By PAUL J. SPETRINI
EXETER—The Exeter Town Council hopes voters have had a change of heart since 2010 as Monday night, during its regular monthly meeting, the council approved a measure to once again ask residents to add a new position in the notoriously small municipal government.
In a 3-1 vote, with member Dan Patterson dissenting, the council agreed to move forward with a ballot question in this November’s election seeking approval to create a town administrator position that will employ someone to handle the “day-to-day operations” of Exeter.
Council President Arlene Hicks, who currently operates as an unofficial liaison between members of the public and the council whenever she can, said Monday that the town is at a disadvantage by not having a dedicated person in place that can make decisions, answer questions or field inquiries on behalf of the municipality.
Citing examples where state officials have needed paperwork filled out “that day” or local residents have had a request of the council only to be told “we meet in three weeks”, Hicks said Exeter misses out on a lot by not having a person of authority in charge who can make decisions.
It’s an argument member Cal Ellis has made to voters for years.
“This issue has been on the ballot many times,” Ellis said. “After defeating a year and a half ago, my thought we give it a rest but the fact is when something needs to be done, it needs to be addressed over and over again.”
In voting against the measure, Patterson said he was concerned about the politics of the position. With a council that is up for reelection every two years, he argued, what’s to stop the position from constantly turning over?
“If we appoint an administrator, every time we have new council, he’d get fired,” Patterson said. “My thought is why not have a mayor? We can have them voted on every two years. With this council, you’d be spending six months doing a search every couple of terms.”
Hicks offered a suggestion of having the proposed town administrator sign a contract and operate much the way the school committee, which itself is constantly up for election, interacts with a superintendent.
Following the approval of the ballot question, the council voted 4-0 to hold a public hearing, as required by law, at its next meeting in September.
The council also introduced a pair of ordinance changes during Monday’s meeting that would help shape the future of a planned village overlay district and would amend the town’s comprehensive plan. For more on these changes and what they mean for local residents, pick up a copy of next week’s Standard-Times.