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Our democracy is in good hands in the North Country

Caption: Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Sen. Jeff Woodburn honor Errol Selectman Larry Enman for serving as selectman since 1972.

 

By Sen. Jeff Woodburn

Last Tuesday, while a scant number of voters braved the cold to shorten the field of Republican candidates to replace the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, Secretary of State Bill Gardner and I barnstormed the North Country.  Our goal was to witness local democracy and our mission was to shine the light of recognition on the region’s longest serving local officials.

Ray Burton was on my mind when I suggested the tour to Bill Gardner.  Burton loved nothing better than touring the North Country and recognizing others for their accomplishments.  It was easy to get Bill on board because he too loves grassroots democracy and was an old friend of Burton and did a similar tour in 1977 with the iconic councilor. 

Gardner and Burton served together for nearly forty years – both being elected in the Bicentennial year of 1976. Life and politics was very different in those years and I miss the sensibility of those days – even though I was a mere middle schooler.  I had an odd affection for politics at that age and local pols of mixed party affiliation like Ray Burton, Senators Otto Oleson and Harold Burns – kindly took me under their wing.

Tuesday’s tour was a great time and a little different than most. First, it was ambitious with 12 stops (originally we planned 15 but we ran out of time) across Senate District 1 (from Thornton to Errol to Colebrook to Littleton).  All told we traveled more than 200 miles (add another 150 for Gardner, who drove up from Manchester). Second, the focus was on others—veteran town officials. Most tours tend to be focused on the person being shown around – introduced to our region and way of life. 

At each stop, we presented to the recipients a state proclamation and copy of the award-winning book, “Beyond the Notches, 50 stories of the North Country.” The officials totaled hundreds of years of local service.  Two in particular – Gerald Winn, Littleton’s town moderator since 1966 and Opal “Polly” Bronson, Jefferson’s town clerk since 1967, alone have a combined service of 97 years.  Others who were honored included:  Thornton Moderator Robert Gannett since 1979; Woodstock Moderator Ken Chapman since 1975; Whitefield Checklist Supervisor Coleen Malone since 1989; Randolph Judith Kenison Ballot Clerk since 1972; Gorham Moderator Lee Carroll since 1986; Errol Selectman Larry Enman since 1972; Millsfield Selectman Lewis Sweatt since 1975; Colebrook Trustee of Trust Funds Granvyl Hulse since 1977 and Columbia Selectman Norman Cloutier since 1991.

These local officials worked year after year (or decade after decade) with little notice or praise, but, in short, they make democracy work. Our small towns depend on them.

Along the way, Secretary Gardner and I learned a lot about elections in the smallest places in the state.  There is tremendous pressure to add more and more regulations to the voting process.  It is a remarkable undertaking in the communities with small populations.  For example in Errol 10 people spent the entire day waiting for 13 more people to come through the doors and vote. Of course, I’m assuming all 10 election workers voted.   Now you can see why they were all so happy to see us.

In places like Millsfield, where they vote at a lovely bed and breakfast called Peace of Heaven B & B, it takes on an added burden.  Thinking we were lost or really late as there was just one car in the driveway, we were delighted to be greeted by election posters all over the entry way and a cheery Sonja Sheldon, Innkeeper and Election Day town clerk.  We were shown to her kitchen table, which was turned into a make shift polling place.  Between fresh cookies and a review of voting procedures (each voter gets a private bedroom, rather than a voting booth), we learned as startling piece of history – namely that Millsfield, not Dixville was the first community to vote at midnight for President.  They did it in 1952 (Sonja shared an old Time Magazine to prove it), 8 years before Dixville kickoff the annual tradition.   

This day,  after witnessing 12 small communities prepare and carryout the election process, our democracy is in good hands.

 

(Jeff Woodburn, of Dalton, a former town and school district moderator and civics teacher, represents the North Country in the State Senator.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 January 2014 19:10

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Grant Goulet: Passion for Pride

On the eve of the New England Pond Hockey Classic tournament, Berlin native Grant Goulet shares his memories of growing up playing hockey in Berlin, which he wrote after last year's tournament. More than 200 teams will come together Jan. 31-Feb.2 in Meredith for the tournament. A number of former Berlin hockey players, playing as the Berlin Maroons, will be among them.

 

Passion is the magic that allows us to experience true beauty in life, discover where it can take us, and uncover what we are capable of. Passion moves crowds, builds cities, transcends time, and fuels the soul. The allure and mystery can happen at any moment, evolving into a way of living, magnifying the sparkle in someone's eyes.

