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Conway library board race draws community interest

Special to the Union Leader

April 02. 2013 8:54PM

CONWAY - It's the hottest race in town. Five residents are vying for two open seats on the Conway Public Library Board of Trustees, with two of the candidates running in tandem with the hope of changing the leadership of the board.

A Greet the Candidates event is being held today at the library from 4 to 6 p.m.

In comparison, the contest for one selectman's seat among incumbent selectmen Howard Dickinson, Kevin Flanagan and Carl Thibodeau, is quiet.

There is also a race for one seat on the Conway Police Commission. Running are Larry Martin, Johnny Mazmanian and Dorothe Seybold.

The election on April 9 comes months after an aborted reorganization of library staff caused ill-feelings in the community.

Last September, trustees approved a restructuring plan that eliminated the positions of four library employees and gave those employees, upon notice of the pending job terminations, a week's notice to reapply for positions with new job descriptions.

Within two weeks of the initial vote, and after much public outcry, trustees rescinded the restructuring and shortly after eased the library director out with a six-month pay and benefits package.

The position of library director has been vacant since that time, and during this budget cycle selectmen, the budget committee and voters at the deliberative session have rejected attempts by the trustees to restore funds in the trustees' proposed 2013 budget that might have allowed the hiring of a director sooner than July 1.

The library budget is level-funded at $465,115 in the town's proposed 2013 operating budget.

It was that restructuring attempt that drew the attention of life-long library patrons Mark Hounsell and William Marvel, among others.

The pair, who serve on the Conway Municipal Budget Committee, are running as a team and have called for the resignation of trustee chair Linda Fox Phillips.

Also running are David Merrill Paige, Alexa Kimberly-Bryant, and Katrina Jones.

Hounsell is a member of the search committee for the new library director, as is Paige.

Among the qualifications for the position, the job posting states that the director "must be a transformational leader capable of building on current strengths, of preserving our New Hampshire and Conway heritage and of fostering consensus to ensure the library's future in our changing community and world."

At the Sept. 27, 2012 meeting, librarian Janis Minshull read an open letter from the four librarians affected by the proposed changes stating, "First and foremost, thank you to our community for their outrage and passion for the Conway Public Library staff. We are very humbled by the outpouring of support and will never be able to tell you just how much we appreciate your efforts."

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