At 73, he is a lifelong city resident who worked as the public works director and later served on the select board from 2014 to 2017.
After fielding questions about the character, commitment to the city and the role of the elected board, Seidel and Minton will now select a final board member from a list of interested volunteers.
For Christa Chamberlain, Warner is reminded of the small town in Minnesota where she grew up—a tight-knit community where residents are often engaged. She and her husband moved to the city in 2022 with their two children.
In the year she’s lived here, she sees debates over the rail line, community center renovations and tenant leases and city transparency as key issues facing Warner.
Yet Michael Smith and Romeo Dubreuil see the city’s biggest dilemma as the reason that forced the volunteer set to come together — the elected board.
“We can’t have what happened last month,” Smith said. “We definitely need three people on board to continue without any delays.”
By now, Warner residents know what Smith means — in July, two board members abruptly resigned. With Seidel left with a lonely seat, he petitioned the Merrimack Superior Court to appoint Minton to the board, also in a temporary position.
In consultation with the New Hampshire Municipal Association, Minton and Seidel defined and outlined the selection process at previous board meetings. The duo collected voluntary interest forms for the position before holding a public applicant forum.
“Unfortunately, we will be able to appoint one person, but there will be room for everyone to get involved and we need you,” Minton said. “The city needs you to move together.”
Minton and Seidel will discuss a public meeting Friday and vote on a third board member. The hope is that the person selected will be sworn in before the next board meeting on Tuesday, August 29.
Most applicants have previous experience in city affairs – working on planning or zoning boards.
Such is the case with Derek Narducci, who is a current member of the zoning board.
But when he thought about how he would handle the conflict if he served as an elected board member, he didn’t turn to variances or land-use disputes.
Instead, a lesson from his grandfather stayed with him.
After fighting with his sister while growing up, Narducci’s grandfather takes the siblings in. If they wanted to keep arguing, they would have to argue from the other’s point of view, he told them.
Now, when he talks about conflict, Narducci returns to that lesson.
“It brought a lot of perspective to my life about what this person was thinking,” he said.
As a former educator, Sarah Colson agreed. Understanding where someone else is coming from is the first step to finding the patience to deal with conflict.
But with the current state of the city’s works, a key element must first be restored.
“It goes a little deeper than that. It restores trust. The biggest issue in the city is rebuilding that trust and moving forward, hopefully that will be fixed fairly quickly,” she said.
That’s Coyne’s motivation for volunteering for the position, she said. She is concerned about the city, and with professional experience in problem solving, budgeting and financial management, she can serve as a liaison between the city and its residents, she said. Not to mention, her battles with cancer have heightened an appreciation for the support a small town like Warner can provide.
“It shaped my perspective by emphasizing the importance of community,” she said. “From the moment we came here, we fell in love with the city of Warner and appreciate being a part of this community.”
On the Board of Selectmen, she will be direct and honest, she said. For her, the role of the board is to serve the needs of residents in full transparency.
But it’s hard to know what to expect as an elected board member unless you sit in that seat, Brown said. He has stepped up for Warner before and will do so again in this transition period.
“Unless you’ve been at that table and sat there, you can’t begin to understand what a big deal you’re getting yourself into,” he said. “I’ve spent more than half my life in the service of this city and I don’t like to see relationships fail. I like to see the board of selectmen keep the town stable.