Election season is back upon us and this year two very important roles are being contested: the Town Moderator and the Town Clerk. Both positions are important to everyday life in Londonderry. The town moderator oversees the running the Town Deliberative Session, Town Council meetings and protects the integrity of the vote during elections. The Town Clerk manages registrations, licenses and records for the town. Each have two candidate each running to fill them.
Luisa Piette is a 58-year old media communications consultant who moved to town in 2016. She has “a degree in government and an interest in the democratic process.”
She said her experience in broadcasting and international law makes her an excellent candidate for town moderator. She said she is dedicated to keeping elections “fair,” and will advocate for “justice” and “opportunity for all.” She used to work for non-profits promoting fair coverage of elections.
Piette said she would like to see Londonderry “modernize and get more interactive” in running elections, so they can be as efficient and safe as possible.
“If elected I promise to do my best to be a fair, effective town moderator,” she said.
Piette speaks five languages, (Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, Swedish and Creole) which can be useful to explain ballot laws to all voters.
“I think we have to respect the voters,” Piette said. “We have to see what the voters say.”
Thomas Freda is also running for town moderator. The 60-year old attorney and CPA has been a resident for 20 years. He served on the town council for two terms, a total of six years. During that time, he said, he worked on elections, trying to make them “as efficient and fair as possible.”
Freda explained that being on the town council was “an interesting duty and I think I gained a lot of experience.”
He said he believed the town moderator should be someone with experience as a town official, since they are the “chief election officer” in town. It’s an “involved process,” as he called it, to make sure that everyone gets in and out of the ballot boxes with few to no issues.
Freda previously ran for the position back in 2008 and was unsuccessful. He hope this time will be different.
“Experience matters,” said Freda.
Sherry Farrell is hoping her experience as town clerk will gain her another term. She currently teaches classes with the New Hampshire Town Clerk Certification Program and is involved with the state town clerk legislative committee. Farrell said she has taken classes, run elections in town, and provides services as both a public notary and justice of the peace.
She said all that experience is what makes her a more qualified candidate for what she considers to be a 24/7 job.
“I know the residents,” said Farrell, “and I’m so honored to serve them.”
Besides being the town clerk, Farrell also serves on the Senior Resource Committee and is a member of the local Rotary Club and Grange.
She said her greatest achievement as town clerk is simply “representing the people.”
“We try to make it a positive experience for all residents,” remarked Farrell. She was also proud of the new boat registration process started this year and foresees it bringing even more revenue to Londonderry.
Farrell sees no conflict of interest being married to Town Council Vice-Chair John Farrell.
“I never would have run if there was a conflict,” Farrell said.
Both she and her husband spoke with the town attorney and Secretary of State’s office to make sure her running for reelection was in compliance with RSA 669.7, which dictates the rules surrounding potential incompatibility of offices.
“Both of our positions are elected,” said Farrell and the people chose them for those positions.
Martha Liff Smith, also running for town clerk, wants everyone to know that she also has no conflicts of interest, and that despite her last name, she is not related to Town Manager Kevin Smith. She laughed about having such a common last name.
Smith is running against Farrell for town clerk and has lived in town for 35 years. When the 64-year old attorney saw that Farrell was running unopposed, she decided to run.
“I felt I had the time to give my service to the town, so why not?” asked Smith.
She felt there is low voter turnout because a lot of positions in town tend to go unopposed and no one had a vested interest in the election. But with her candidacy, she hopes people will feel the drive to come out and make a choice.
Although Smith has never served as town clerk, she said it seemed straightforward.
“Running free, fair, independent elections is part of the job,” said Smith. “I want to be able to assist the people of Londonderry.”
Smith served on C3, was a PTA member when her children were younger, is a past president of the Londonderry Women’s Club and serves on the Greater Derry Oral Health Collaboration. She said her background as a lawyer sets her apart from Farrell.
“I think my legal background is a big thing I bring that’s different,” said Smith.
If elected, Smith wants to bring back the “Leadership Londonderry” program that invited residents to Town Hall to learn about how the local government works and what everyone’s jobs were. Smith believes that understanding how government functions is key to a prosperous democracy.
With that in mind, Smith invites everyone to come out and vote on March 13.
“Local elections are the elections that affect the citizens of Londonderry the most,” said Smith.