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New Ipswich

Board member sworn in

Meiszner to serve as selectman through March 2015

NEW IPSWICH — The Select Board voted on Tuesday to appoint Woody Meiszner to the open Select Board position.

Meiszner will be taking up the seat left vacant on Feb. 18 by the resignation of former Select Board member Ben Cargill. Cargill resigned his seat after obtaining a new job which will not allow him to fulfill his remaining year on the board.

The remaining Select Board members put out a public call for letters of intent from interested residents and approachedsome former board members to see who might be interested in taking up the position. Though several board members had expressed a willingness to step in, only two residents, both without any Select Board experience, submitted letters of intent: Meiszner and Planning Board member Becky Doyle.

Like Doyle, Meiszner has had experience on the Planning Board, having served for two terms between 1998 and 2004, and as an alternate both prior to and after his time on the board, and is a current trustee of the trust funds. Meiszner’s financial acumen was what ultimately put him over the top when it came time to consider the candidates, said Select Board Chair George Lawrence. Meiszner is a retired certified public accountant who worked for 25 years in private accounting as an auditor.

“His financial experience is an asset to the town overall right now,” said Lawrence in an interview Wednesday. “It was just a question of past experience in other areas. It wasn’t an easy decision from some perspectives, but this is what [Select Board member Mike Conlin and I] agreed upon. I think he’ll be an asset to the town.” Another factor, noted Lawrence, is the fact that Meiszner has the availability to participate in town politics, as he is retired.

“He’s able to be active and involved. He has the time and the experience,” said Lawrence.

In an interview Wednesday, Meiszner said he first considered putting his name in for the appointment while in the town offices recently. While speaking to Joanne Meshna, the Planning Board secretary, he learned that Cargill was resigning and there was no one on the ballot to fill Conlin’s seat.

“In a moment of weakness, I said, ‘Well, if no one else is going to do it, I might as well run,’” he said with a laugh. “It was not out of any great desire to be a selectman. But I believe in service.” Meiszner noted that he has felt strongly about giving back since he was a young man, after the GI bill helped to put him through college after his service in Vietnam. “That’s why I believe in public service, which is why I was willing to be on the Planning Board. There always seems to be a shortage of people willing to step up. Whenever there’s an event, it always seems to be the same 10 people that show up.”

Meiszner said he does not feel particularly strongly about any of the issues on this year’s warrant, or have any agenda planned now that he has been appointed to the office.

“I have a lot to learn about how each of the departments function, in detail. Initially, I need to understand that process,” he said. Meiszner will be working with Roberta Fraser, the Town Administrator, who is a Select Board member in the town of Winchester, to get up to speed.

One issue Meiszner said he does have a stance on is budgeting priorities.

“...I see the position of selectman as one that has a first duty to the health and safety of the community. Other functions of the town are important but must be subordinate to health and safety,” Meiszner wrote to the Select Board in his letter of intent. “I also understand that needs are unlimited while resources are finite. This means that we must live within our budget and allocate our resources wisely to benefit the community as a whole.”

Meiszner explained that he felt departments concerned with community safety, such as fire, police, highway and emergency management should be first priorities, although that does not mean that they should have an unlimited budget.

“Those are the ones that keep community safe and we need to make sure are adequately funded,” he said.

Meiszner will be resigning his duties as a trustee of the trustfunds, as the duty conflicts with his new role as a Select Board member.

With Cargill’s seat filled, the next question will be who will fill the seat that will shortly be vacated by Conlin, who decided not to run for reelection this year. No residents decided to file for the position. During the Tuesday meeting, Lawrence asked Doyle and Meiszner if either of them would be willing to run on a write-in campaign for the three year position, if they were not appointed to the position. Doyle said she was not interested in holding the three-year term, and Meiszner said he was undecided on the matter.

Conlin has said he would prefer to have the coming term off from town politics to focus more on his family, but has said that if elected by write-in, he would honor the vote.

“No one has filed for the three-year position, and that’s an unfortunate thing,” said Lawrence. “Evidently, it’s not a very inviting thing to be an elected official.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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