The Town Council has chosen former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith as its new Town Manager. He replaces David Caron, who left the post last summer, citing family health reasons. Police Chief William Hart has been filling the position as Acting Town Manager since July 2012.
The council had hoped to hire a candidate from its first search in March, but that person took a job in Massachusetts, leading to a new call for applicants and Smith’s selection. Reading from a resolution at the Thursday, Aug. 1 council meeting, Councilor Tom Dolan said the council had reviewed Smith’s qualifications, education, training and previous experience in public and private office.
Smith, 36, lives in Litchfield, and Dolan noted the town charter allows that the town manager “not be a resident of the town or state of New Hampshire at the time of appointment and can reside outside of the town only with the approval of four members of the council.”
The council agreed that Smith may live outside of town for one year; the issue will then be revisited.
Smith was approved for the post by a unanimous vote of the council. His start date is Aug. 15.
He said he looks forward to working with town staff, noting that he and his wife, Suzy, grew up in Londonderry.
“I was in the legislature from Londonderry back in the late ‘90s but most of the administrative stuff that I’ve done has been on the state level, so this is my first foray administratively at the town level,” Smith said. “The same principles apply.”
Smith is a graduate of Londonderry High School. “I’ve been calling the Lancer football games since 1993 and I love doing it,” Smith said. “My family moved to Londonderry in 1986 and my parents still live there today, in the same house that I mostly grew up in,” he said. “I served one term in the state legislature right after graduating from high school. I have a love of politics that I acquired early on. I had a civics teacher at the high school named Barbara Mee, and that’s where I first learned that you only had to be 18 to run for state rep, so after high school I ran for the state legislature. I was commuting to the University of New Hampshire in Manchester and was fortunate to win one of seven seats.”
He served in the legislature from 1996-98, and in 1998 was named the Christian Coalition’s Pro-Family House Member of the Year. He received his degree in communication in 2002. Smith said serving in Concord was a great experience and gave him contacts that he expects will aid him in working with the state on such projects as the proposed Pettengill Road.
In an interview with the Londonderry Times during his gubernatorial campaign, Smith billed himself as the candidate to improve the state’s economy. In comments in that interview, he said it was wise for communities to be business-friendly.
Smith was Special Assistant and Law Enforcement and Public Safety Liaison to former U. S. Senator Bob Smith from 1999 to January 2003. He was liaison to the state Executive Council and state agency directors while serving as press secretary in the office of then Governor Craig Benson from 2003 to 2004. From 2005 to 2009, Smith was assistant director for juvenile justice with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.
From 2009 to fall 2011, Smith was executive director of Cornerstone Action and Cornerstone Policy Research, a New Hampshire lobbying group that worked to attempt to repeal the state’s gay marriage law and to defund Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, as well as to recommend passing the “Right to Work” law and advocate for limited government. Smith resigned in November 2011.
He most recently was president of Smith Enterprises, a private consulting firm, from November 2011 to the present. He ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for Governor in 2012, losing to Ovide Lamontagne, who in turn lost to Democrat Maggie Hassan. “Having run for Governor in a partisan campaign, I am well aware that the position I’ll be starting on Aug. 15 is non-partisan,” he said. “My goal is to listen and learn what the details and background of the issues are. I want to meet everyone in town that works for the town and do a lot of listening. It is what is best for the town that is what needs to be done, not partisan politics.”
Smith said he wouldn’t have considered any other town manager position, but applied because the opportunity was in Londonderry. He added that he has no plans to run for political office in the foreseeable future.
He said his goals as town manager are to get up to speed on the Pettengill Road and Woodmont Commons matters by talking with staff and with people on both sides of the issue. He said he would work to bring more business to town, which he thinks the Pettengill Road project would promote.
Smith will be paid an annual salary of $105,000 as town manager. Council Chairman John Farrell said Smith’s contract is for three years. It provides for two weeks vacation and standard medical, dental and vision insurance, but no car allowance. The contract calls for two months severance pay if he should leave.