By Doug Ireland
---- — WINDHAM — To some residents, it was surprise. To others, it was no surprise that Windham has been named one of the top places to live in the country.
The town of 13,599 residents has been ranked 30th out of 50 in CNN Money and Money Magazine’s annual listing of the “Best Small Towns” in the United States. The listing appears in Money’s September edition.
News of Windham’s new celebrity status was spreading like wildfire around town yesterday.
“It’s a great honor for this town and the residents of this town,” Selectmen Chairman Phil Lochiatto said. “It’s the residents who make it such a great place to live.”
Windham is just one of two New Hampshire towns to make the list. Merrimack ranked 23rd.
The top small town on the list was Sharon, Mass. — one of three Bay State communties named. The others are Westford, at No. 11, and Shrewsbury at 15. All the towns have populations between 10,000 and 50,000.
The listing was based on numerous factors, including job growth, average household income, taxes, school test schools and crime rates.
Windham is recognized for its “quaint atmosphere” and natural beauty, including 1,500 acres of recreation and conservation land and location along Cobbetts Pond and Canobie Lake.
The town is also touted for its proximity to Boston and location in a state with no sales or income taxes. Windham is also lauded for its new high school, which opened four years ago.
“It’s a great honor,” Windham Community Development Director Laura Scott said. “Windham is a hidden gem.”
While Scott was initially surprised to hear Windham made the list, it wasn’t a complete surprise when it became a topic of discussion around town earlier this week.
She was contacted by CNN Money staffer Kerry Flynn a month ago and told Windham had been recommended.
Scott said she’s spoken to Flynn about a dozen times since, but didn’t know where the town placed until she saw it online Monday. Flynn could not be reached for comment yesterday.
“Of course, I was hoping to be in the top 25 of that list, but that’s OK,” Scott joked.
She did not know who made the recommendation but was more than happy to answer Flynn’s questions on why she thought Windham was a great place to live.
“She contacted me looking for information and photos, and to say we were in the running to be listed on this great list,” Scott said. The photo on the CNN Money website shows two horses in a field.
Scott said she told Flynn that Windham offers a quiet, rural setting but is only a short distance from Boston, which offers the advantages of a large city.
While small, Windham is seeing a positive surge in economic development and growth, Scott said.
“With the new high school, the town is more desirable for families,” Scott said. “With that comes, new business opportunities.”
Scott said Windham can’t compare with larger communities that offer new companies tax incentives.
“I you want to come here, come here because of the quality of life in Windham,” she said.
Arthur Klemm, co-owner of Klemm’s Mobil off I-93, said his customers were talking about Windham’s newfound status yesterday.
The former New Hampshire Senate president said he was pleased to hear the news.
Klemm, 65, has lived in town since the 1980s but began vacationing in Windham in the 1950s. He remembers when there were no traffic lights in town.
“The town should be very proud,” he said. “Hopefully, it will show people around the country that we are the place they want to be.”
Other top-ranked towns are Louisville, Colo., second; Vienna, Va., third; Chanhassen, Minn,, fourth; and Sherwood, Ore., fifth.