CLAREMONT — The city council interviewed four candidates for the vacant seat on the council Wednesday night, and finished by selecting Kristin Kenniston. Kenniston will finish out Jeremy Zullo’s term of office, to the end of the year. Voters will get a chance to select a new councilor in November.
Kenniston is the deputy city clerk for Lebanon. She and the other three candidates (two dropped out prior to the meeting) answered four questions posed by the council, relating to their personal investment in Claremont, what they see as the biggest challenges facing the city, and why they were committed to serve.
Asked what she sees as the biggest challenge facing the city, Kenniston answered: “The elephant in the room is the tax rate.”
However, she said it was too deep and broad an issue to get into for the moment. “We need to work on the trust issue with our citizens,” she said. “We need to be aware we’re in a day and age where a lot of people don’t trust government, whether it’s federal, state or local.”
Kenniston pledged to be transparent and said the council needs to support the letter of the law.
Candidates were also asked what committees they’d want to serve on. Having been on the Historic District Commission for nine years, she said she’d like to continue with that and possibly serve on the Policy Committee when a seat opens on that.
Later in the meeting the question of whether she should continue to serve on the City Manager Search Committee came up. Kenniston was selected as a citizen member of the board, but having become a city council member, she offered to step down.
“Don’t you dare,” said Assistant Mayor Allen Damren. Other members of the city search committee also felt she should stay, given that they are almost finished with the work. The committee is currently making travel arrangements for the four candidates they’ve selected to present to city council, and expect to be finished within two weeks at most.
Councilor Andrew O’Hearne and Councilor Nick Koloski objected, saying the council should follow its own process.
Interim City Manager John MacLean said, “All the heavy lifting’s been done; I think either way, it’s okay.”
The council voted for Kenniston to continue, with O’Hearne and Koloski voting Nay.
The other three candidates — Jim Contois, Patrick Lozito, and Deb Mattau — were repeatedly thanked for applying and encouraged to run for office in November.
“When I applied for a council seat there were only two people applying,” said Councilor Abigail Kier.
“These are four very good people, and I would like to see them on the ballot,” said Councilor Scott Pope.