I am a very passionate person and when something pulls at my inner strings I tend to push my commitment chips all in. Hockey is one of my passions and growing up in Berlin makes it an easy one to commit to. There were days, when I was younger, that we would play until our skates became ice blocks. These blocks prevented you from taking your skates off and you were left with the uncomfortable walk home on your blades.

I remember sitting on the log at Green Street — As my teeth chatter, frigid mountain air running down my huddled neck, I raise my hands and exhale intermittent warmth through my fingertips, exiting like smoke from a stack. I take a deep breath, reaching downward, tensely rubbing my hands, while I pull my skate laces tighter. I know if I overcome the unyielding stiffness in my body that I will endure the rigorous conditions before me. I cross and roll my looped laces and roll my pants down. I spring to my feet, darting towards a settled puck, like a beagle chasing a rabbit. Adrenaline rushes through my body, warming my soul as my skates hack into the ice. The journey of life and pursuit of passions comes with many sacrifices, many of which will be undertaken by someone other than you.

There isn't a day that passes that I don't think about what my parents went through for me to pursue my crazed obsessions. Hockey was always the prevalent leader, a sport requiring a ground work of sacrifice, running deeper then the roots of a tree. My sacrifices were minimal compared to what my parents forfeited and endured. My plan is to pay it forward to the next generation in honor of my parents.

My son Grady, yet to turn 2, greets me at the door every day after work, stick in hand, as he excitedly says, "Hock, Hock." I smile with delight as I see his life of passion beginning. I teach him what I can, but for now his only consistent response is when I ask him who his favorite team is. He happily replies, "Buins, Buins." His first words take me back in time, to when I was a child at my grandfather's house. I would spread across the couch, as he stretched out in the recliner, watching our prized Bruins. Towards the end of the games, his eyes would begin to close, but always remained slit open until the final buzzer. We would both fall asleep, and morning come, would talk about the game before. I shall cherish those times all the days of my life and am hopeful that my son will spend some time with his Pepe, replicating some of our family traditions.

As many of my childhood dreams come to an end, I look forward to this new chapter in my life. Hockey is a tradition in my family, passed on by our Canadian roots. Berlin's history starts with the pioneers who graced Green's Pond and Paine's Rink, forming mill teams some 100 years ago, building the foundation of Berlin's Hockey pride. Pride is Berlin's greatest quality, built up by the men of the mill, the game of hockey, and protected by those that preserve it.

For several years now, the "boys" and I have played in what is known as the Pond Hockey Classic, a tournament on Meredith Bay, attracting thousands of hockey players and fans from around the world. We enjoy coming together, sharing stories, reminiscing about what once was, and how we made it to this point in time. Stories about Roger Charest and marshmallow passes, trips to Canada with Heath "Beef" Roy, coaches' corner with Ron Devoid, the ageless wonder of Albie Brodeur, a jam packed Notre Dame Arena, are but a few of the tales that make us smile. Last year we gathered in friendship, pride, and passion to grace the ice as The Berlin Maroons. We have chosen to honor and respect a team, a culture, and a tradition that we as children have always been fond of. The storied franchise began entertaining the people of the North Country in the 1930s, and proudly wearing our custom vintage jerseys, we were consistently reminded how renown the Berlin Maroons really are. It was a great honor for us to represent the City of Berlin, the game of hockey, the Mountaineers, and the Berlin Maroons.

By the end of the weekend we were bruised and battered, worn out like an old pair of Winnwell leather gloves, as exhausted as the 1966 Berlin Mountaineers, who played nine periods over two days at the Boston Garden, losing a 2-1 nail biter to St. Dom's in the New England semi finals. My father, Roland, has told me many renditions of this heartbreaking game. The following season, Berlin defeated St. Dom's 3-2, winning the New England High School Hockey Championship. You can kick us but we will not stay down. That sounds like the Berlin I have grown to love.

Our fatigue, overcome by our character, propelled us to victory in five out of our first six games. We gained retribution over our loss on Saturday by defeating the same team in our first playoff round game. It was evident from the start that they didn't want to see us again. We have a reputation of being ... well "scrappy" is the word we like to use. Our momentum carried us to the semi finals, where we faced off against the Vancouver Blaster's, lead by former UNH stalwart and Los Angles Kings Winger, Derek Bekar. We lost to the Blasters by a goal in the quarterfinals last year. Our fate was no different this year as the final horn left us out of time and down 6-5. We finished third out of 32 teams.

