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With Judge's Approval, Kensington Has a Town Government Again

Todd Bookman/NHPR

There probably is never a good moment for an entire town’s Board of Selectmen to resign, but a few days before paychecks for municipal employees are scheduled to go out certainly wasn’t it.

The mass resignation—delivered Monday and announced Wednesday by the small Rockingham County town’s chief of police—came after a series of disputes and heightening tensions between the three-person board and some residents.

The immediate challenge it created was that with no government, there was no-one to sign off on this week’s payroll for the town’s estimated 15-20 part-time and full-time employees.

That led to today’s peculiar scene in Rockingham County Superior Court, where Judge Andrew Schulman was asked by the Kensington Town Moderator Harold Bragg and attorney Doug Mansfield to sign off on an emergency petition appointing two new members to the Board of Selectmen.

Clearly uncomfortable with the role, Judge Schulman asked both recommended residents, Benjamin Cole and Michael Schwotzer, to present their credentials.

Satisfied with their experience in town government, as both men have held numerous posts, Judge Schulman praised the two men for their “profound public spirit” and signed off on their appointments.

Both men pledged to the court to treat their status as “caretakers” of the town, rather than those who normally serve with a mandate after winning an election.  

Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR
Town Moderator Harold Bragg swears in Michael Schwotzer, left and Benjamin Cole as new members of the Board.

In the court’s lobby immediately after the hearing, Town Moderator Harold Bragg swore in the two new members of the Board of Selectmen. They will likely nominate a third member to serve on the Board, but the timeline for that appointment isn’t yet clear.

“We are appreciative of the judge’s attention and timely response to the petition, and now we can move forward with running the town and the importance business we have to do,” said police chief Scott Sanders.

The newly appointed officials will serve through March, when Kensington next holds Town Meeting.

Paychecks are expected to go out to the town’s employees on-time.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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