SALEM — Salem selectmen last night appointed Susan Covey, a regional manager with Enterprise Bank, to fill Arthur Barnes' spot on the board until the March elections.
Covey's nomination failed twice, 2-2, before she finally was appointed by a 3-1 vote. Selectmen nominated all seven candidates, but no others were able to carry a majority.
In nominating Covey, Selectman Elizabeth Roth said Covey would bring diverse experience, especially in budgeting and finance, and forward thinking to the board.
"I was looking for new blood with a progressive approach," Roth said.
Covey served on the Budget Committee from 2006 to 2008 before resigning to care for a loved one. She was chairwoman of the committee from 2007 to 2008.
Both Roth and Chairman Michael Lyons said they thought she would serve in the tradition of Barnes. Roth also told the board she was looking for someone who would run again. Asked after the meeting if she would run, Covey said she "hadn't made that decision yet."
Covey called creating the town budget a "very intricate process" and said learning that process on the Budget Committee gave her an advantage. She said she has hired employees in her banking career, including officers, and could apply that experience to Salem's search for a town manager.
"I am not a micro-manager. I think it's very important to hire the right people and let that process take as long as it has to take to get the right person, and then let them do their job," she said.
Covey said she often interacts with people in town who visit the bank, and also with the town's business community.
She said she could be trusted with confidential information, which she handles in her career.
"I don't speak to the newspapers, I don't bring things up in casual conversation that shouldn't be," she said.
Covey named infrastructure and an aging police station as two issues the town needs to face, but said the budget was the most important. She said the school district and the town could work more closely to put together a unified budget and to avoid putting forward two bond articles in one year.
Covey said even though she is not currently in public office, she already hears from people around town who drop into the bank to talk about the major issues in Salem.
Covey was the first to be nominated, but initially her nomination failed, with Roth and Lyons voting in her favor and selectmen Patrick Hargreaves and Everett McBride against. That led the selectmen to cycle through every other candidate unsuccessfully.
Hargreaves nominated Brian Keaveny. Keaveny said his experience working on the capital improvement plan and town master plan would serve him well. A new manager, he said, would need big-town experience, saying Salem's retail sector and highway access added to the town's complexity.
"Salem is not three or two times more complex" than towns a third or half its size, Keaveny said. "It is five and six and eight times more complex."
His nomination failed 3-1, with only Hargreaves in support. McBride then nominated Rep. Ronald Belanger, who sat on the board for nine years and has been a state representative for 18.
"I think that I offer a lot of experience," he said. "I can hit the ground running. I'm totally familiar with the actions of the Board of Selectmen."
He cited his experience with the town budget as well as preparing the county budget as part of the Executive Council. McBride said his experience spoke for itself, but Roth said she didn't think he was "a good fit with the progressiveness that this board needs to be showing."
The nomination failed 2-2, with McBride and Hargreaves in favor. Hargreaves then nominated Stephen Campbell, who has served for 16 years on the Budget Committee.
During his interview, selectmen asked Campbell how he could work with the board after developing a reputation for being a stickler for minute details in the town budget and other town projects.
"I ask the questions not to be an annoyance, not to be a stumbling block, but to make sure that what we're doing will work for everybody and preferably be legal," he said.
His nomination failed 3-1, with just Hargreaves in support. McBride then nominated Robert Campbell, a former selectman who serves on the Planning Board. Campbell said he would make the budget and town manager search his priorities.
"I don't think that the board needs to try to find new issues to resolve in the next six months," he said.
His nomination failed 2-2, with McBride and Hargreaves in favor. Lyons then nominated Bernard W. Campbell, a Laconia teacher who said he wanted to involve the youth in the town.
"Young people need a voice in what goes on in Salem," he said.
He said he also would like to see the road program move forward, and to take a serious look at a new police station. His nomination failed 3-1, with just Lyons in favor. Hargreaves then nominated Barry Pietrantonio, saying he was new to town government and brought accounting experience. Pietrantonio said he had a fine eye for detail and line-item details.
"I believe my common sense and my analytical thinking is an asset," he said.
His nomination failed 1-3, with just Hargreaves in favor.
The board reconsidered Covey again unsuccessfully, before taking a five minute break and then voting to reconsider again, with McBride joining Roth and Lyons. Their other option was to extend the call for candidates until Sept. 10.
McBride said they needed a selectman sooner than later, and said all seven were qualified.
"If somebody has to compromise, I guess that's me," he said.