As we somberly came together, accepting our defeat, I raised my arms in delight, embracing the friends I am grateful to share my life with. No scoreboard can vanquish the unity of hockey and friendship. Over the course of time, many of us have left our hometown, pursuing our dreams and building our lives. Our absence from the mountains doesn't mean that we have forgotten our native land or the values that preside over us. My home will always be Berlin. I will forever be thankful for the passionate and caring people of the city, their quiet confidence, for they have given me a lifetime of fortune. I am rich with pride, respect, and passion. I am hopeful to return one day for good and sometimes imagine passing through town, light snow in the air, seeing sticks piled in the middle of the ice, as the next generation preserves the Berlin tradition of hockey, passion, and pride. It is an honor to be from Berlin, N.H.

 

 Grant Goulet grew up, playing and loving hockey,  in Berlin. He now lives in Meredith.

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 23:31

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Guest Column - Is Your Community Ready for a Profile?

by Deb Maes, Regional Field Specialist

Community Development

I’ve lived in a small community my whole life. I see people I know at school functions, at the transfer station (or as we called it “The Dump), bump into each other at the post office and at Old Home Days, Town Meetings, waiting to register our cars or just talking a walk.

Conversations at these occasions involve little more than simple niceties, and rarely do we talk about anything important concerning our town. When we do talk about town issues, it is generally at our annual Town Meeting when the primarily concern is how much money each warrant article will cost.

We never get the opportunity to talk about what we like about our community and what we want to see in the future. But we should. UNH Cooperative Extension has a long history of working with communities to help them step back and take a look at what they like about the towns they live in and what they want to see for their towns in the future. When Judd Gregg was Governor, he commissioned a study to look at New Hampshire in the 21st Century. One community in each of the ten counties held what was known then as a Civic Profile. Extension staff worked with a local committee and held the two-day event to look at issues important to local citizens.

In the mid-1990’s Extension staff once again started working with communities in a revamped Community Profile. The Community Profile is a process by which communities take stock of where they are today and develop an action plan for how they want to operate in the future. The process provides a method for citizens to affirm community strengths, find collaborative approaches to meet challenges creatively, and manage change. One of the major outcomes of the Community Profile is more citizen participation in the community and the affairs of its government.

Many of the staff who worked on Community Profiles in the Nineties have retired, but with a new staff and a new vision to work with communities, Extension has once again offered to work with local communities to hold their own Community Profile. In Grafton County Bethlehem, Canaan, Lebanon, Lisbon, Rumney and Bethlehem have all with work Extension staff in the past to hold their own Community Profile event. Across the state almost 80 other communities have held their own profile.

Extension staff work with a local steering committee for about six months to plan and organize the event. The staff provides training for local volunteers to facilitate discussions throughout the process, develop a report for the town covering the proceedings on the whole event, and then work with action committees for at least a year after the event to provide whatever assistance is needed to complete the projects identified in the process.

Some of the long term results of local community profiles are increased communication—many towns now develop newsletters and enhance their web presence. Many communities have also expressed concern about their local natural resources and some towns have increased the amount of money raised at their town meetings to put more land into conservation.

One of Extension’s goals is to help towns develop more local leadership. Many times people want to take on a larger role in their towns, but don’t feel qualified. By working with others on the planning of the profile or getting training in group facilitation, people are more willing to step forward and volunteer for local planning, conservation and zoning boards—or serve on other local school or town boards.

If you like the idea of your community participating in a community event that doesn’t involve adversarial topics, but instead looks at a way to make your town better, consider contacting our Extension office at UNH and talking to our staff about whether a Community Profile is in your future. Peterborough and Barrington have done so and will be holding events this spring.

To look at our 10 year report of the impact of Communities Profiles check out this link at http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource001138_Rep1427.pdf. You can reach Molly Donovan at our Durham office at 862-5046 or Deb Maes at the Grafton Office at 787-6944. We can help you determine if your town is ready to start the process to hold a Community Profile. You’ll be glad that you did.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 23:30

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Poof - Winter sports history II

  Hello fellow Berlinites. As these early winter sports contests continued to grow in the early 1920s, distances in jumps began to get longer and local cross-country runners began shining.

            After the local meets in 1922, there came a succession of outside victories, Oakerlund won the cross-country run in Montréal. In Stowe, Vermont, Anderson and Sverre Knudson took first and second prizes. Anderson’s jump was 74 feet, 3 inches.

            In the Québec Ski Jumping Championship at Montréal, “Bing” Anderson was first with the best jump of 97 feet. Michelson was second and Oakerlund won the cross country race. All were local skiing stars now showing the rest of the world what Berlin’s Nansen Ski Club had developed.

            At the Adirondack Amateur International Ski Competition on the Mt. Pisgah course at Saranac Lake, New York, Anderson and Michelson repeated in first and second places respectively. The best jump was 84 feet. Sverre Knudson broke the record at the country club jump in Woodstock, Vermont flying one hundred nine feet and ten inches.

