Voters Guide 2019: Ward 11 Candidates

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Ward 11

Alderman

Normand R. Gamache (incumbent), 81, is a retired firefighter for the city of Manchester.

What qualifies you to hold this office? 

My life experiences, whether it be serving my country as a young adult, my career as a city firefighter for 33 years or my numerous volunteer positions that I have served on in our community. My four terms as alderman have afforded me the opportunity to do what I can to solve issues that my constituents may have. I have developed working relationships with all department heads as well as my constituents on the BMA which allows me to work collaboratively to address our ward and city issues.
List specific ways you will engage with your ward constituents, including one initiative to improve the quality of life for residents of your ward.
I am a full-time Alderman and am available to answer my constituents 365 days a year. I take pride in the fact that I respond to each and every inquiry whether it be in person, by phone or email.
Identify the biggest economic opportunities/challenges for the city and provide at least one initiative you would propose to improve economic development.
Our city is improving by leaps and bounds, from well thought out residential developments to inner-city hotels and convention centers in addition to Catholic Medical Center’s multi-million dollar expansion which will greatly improve the gateway to the West Side. We are and will continue to invest in our infrastructure to keep our roads safe and to make our neighborhoods more livable, several examples (west side road paving and the redesign of traffic flow on Maple Street.)
A large company is planning to move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?
Our proximity to larger metropolitan areas is a plus, our easy to get to regional airport in addition to our business-friendly climate.
What is the single-most important step we as a city can take to move the needle on homelessness?
To continue collaboration with all stakeholders, The state of NH, medical and mental health professionals and the ones who are on the ground every day providing services to these individuals; our fire and police departments, our welfare department and the ones who run the homeless shelter. Together we can and will find solutions.
Concord NH this year established an Energy and Environment Committee which has drafted a strategic plan to have Concord get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Is this something you feel Manchester should consider? Why or why not?
I would support an exploratory committee to gather facts and data so I can have this in front of me to make a more informed decision. I support any investment that would make our community better than it is today.

Russ Ouellette, 53, is a service manager at Volvo Volkswagen of Lebanon.

What qualifies you to hold this office? 
5 years Alderman Ward 11, 9 years Board of School Committee Ward 11.
List specific ways you will engage with your ward constituents, including one initiative to improve the quality of life for residents of your ward.
I will hold regular ward meetings twice a year. I will all meetings with neighborhood groups like The Rimmon Heights Neighborhood Group. Continue to work with groups and city departments to provide the best services we can provide our residents.
Identify the biggest economic opportunities/challenges for the city and provide at least one initiative you would propose to improve economic development.
I think rail travel up from Boston would be an incredible opportunity for Manchester, as long as it makes financial sense. We should continue to study the opportunity of its feasibility. This would very attractive for business to locate here and create many high paying job opportunities and would be great for the tax base.
A large company is planning to move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?
  1. We have a great public education system that I am a product of. I know many of these teachers and administrators personally. They are very dedicated and do the best job they can with the limited resources they have.
  2. Manchester has a great post-secondary education system. SNHU, UNH Manchester, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science to name a few. This would allow for these companies to pick from qualified students and create programs and partnerships.
  3. Quality of life and location. Manchester is located just minutes away from the coast, Boston, and the mountains. We have a vibrant downtown and great restaurants and nightlife. Manchester is a great place to raise a family.
What is the single-most important step we as a city can take to move the needle on homelessness?
There is no question our homeless population is exploding. This has a direct correlation to our opioid crisis. This is a complex issue, there is not one particular thing we could do to stop the flow. We need to start with investing in mental health treatment. There has been significant cuts in this area from the state over the last 20 years. Our state needs to refocus its priorities to help us with problems.
Concord NH this year established an Energy and Environment Committee which has drafted a strategic plan to have Concord get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Is this something you feel Manchester should consider? Why or why not?
I have no problem with gathering people to discuss this or any other subject. The problem is we set up these committees or task forces and we come out with a great report that we all think is great. Then there is a great dog and pony show presentation to the board of alderman or school board, then we stuff the report in a drawer and its never discussed again. There was a mayors task force to end homelessness, there have been many studies on how we deliver educational services and nothing gets done. We need to have a real commitment to the issues we study or it’s just a big waste of time.

Board of School Committee

Nicole Leapley, 45, a self-employed consultant, writer, and educator.

Click here to see her website.

