Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH)

April 14, 2006

Mower cuts ties with selectmen

Telegraph Staff

MERRIMACK - Fallout from Tuesday's election continues, as Selectman Chuck Mower resigned Thursday. Mower handed a letter of resignation to Mike Milligan, acting assistant town manager, at 8 a.m. The resignation is effective immediately, Mower said in the letter, although the board of selectmen hasn't officially accepted it.

Mower stated that he didn't want to continue as a member of the town council. Because the town charter was approved Tuesday, the current five-member board of selectmen becomes the town council July 1.

However, others have speculated that bullying from Selectman Dave McCray played a part in Mower's decision, although Mower declined to comment on that.

"Chuck has made a significant contribution to the town in supporting a well-run town government," said Selectman Carolyn Whitlock, who didn't seek re-election and whose term thus ends today.

"He also has put up with more personal abuse from Dave McCray than most people can imagine," Whitlock said in an e-mail sent to several people in town and posted on the town's Web discussion page.

"I have been witness to many of Dave's attacks on Chuck," Whitlock wrote. "It appears that Chuck has decided to join me in getting out of a severe verbally and emotionally abusive relationship with David McCray."

Reached by phone, McCray declined to comment on Whitlock's remarks. He issued a brief, written statement on Mower's resignation.

"My focus is to work with the current members of the board - Mike Malzone, Betty Spence and Tom Koenig - to fulfill the wishes of the voters and make Merrimack affordable again," McCray said in the statement.

McCray, an anti-tax selectman often in the minority in the past, is positioned to become the chairman when the board reorganizes next week after the anti-tax vote in Tuesday's election.

Two additional councilmen will be elected in a special election June 13, and the newly elected board of selectmen in the meantime can appoint someone to replace Mower.

"Merrimack has chosen a new and challenging direction of municipal affairs," Mower said in his resignation letter. "The Town Council faces difficulties that require the election of additional members and they must now be selected from candidates willing to serve.

"I have no interest in being a councilor and therefore must make way for those who do," he continued. "It has been a pleasure to serve in the public trust of my fellow citizens and it is fitting that I, as the last selectman of Merrimack, pass into quaint history. Effective immediately, I resign all official responsibilities I possess."

Mower declined to comment further.

Elected to the board of selectmen two years ago, Mower also has served on the school board, budget committee and library trustees. Former colleagues said Mower's departure is a loss for Merrimack.

"I'm deeply saddened that Chuck resigned," Dick Hinch said. Hinch has served as chairman of the board of selectmen for the past three years, but lost his re-election bid Tuesday.

"Chuck did some soul-searching and came to a very, very difficult decision. If he's comfortable and his family is comfortable with it, then I'm comfortable with it," Hinch said.

He added, "I hold Chuck in the highest regard. He was a superb selectman."

In his two years on the board, Mower didn't miss a single meeting, Hinch said. During the few issues on which he and Mower disagreed, Mower always treated the chairman respectfully, Hinch said.

"I am proud to call Chuck my friend. I think very, very highly of Chuck and his family, and I appreciate all the kindness and support he's shown to me and my family as well. Our friendship will continue forever," Hinch said.

"I'm crestfallen that we're losing Chuck," said Patrick McGrath, a former school board member who lost a bid for selectman on Tuesday. "Chuck has done so much for this community for so many years."

McGrath added that the town is losing Mower's "wisdom and experience."

"Chuck has a clear soul and a clear conscience. He's done the best he can for Merrimack for many, many years," McGrath said.

Whitlock, in a telephone interview Thursday, said Mower wouldn't be able to work with a new board that lacks the vision to work for Merrimack's future.

"It is unfortunate that the voters chose to drastically change the vision for the town of Merrimack," Whitlock said. "The voters made it clear that they didn't share the same vision as the majority of the selectmen for the past two years. Chuck and Dick Hinch and I worked diligently to present a professional way of doing business that included the vision and foresight of looking beyond the end of our noses."

She continued, "With the change to the majority of the board, it would be impossible for Chuck to make further progress toward long-range goals."

Copyright, 2006, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H. All Rights Reserved.