Selectmen pick McCray for chairman

By PATRICK MEIGHAN, Telegraph Staff
Published: Thursday, Apr. 20, 2006

MERRIMACK – Dave McCray now owns what he has craved since his landslide reelection a year ago.

By a 2-1-1 vote Wednesday, McCray was named chairman of the board of selectmen, a job he thought he had earned last year as the selectman with the most continuous years in office. By a vote of 3-0-1, newly elected Selectman Betty Spence was named vice chairwoman.

“I can’t remember anytime I wanted anything this badly,” McCray said as he thanked his peers on the board for choosing him as chairman.

In a special meeting, the board also established a fast-track process for replacing former Selectman Chuck Mower, whose resignation the board accepted Wednesday.

The board set a deadline of 4:30 p.m. Monday for anyone interested to send a letter to the town manager. The board will then pick the new selectman April 27, following an open-session discussion of the candidates.

On Wednesday, the other newly elected selectman, Mike Malzone, nominated McCray for chairman, saying that as the board’s senior member McCray deserved the job. Spence seconded the nomination.

While McCray abstained, the lone dissenting vote was cast by the board member with the second longest tenure, Tom Koenig.

“I don’t believe I can support this nomination,” Koenig said, noting McCray’s absences in past board meetings and budget workshops and questioning whether McCray could make the time commitment needed to chair the board.

McCray said Koenig raised valid points, but noted that his work schedule has eased. McCray also noted that his attendance had improved last year.

After the vote, McCray then nominated Spence for vice chairwoman, solidifying one of the town’s oddest political alliances. In 2003, Spence, who was then assistant town manager, sued McCray, saying he had broken state law when he released Spence’s personal proposed retirement benefit calculations to a newspaper and in postings to a local online community Web chat forum.

Spence subsequently settled her lawsuit against McCray out of court and won a separate suit against the town. Last year, she supported him in the election, as he did for her this year.

McCray said that Spence will play an active role as vice chairwoman because of her organizational skills and knowledge of the town.

“I think Betty is more than qualified to be vice chairman, or chairman for that matter,” McCray said.

As for himself, McCray pledged to work to heal the town following a contentious election.

“ ‘Polished’ certainly isn’t my strong suit, but I promise to work to get better at it,” he said.

Koenig praised both Mower and former board Chairman Dick Hinch, who lost his re-election bid April 11, for their years of service to the town.

“I think he did a wonderful job,” Koenig said of Hinch. “His shoes will be difficult to fill,” he added, before congratulating McCray and pledging to support him as chairman.

As for picking a new selectman, McCray said it was important to do that soon because the filing period for two town council positions opens next Wednesday. Voters on April 11 approved a town charter that transforms the five-member board of selectman to a seven-member town council. The change takes effect July 1.

A special election will be held June 13 for the two new councilmen. The selectman appointed next week will, like the rest of the board, become councilors after July 1. The appointed selectman will serve until Mower’s term would have expired next April.

Spence noted that some possible candidates might be reluctant to have their names discussed publicly and then be embarrassed if they weren’t chosen.

McCray responded, “If they don’t want their names discussed in public, they shouldn’t apply.”

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or