What qualifies you to hold this office?
I am a parent of two children in Manchester Public Schools–a first-grader and fifth-grader. I have spent time volunteering in after-school programs at Gossler Park and I teach children in religious school and at the YMCA (rock climbing and team building). I am a product myself of public schools–K-12 plus a bachelor’s degree from a public university (University of Nebraska). I also have master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. My degrees are in literature and French studies–I specialize in medieval French literature. I taught undergraduate and graduate students for over 20 years — 13 of those years were spent as a professor at Saint Anselm College. I have always advocated for student and faculty welfare and served as an elected leader both of graduate students and faculty in a variety of capacities. My superpower is big-picture thinking, thinking strategically about future implications, and asking good questions.
What will you do to get an agreement on a teachers’ contract?
We need to hit reset. I am optimistic that the evolving funding landscape at the state level and changes in board composition will allow us to restart the conversation from a position of trust—we must assume the best intentions of one another and look together to Manchester’s shared future. We are a team, not enemy combatants.
To help establish that goodwill, the board should start by working to establish better communication between teachers and the board. Our teachers are on the front lines every day and we need to make it easy for them to share what they see with us. We need to work more closely together to meet our complex challenges. What does that look like? That may mean developing different structures (perhaps a joint committee to review a specific issue) and practices (the occasional open forum presentation by the MEA to the board, by the board to the union’s members). We need to ask better questions and listen to the answers. Better communication is key to our success and it doesn’t cost us money. Respect is free.
The state has sent $20.8M in one-time funding to the city. How would you propose spending that money?
A one-time windfall like this should be spent on structural improvements that will have a lasting effect and strengthen our schools for the long term. Let’s start with the most basic things—safety. I have seen that not all classrooms have shades on their windows and interior doors that can be lowered in case of emergency (or just to keep the class cool and the board easy to see). Are any buildings waiting on updates to follow fire and safety codes? Are there schools waiting for updates to lighting or HVAC? Are there other safety or physical plant issues that are negatively affecting the health or learning conditions of our kids? I am sure there is a backlog of “need to haves” that we can address that would be a weight off our staff and improve learning conditions for students.
A young family is considering a move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?
Our schools! Look at Gossler Park Elementary’s recent national recognition as a model in building positive school culture and developing leadership skills among its students. The ensuing roll-out of that award-winning philosophy to all schools on the west side shows that the district recognizes this success and supports it. The engagement of local nonprofits and community partners was essential to that success. Going to school with a diversity of people is invaluable. People say New Hampshire isn’t diverse. Get out of your bubble and come pick up my kids with me after school sometime!
Our Location! Our proximity to the sea, the mountains, farms, and Boston! Our access to nature can’t be beat. I can hike Uncanoonuc in the morning and ride my bike on the Pisquataquog River Trail in the afternoon.
Our forward momentum! We have a growing economy and visible revitalization is everywhere—new bike lanes, great restaurants, more high tech and higher ed, and more young professionals with lots of energy who want to pitch in and build a great place to live.
What is the most important step the Board of School Committee can take to immediately improve all schools?
The Board of School must establish open and productive communication among its own members and with all community stakeholders. We need to ask good questions and listen to the answers—we should demand the best for our kids, but sometimes that means supporting and facilitating the work, not slowing it down.
How can MSD and the community work together to prepare today’s first-graders for a 2032 economy?
As the mother of a first-grader in Manchester Public schools, this is something I think about literally every day. First of all, the district needs to be sure that we are preparing every first grader for the future, that all of Manchester’s children have equitable access to learning opportunities. We can’t afford to leave anyone behind if we want to build the future we want.
The world will be different in 2032 — just think about how much the world has changed in the last 13 years. In 2006, there was no Twitter, no Uber, no iPhone, and health care and higher ed were not yet in full crisis. Surely that rate of change will only accelerate.
We need to make sure our children learn how to learn so that they are able not just to adapt to these changes, but to lead them. We need to teach them STEM, but also what it means to be human so that we can use technology in ways that improve human lives. We need to make sure they know how to take care of themselves, so they live long healthy, happy, and productive lives that aren’t just about work but also about citizenship, about building healthy, connected families and communities.
Indeed, we cannot do this work alone. The district needs its community partners. We also need the state to partner with us. Manchester and other districts in New Hampshire are still struggling to recover from the deep cuts made at the state level in 2011 and 2015 to how education gets funded. Manchester’s children deserve access to learning opportunities as good as those afforded to children living in Portsmouth and Hanover. Manchester’s property owners can’t be asked to shoulder that burden alone.

Brittany LeClear-Ping, 32, is a REALTOR/Owner/Office Manager of  Ledgeview Commercial Partners, LLC.

Click here to see her website. 

What qualifies you to hold this office? 
I’m running because I know Manchester is a great place to raise children. I work with families moving in and around Manchester daily. They love their teachers, they love the support and resources available, and they are excited about the “extras” available outside of the classroom for their students.
That’s not to say they are unaware of the issues facing the district, including failing English and Math proficiencies, violence and bullying, and an outdated districting system that is not properly addressing our current student populations.
These issues are important, but I’m sure every other candidate will agree that right now, we need to prioritize all contract negotiations. Solid contracts are a win for the city, a win for the teachers, and a win for our students.
Once the foundation of trust has been cemented, the school committee can better support Dr. Goldhardt in advocating for the children of Manchester and creating a workplace for all of the district’s employees that is safe and full of opportunities. Like any other workplace, if employees are not engaged and supported, you’re going to see diminishing results. I have the Human Resources education, training, and 10 years of practical experience to bring to the table, this is a skill set missing on the current board.
What will you do to get an agreement on a teachers’ contract?
I have Human Resources education, training, and 10 years of practical experience, this is a skill set missing on the current board. We’ve already seen progress with new additions to the negotiations committee, I think that we’re going to see great strides with a new board and I know my experience can and will make a difference. A solid contract is a win for the city, a win for the teachers, and a win for our students.
The state has sent $20.8M in one-time funding to the city. How would you propose spending that money?
It should go toward one-time expenses, or short-term gains like technology, energy efficiency, and filling in curriculum gaps/bulking up existing curriculum.
A young family is considering a move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?
I work with families moving in and around Manchester daily.
  1. They love our community; we are the largest and most diverse city in the state that welcomes them immediately.
  2. They want engagement from their community, and we give it to them. My son is currently playing soccer for MJSLW and is excited for baseball season, we have a number of these community and faith-based organizations providing opportunities for families in the area to get to know each other.
  3. They want opportunity for the “extras” – FIRST Robotics, pre-school programs in the schools, sports and academic clubs for all ages, these things make a difference when a family envisions themselves raising a child through our schools.
What is the most important step the Board of School Committee can take to immediately improve all schools?
Secure contracts. It’s an unnecessary distraction to issues our students are dealing with like our failing literacy statistics and the violence in our middle and high schools.
How can MSD and the community work together to prepare today’s first-graders for a 2032 economy?
We cannot forget the basics, give students the building blocks. Add project-based learning on top of fundamentals and provide opportunities for external learning by integrating community organizations.