BELLOWS FALLS -- Of the six candidates vying for seats on the Rockingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees, four have formed a "slate of candidates" united in their disdain with the recent governance of facility.
Ray Massucco, Doreen Aldrich, David Gould and Carol Blackwood have formed an alliance of sorts in their quest for trustee positions and they face competition from Deborah Wright and Joel Love, who also appear on the ballot. Massucco, who sits on the board after having replaced Steven Fuller earlier this year, has thrown his hat into the ring for a three-year seat while Gould, Aldrich (the town clerk) and Blackwood would be newcomers to elected office. Wright, who is finishing up a term on the board of trustees, is on the ballot for the three-year and two-year seats and Love, a regular at trustee meetings, is the husband of Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love. Gould is the other candidate running for the two-year seat.
The controversial termination of Library Director Célina Houlné in September and recently revealed violations of the state's Open Meeting Law are likely to be hot topics in the candidates' campaigns.
"I would like think we're starting to make some progress. We're starting to turn things around," said Massucco, who had previously served on the board before his appointment in July. "There's no hidden agenda for me. Everybody knows where I stand."
He said he would like to stick around to see through the hiring of a new library director, which he said will not be done by Town Meeting Day. He said he wants to have some input on who is hired to replace Houlné.
Massucco also said, however, it is time for some new blood on the board and told the Reformer he unified slate is intended to provide a diverse array of opportunities for voters.
"I have a little bit of name recognition, Carol and David would be newcomers to public office and Doreen is much better liked than I am," the attorney said with a laugh. "Doreen is a moderate voice. She is a voice of reason. She's about as center of the road as you can get. As a town clerk, you have to be."
Aldrich said she chose to run for a spot on the board because she does not like what she has heard about the trustees meetings, which can become tense and heated when certain issues come up.
"We never had trouble with this library before," she said. "I think it's time to bring stability to the board. ... I'm not a fighter. I like peace."
Gould, who was recently named to the search committee tasked with weeding out candidates who applied to be library director, said he has been a patron of the Rockingham library since he moved to Bellows Falls 27 years ago and he has closely followed all its happenings over the past year. He said he was very upset over Houlné's termination and dislikes how meetings have been run.
"You can stand on the sidelines and complain or you can jump in and really be active to make a contribution toward straightening things out," he said. "The way in which we, the public, were treated by the board of trustees during the run-up to the firing was wrong. There were several meetings in which there was just terrible civil discourse and people were denied an opportunity to speak."
Gould said he thinks his background and life experiences as a former pastor at United Church of Bellows Falls will enable him to be a facilitator of level-headedness and reason.
Blackwood, the medical director at the VA Outpatient Clinic at Keene, N.H., told the Reformer she has been a card-carrying library patron in some capacity since she was an 8-year-old girl growing up in the Northeast Kingdom. A Rockingham resident since 2009, she said she decided to run for the trustee board after Houlné was fired.
"I was pretty discouraged and angry about the direction the current trustees seem to be going in and I feel you can't sit and complain," she said. "If you want things to get better and you have participate. ... I think the trustees need to get back to not being a lightning rod and run the library in a way that supports the town."
Before taking her job in Keene, she served in the U.S. Navy and she believes her experience in giving back to the community will go a long way as a library trustee.
The four individuals making up the unified slate will "officially" launch their candidacy during an event at the Rockingham library at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Wright, the owner of Green Mountain Traffic Control, is one of the five sitting trustees to vote to terminate Houlné and decided to run for re-election, though she initially thought two years would be long enough. She said she has until 4:30 p.m. today to pull her name from the ballot for either the three-year or two-year seats.
"A few of the other trustees feel there is work that still has to be done and asked me to continue doing that, so I changed my mind," she said, adding that she would like to take part in reworking the board's bylaws and personnel policy.
Love did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.