            Then at Brattleboro, Vermont, Anderson established a new Eastern record with a jump of 150 feet on the Overrocker slide. Dewey Couture, Sverre Knudson and Emmons Dahl helped to bring home the club cup given by DW Overrocker.

            By the time Anderson competed in Ottawa, his long schedule obliged him to be content with third place. It is worth noting, as mentioned in my first story, Anderson Michelson, and Couture were still teenagers at this time.

            As we progressed to the year 1923, the record for the Berlin slide established in 1922 by Bing Anderson with a jump of 111 1/2 feet was not disturbed.

            This young jumper remained the stellar jumper in the East and added new laurels to his wreath, when he took second place at Revelstoke, British Columbia. It was here that he jumped 172 feet from an unfamiliar slide.

            In the Berlin event, Anderson was first over Frank McKinnon and Rolf Munson of Montréal along with 40 other contestants. Under sticky snow conditions, this 20-year-old local ski jumping sensation became the Eastern champion. His best jump of 151 feet did not equal the leap of the previous year, which was 159 feet under perfect weather conditions. The record for this hill was passed on to Norman Berger, who jumped 160 feet.

            1923 was also the first year of the Mt. Washington Ski Race from the Halfway House on Mt. Washington to Berlin. First and second place went to Rolf Munson and Peter McKinnon. Berlin's great ski runner, Bob Reid came in third.

Second string men also gathered points at the Berlin Carnival and were invariably first at other carnivals throughout New England. Dewey Couture, still a teenager and Herman Oleson captured fourth and sixth places respectively in the Berlin jump. Herman Oleson won first place with a 74 foot jump at a North Conway event. Erling Anderson and Dewey Couture captured first and third places respectively in the jump at Portland, Maine. The best jump of 84 feet was performed by young Couture.

In 1924, Bob Reid reaped the fruits of previous work and became the national cross-country champion. At Chicago, “Bing” made a jump of 150 feet, but fell on the second attempt injuring his knee. Reid won the cup offered by Secretary of War Weeks in the Mt. Washington marathon, became the national champion at Brattleboro, Vermont and took the 25 mile race at Lake Placid, New York. What a great athlete he must have been.

Locally, Erling Anderson became the champion in the jumping and Jorge Johansen picked up second place at several cross-country events. In Brattleboro, “Bing” took ninth place and was given a golden wing ski medal for the longest standing jump which was a distance of 175 feet.

In 1925, Erling Anderson won this year's jumping contest; Bob Reid was out of the running because of an injury, but eventually won second prize in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Ingvald “Bing” Anderson was second in the class “A” jumping at the Eastern Amateur Ski meet in Brattleboro and had the longest standing jump of 190 feet, which had set the hill record.

While jumping in Rumford, Maine, Anderson took first prize with the longest standing jump. He then went to Lake Placid and took fourth place and then second place in Québec.

The Berlin and Nansen Ski Club boys were really on a roll in this year. In class “B” events at Brattleboro, Dewey Couture took first prize in the longest standing jump. At Berlin and Rumford Dewey took third place and in Montpelier he was number one.

In outside competitions Erling Anderson was first at Bellows Falls, Vermont, with the longest standing jump, second at Brattleboro and Lake Placid class “B” and third in Québec. During this year the skiers from the “Paper City” amassed many trophies. The accompanying picture shows the ones that were handed out during one Eastern championship here in Berlin and many were won by our talented young local skiers.

Hundreds of these cups must have been accrued by these young super athletes while competing in their prime days and the Berlin citizens must have shined with pride when viewing them.

The activities of the young Berlin skiers and Nansen Ski Club members had a healthy influence upon the development of intercollegiate sport in the East. Youths who grew up in Berlin during this era proved to be effective missionaries in converting the colleges to an interest in the sport of skiing.

Gustavus Paulson was one of the pioneers at Dartmouth and Gunner Michelson took the sport to the University of New Hampshire in Durham. He was the intercollegiate champion three times and by 1926 was the Vice President of the Intercollegiate Winter Sports Union.

Gordon Brown organized skiing at Williams College and became President of the Intercollegiate Winter Sports Union. Under his leadership, Williams won the Dartmouth Winter Carnival for the first time in 15 years.

Berlin’s Carroll Gerrish initiated skiing at Norwich University and at the Brattleboro Intercollegiate Ski Jumping event in 1925; three of five places, first, third and fourth went to the Berlin boys.

The Intercollegiate Winter Sports Union was composed of nine colleges back then: Dartmouth, McGill, Williams, New Hampshire, Norwich, Bates, University of Montréal, Loyola and Ottawa. Of these, five were on American soil and the Nansen Ski Club had a direct influence in the foundation of ski sports in all of them.

