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Rec director resignation reveals conflicts within town of New Ipswich

  • Nicole Talbot, Tina McCabe and Mindy Buxton represented the recreation department at a New Ipswich Select Board meeting on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Citing poor communication and additional pressure on her budget process throughout the year, Parks and Recreation Director Wendy Buxton announced her resignation effective at the end of May. 

When the New Ipswich Board of Selectmen asked Buxton at a May 9 meeting why she was resigning her post, she said, “I hate politics.”

“I’m not really happy about it, but at this point in the game I feel like I don’t really have a choice,” said Buxton, who is staying on as director of the town pool through the end of the 2017 season. “I can’t keep working with people whom I can’t see eye-to-eye with.”

Buxton filed the resignation almost two weeks ago, and appeared before the board of selectmen, including the board’s liaison to the recreation department Tim Johnson.

She highlighted the reasons she does not want to continue: a stingy budget committee and Johnson’s availability. She also said Johnson didn’t reach out when he heard she was leaving and he allegedly asked questions over text and email after meetings that Buxton thinks should have been asked in a public meeting.

Johnson declined additional comment, responding that he has been available by reading timestamps from several text message interactions they have had in the past three weeks.

“I know we’ve spoken a few times through text messaging and a few phone calls,” he said.

Buxton said she had a better relationship with her previous liaison, Becky Doyle, who left the board in March.

Behind the scenes

Buxton took over for the previous recreation director, Deb Holmes, who left for similar reasons, including conflict with the selectmen.

“There was a lot going on behind the scenes, a lot of undermining going on,” Holmes said. “They really don’t see the benefit of the department, and they don’t see all the things the department does for the kids.”

Buxton’s stipend as pool director is $3,000 per year. The parks and recreation director’s stipend is $5,000 this year. She said she wishes she could spend more money out of the department’s revolving fund. The board, which has oversight, prefers to limit spending to items it deems necessary.

“That’s the thing with these selectmen, they’re not at the field when people are there,” she said.

But it’s not just the select board, Buxton also clashed with the budget committee during the preparation of the 2017 budget. Buxton wanted to increase the outhouse budget to rent portable toilets for events and to pay for a larger handicap-accessible unit. She requested $2,030 for that line in the 2017 budget based on researching her preferred provider. This was an increase from 2016’s $1,059.

The board of selectmen and budget committee increased the budget, but not as high as requested because they did not share her concerns about the conditions. The 2017 line is $1,435.

“Unfortunately, we’ve approached the budget differently every single year,” said budget committee member Wendy Juchnevics-Freeman said. “I think we need to be a little bit more aware, or made aware, of the budgets throughout the year.”

Juchnevics-Freeman didn’t address Buxton’s comments, but she talked about issues the budget committee had with the select board last year during budget season.

“I don’t know that we’re ever going to be buddy-buddy with the board of selectmen, otherwise what’s the point of having a budget committee?,” Juchnevics-Freeman said.

No support

Buxton alleges that multiple department heads share her feeling that they do not have support from the town. 

Meredith Lund, a fire chief and fellow department head with Buxton, had issues with the committee over firefighter stipends. She said she has not felt additional pressures this year, but said she has learned a lot about the politics of the budget and improving that relationship.

“What I’ve found with the budget committee is that they want to save the taxpayers money as much as possible, but they don’t always see the big picture,” she said.

According to Lund, it is best to come to meetings expecting to justify the need for funds with long-term plans and specific notes about the funds you have.

Police Chief Timothy Carpenter could not be reached for comment. He is on medical leave until July 1. Town Clerk and Tax Collector Jessica Olson said she has not had much problem with the board because she has an “easy budget.” Other department heads were not available for comment.

‘I still love this town’

Juchnevics-Freeman, who said she had worried about Buxton taking on too much, said she did a great job.

Buxton is remaining on until the end of May to help with big events like the fishing derby and inaugural town sponsored senior night.

“I’m not going that far away, I still live here and I still love this town,” Buxton said.

She will be succeeded by former recreation coordinator and current soccer program coordinator Nichole Talbot. Current recreation coordinator Tina McCabe will remain in her position.

“They know a lot already, so I think it’s in the town’s best interest, the department’s best interest to take them on,” Buxton said.