Above: Full remarks by Will Stewart with an introduction by Tim Baines at Don Quijote Restaurant, March 22, 2023.
“Potential. It’s a phrase I’ve heard so many times through the years here in the city, and I bet it’s a phrase you’ve heard too: ‘Manchester has so much potential.’ It’s not that I disagree — Indeed, I believe that Manchester has a ton of potential. But I’ve been here more than 18 years now, and I’m still hearing about Manchester’s potential. I’m running for mayor to help turn that potential into reality,” Stewart said.
He talked about some of the city’s greatest challenges, including homelessness and lack of affordable housing, for which there are no “easy solutions,” but that as mayor, he would approach solutions as he has many other challenges in his time serving the city – through the process of listening, bringing people together to formulate solutions, and then take action.
He cited the example of the plan that led to a redesign of Maple and Beech Street, from “the Manchester Motor Speedway,” to a “data-driven” solution: one lane for cars and one for bikes.
“In a series of neighborhood meetings, people shared their experiences — of being afraid to let their kids play in their front yards. Of feeling scared to cross two lanes of one-way traffic to go to the park. I also brought experts to these meetings — the traffic engineers and the Police Department’s traffic division — who could help solve the problem,” Stewart said.
“And what did this solution do? Well, according to the data, we’ve lowered average speeds on Maple and Beech. But even more important is that we’ve cut the number of crashes on these streets in half,” said Stewart, adding that neighbors will also attest to the changes creating a “better quality of life and a more enjoyable neighborhood experience.”
Stewart acknowledged that while he is one of the quieter aldermen during meetings, it’s because he believes that listening is where change begins.
“I like to say there isn’t a Republican or a Democratic way to pick up the trash or plow the streets. The challenges we face here at the city level are not ideological, they’re not partisan. But they do require a leader who knows how to get things done. That’s what good governance is, right? And I think that’s what most people in Manchester are looking for from their leaders: someone who can get things done,” Stewart said. “Someone who will take the time to can listen, has the humility to learn, and, ultimately, will be decisive and assertive, and act. That, to me, is leadership.”
Stewart was introduced by Tim Baines, who served alongside Stewart as an Alderman when both were elected for the first time in 2017. Baines said through the process of campaigning and serving together the two became good friends. And while they didn’t always agree on everything, Baines learned quickly that Stewart’s work ethic and approach to constituent services were unmatched.
“Since roughly the year 1997 I have been a constant observer of everything City Hall. I had the privilege of being a son of a mayor, that I’m so proud of. In saying all of that I have observed, watched, served and worked with close to one hundred aldermen in the past 25 years,” Baines said. “I’m here to tell you that nobody – and I mean nobody – has done the job of alderman better than my friend Will Stweart, and I mean nobody,”
Baines said those who underestimate Stewart don’t know him, a man who has proven himself to be dedicated to meeting the needs of the community. He urged those in the room to work hard for Stewart’s campaign.
“This race coming up is a race for Manchester’s future. It will be hotly contested and – don’t get me wrong, Will is going to need every single one of us to do our part – tell those stories, introduce him to our friends and community members, donate when we can and know doors for him when we can,” Baines said. “The work starts today.”
Don Quijote owner Sandra Almonte welcomed everyone with a big spread of her beloved empanadas and other Spanish dishes. She said she got to know Stewart during the early years of NeighborWorks where he helped empower families through his work, which included starting an after-school tutoring program primarily for immigrant and refugee children just across the street from the restaurant.
Almonte said that despite the neighborhood having a reputation for crime or the need for more attention to things like trash pick-up, she was honored to host Stewart’s campaign kick-off. She commended him for his work on environmental justice and bike lanes, which have improved the quality of life for those living nearby.
“He helped me get garbage cans in the area – it took almost three years to advocate for that, and that’s the start of it. I’m hoping we can add another trash pick-up day, to help keep the city clean. We have so many needs, especially in this neighborhood,” Almonte said. “I hope we can continue to work together.”
In addition to serving as Ward 2 Alderman, Stewart is Executive Director of Stay Work Play. Prior to that, he served as president of Derry Chamber of Commerce and President of Economic Development and Advocacy for the Greater Manchester Chamber after several years doing community work with Neighbor Works Southern New Hampshire.
His campaign site can be found here.