As you can see, the young local skiers, woman included had a lot to do with the development of this sport in New Hampshire and the United States back then and we as Berlinites can brag about and take pride in this part of our history.

Questions or comments email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Also join the many fans of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on face book and guess at the weekly mystery picture.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 18:38

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State of the City Address

I first want to welcome you to Berlin's Inauguration Ceremony of 2014. Serving in any capacity in municipal government today is both challenging and rewarding. In the past two years, Berlin and the surrounding communities have been tested in many areas. First of all, the business climate in the paper industry continues to be very challenging. The industry is still right sizing and mills are struggling to enter into different markets with grade mixes that allow for positive cash flow. Locally, Gorham Paper and Tissue continues to face difficult markets and winter energy prices that is straining the competitive edge that was developed only two years ago. GPT remains the largest private manufacturing employer here in the Androscoggin Valley and their continued success is of the utmost importance to the rebirth of our area. All of us in government must do everything in our control to address the energy issues that are exerting enormous pressure to their continued viability. I am in contact almost daily with DRED officials who are committed to making this mill a long term employer here into the future.

Money for continued city operations remains very difficult to raise. When I ran for Mayor four years ago, I pledged to Berlin's voters that I would be a fiscally responsible mayor. Our tax rate here in Berlin is very stable, with increases that have averaged about 45 cents per year since you elected me as your mayor and the dedicated members of our present City Council. Because of significantly lower property values than are found statewide, Berlin's tax rate must be firmly in control to attract outside investment here. My pledge for the next two years is to continue the very focused and disciplined spending environment that has been a priority of this City Council. Having made my commitment to be frugal with public money, I still very much support the efforts to beautify the downtown business district and make it a favorable place to attract and do business. Main Street is the heartbeat of our community, it needs attention and participation from everyone, stakeholders and residents alike. It took a number of years for some of the properties to appear aged, but if we can fix one building or attract one new business this year, it will demonstrate to the outside world that Berlin is very much willing to do its own heavy lifting.
There have been quite a few bright spots in Berlin as well! The City Council hired Jim Wheeler to be Berlin's ninth City Manager on June 1st. Jim brings to the job an enormous wealth of managerial experience, a keen sense of Berlin's internal operational structure, limitless energy and a low key but focused approach to his new job. I've known Jim Wheeler professionally for 15 years and I most admire his uncompromising integrity and loyalty to his hometown. It is supremely gratifying for me to know that Berlin's promising future is in the hands of such skilled leadership. The Federal Bureau of Prisons operations continue to ramp up to full occupancy. In the last 100 days, dozens of Berlin area people have been hired to take full time positions. Because of age restrictions, these folks are mostly made up of young people who can stay in Berlin/Gorham now instead of leaving. More needs to be done to keep folks in Berlin, but just maybe we're stemming the tide of the mass exodus of our best and brightest young people. Burgess Biopower, despite a difficult startup, is nearly ready to start commercial production. There are nearly 40 full time employees on payroll and will be a multi-million dollar annual purchaser of goods, services and raw materials here in Coos County. From the time the project was purchased from the original developer, the folks of Cate Street Capital have been excellent corporate citizens here in Berlin. Together, partnering with the City of Berlin, Cate Street Capital will playa major role in the re-development of Berlin's employment and tax base.
I will ask the Berlin City Council to take an active role in supporting the Northern Pass project. Yes, there is stiff opposition to the project, not unlike what Berlin witnessed with Burgess Biopower and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The developers of Northern Pass, in my view, got miserably failing grades for how they introduced the project to the affected communities and their continued resistance to engaging the public for solutions. Make no mistake, however, the power is needed to wean ourselves off of power produced by natural gas. The tax benefits and the hundreds of jobs that the construction will create will be a huge boon to all of Coos County. Our support of NP, however, should be conditional to the developer taking real measurable steps to help mitigate sensitive viewshed issues. An honest dialogue among all stakeholders is what is needed if this project has a chance of surviving an ugly, lengthy and expensive court challenge. The stakes are very high, both immediate and long term.
Finally, I want to take a moment to thank each and every Berlin municipal employee in all departments for what you do, day in and day out. Your efforts do not go unnoticed, from working in poor weather, fighting fires in subzero temperatures, keeping our streets safe, helping a child through tough school assignments on personal time, to being a lifeline to our housebound elderly residents. You make Berlin proud, and for that, "Thank you for a job well done".
Paul Grenier, Mayor

Last Updated on Monday, 20 January 2014 18:01

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