By John Toole
---- — A few days ago, Windham businessman Al Letizio Jr.’s plans changed.
His friend, Selectmen’s Chairman Bruce Breton, became seriously ill, enough to land Breton in a hospital bed at Parkland Medical Center in Derry.
Today, Letizio, 53, a former School Board member, will walk a path Breton had been expected to take, filing at Town Hall to run for a three-year term as selectman.
Other filings may lack the drama of Letizio’s, but will be no less important over the next 10 days in Southern New Hampshire.
People will be stepping up to run not only for selectman, but also for School Board, Planning Board, Budget Committee and other key posts. Voters will choose the winners at Town Meeting on March 12.
“It’s important for two reasons. One is that New Hampshire, like other New England states, has a long tradition of local government,” St. Anselm College assistant professor of politics Chris Galdieri said. “So, these offices provide an opportunity for participation in local governance that’s really unusual compared to other parts of the country.”
The other reason is that New Hampshire’s large number of opportunities for people to run for office opens doors to future service, he said.
“That means that these offices can help create a large body of people with practical experience in government who may go on to other, more prominent offices later in their lives,” Galdieri said.
Local office holders also can take actions that have more immediate impact than those in Congress or the Legislature, he said.
“The effects of something like health-care reform can take years to become fully apparent, but the effects of opening a new library or changing kindergarten hours are clear as soon as they happen,” Galdieri said.
Citizens learn about their local government by serving in it.
“I think this gives them an opportunity to see the workings of town administration and, by stepping up and doing this, to have a voice in where their tax dollars are going and what they are going to do,” Granite State Taxpayers chairman Jim Adams said.
In Windham, Letizio knows all this matters. He admits the timing wasn’t what he planned, but he is OK with the decision.
“I feel it’s the right thing to do, to stand up and assist,” Letizio said. “I’ll be signing up (today).”
Breton’s wife, Marcia Dipaolo, has been at her husband’s side. She said yesterday his condition, resulting from an infection, has stabilized, though he remains in intensive care.
“He seems better,” she said of her husband, but he had made the decision to bow out of a race for re-election because of his health.
So it will be Letizio, a member of the town’s economic development board, not Breton, running on a platform of responsible economic development in the campaign ahead.
Windham voters also will elect a School Board member for three years. Chairman Bruce Anderson now holds the seat.
They have to fill two seats on the Planning Board, two on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, three on the library trustees, one on the cemetery trustees and one for trustee of the trust fund. All are three-year terms.
In Salem, the selectman’s seat held by Patrick Hargreaves is up.
That is a three-year term, as are two seats on the Budget Committee. A one-year term on the budget panel, vacated by the recent resignation of Patrick McDougall, also is open. McDougall also resigned from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Two three-year School Board terms are available. The seats are now held by Patrica Corbett and Peter Morgan.
Other Salem offices on the ballot include Planning Board, Zoning Board, trustee of Trust Funds, library trustee, and school district clerk, moderator and treasurer.
In Pelham, two three-year terms are open for selectman, seats now held by Robert Haverty and Harold Lynde. Two three-year terms on the School Board also are up, the seats now held by Andy Ducharme and Rob Hardy.
Pelham voters also will fill three seats on the Budget Committee, town clerk, two seats on the Planning Board and three library trustee posts.
In Hampstead, voters will be filling a three-year term for selectman. Priscilla Lindquist holds the post.
Hampstead voters also have two three-year terms on the Budget Committee and Planning Board, plus positions as trustee of cemeteries, library trustee and trustee of trust funds.
Plaistow voters have to elect two to three-year selectmen’s terms. The incumbents are Charles “Buzzy” Blinn and John Sherman.
Plaistow also has positions open on the School Board, Planning Board, Budget Committee, town clerk, treasurer, Conflict of Interest board, supervisor of the checklist, auditor and trustee of trust funds.
Sandown has two three-year selectmen’s terms. Stephen Brown and Brenda Copp are the incumbents. The town also will elect a School Board member, police chief, treasurer, Planning Board and Budget Committee members.
In Londonderry, two three-year terms are open on the Town Council. Incumbents are Tom Dolan and John Farrell. The town also is filling a seat on the School Board, now held by John Laferriere, plus positions on the Budget Committee, town clerk/tax collector, treasurer and Leach Library trustees.
Derry voters will elect three town councilors. Incumbents are David Milz, Brian Chirichiello and Joel Olbricht. Three School Board seats are available. Incumbents are Brenda Willis, Kevin Gordon and Ken Linehan.
Elsewhere, Kingston, Atkinson, Danville and Newton are electing selectmen. Danville, Kingston and Newton also will elect School Board members.
Complete lists of open positions and term lengths are available through town and school district websites and offices.
The filing deadline is Feb. 1.