Meet Concord’s three mayoral candidates, where they differ and where they agree

  • BYRON CHAMPLINCurrent At-Large City Councilor Byron Champlin says he’d make the position full-time.

  • George Jack talks about how he would stress a personal touch and efficiency in city government in front of his townhouse, already decorated for Halloween, as he runs for mayor on Thursday evening, September 21, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • KATE WESTThe former Concord school board member continues to advocate for social justice.

  • Current At-Large City Councilor Byron Champlin talks with Pete Sillari as Champlin canvasses the South End in Concord on Thursday evening, September 21, 2023. Champlin is running for mayor now that Jim Bouley announced he is not running again. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • George Jack talks about how he would stress a personal touch and efficiency in city government in his bid to run for mayor on Thursday evening, September 21, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Former Concord school board member Kate West sits on North Main Street in Concord on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. West is running for mayor of Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Current At-Large City Councilor Byron Champlin checks his voter list as he knocks on doors in the South End in Concord on Thursday evening, September 21, 2023. Champlin is running for mayor now that Jim Bouley announced he is not running again. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • GEORGE JACKHe’s lived in Concord for 20 years and says he’d stress a personal touch and efficiency.

  • Former Concord school board member Kate West stands on North Main Street in Concord on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. West is running for mayor of Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/23/2023 10:25:29 PM

Byron Champlin, Kate West and George Jack – with varied backgrounds and political experience – have differing perspectives on what Concord needs from its next mayor.

Each one believes they can transform the city of Concord in their own unique way.

Champlin, a current At-Large city councilor, will focus on the city’s economic development, homelessness, public safety and continued diversity efforts, he said. West, a former member of the school board, hopes to make city policies more open to all residents, use her voice as a platform for inclusivity and focus on affordable housing. Jack shares Champlin’s economic development focus and wants to make schools safer, increase transparency between city government and the community and get rid of the purple trash bags.

The trio are vying to replace Mayor Jim Bouley, the longest-serving mayor in Concord history, who announced his plans to retire in August after 26 years serving City Council, 16 of which were spent as mayor.

Byron Champlin

Champlin, who retired in 2018 from Lincoln Financial Group in corporate philanthropy, said he would make the mayoral position full-time.

He has a list of things he wants to accomplish, including reinstating the economic development advisory board, furthering rural development, encouraging the addition of housing, focusing on public safety retention and recruitment, and establishing a diversity and equity steering committee. Champlin says he hopes to attract and retain businesses, create good-paying jobs and minimize the tax burden on homeowners.

He also wants to address homelessness in the city.

“Locally, as mayor, I am going to continue to advocate for and push for a unified approach [to homelessness] which is aimed at getting people out of encampments and off the streets and into permanent housing,” Champlin said. “It may sound ambitious, but it’s been done in other counties, but the key pieces will be to have housing available and willing landlords to allow us to place people.”

Concord’s priorities won’t be limited to the unhoused residents of the city, he continued, but also creating affordable housing for the working families.

Since Champlin joined the City Council in 2014, he said he’s paid attention to the inner workings of city government and listened to the needs of the community, he said.

After graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in English, he worked odd jobs as a house framer, short order cook, a groomer in a racing stable, a waiter and a road worker before enrolling at Boston University where he earned his master’s of science in journalism. His first career job was with the Union Leader as a reporter before he spent seven years as the public information officer for the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

“As one of you wrote me, Concord is a small city with a big heart,” Champlin said in an email announcing his candidacy. “I’ve talked to so many people who visit, fall in love with our vibrant downtown neighborhoods, settle their families here and invest in our community. We strive to be a city where the only limits to personal success are one’s ambition and imagination.”

Champlin has been a resident of Concord for 40 years, his grandchildren are part of the Concord School District, and many of the children he coached in recreation youth basketball have stayed to raise children of their own here, which is why he is running for mayor.

George Jack

Jack doesn’t like the color purple. At least not when it’s seen sitting outside of someone’s home, waiting to be picked up and thrown away, costing taxpayers hundreds of dollars a year.

He’s talking about the city’s purple pay-as-you-throw trash bags, which have to go, he says.

“Those [trash collection] are the kind of things that make me want to run and make me think about what we need to improve and question what we aren’t doing,” Jack said. “I don’t want to just help the city, I want residents to feel like I want to help them.”

“I’m working on it,” is Jack’s campaign slogan. It makes clear his promise to support Concord residents and deliver them results.

By listening to residents’ concerns, whether large or small, Jack, who authors children’s books, co-owns a sauce company and specializes in customer service, says he knows how to provide residents with what they need. If elected as mayor, Jack will also focus on keeping unemployment rates low, increasing revenue and furthering the city’s diversity efforts. Additionally, he wants to utilize social media, like TikTok, to post videos and launch informal meetings with the mayor to increase community engagement.

“When I saw that the mayor wasn’t seeking a new term, I thought to myself, ‘This is an undiscovered country I want to conquer,’” Jack said. “I want to find better ways to foster business growth, beautify the city, get rid of the purple bags, create a business exhibition for entrepreneurs, make schools safer, increase transparency in the community and increase health awareness for children.”

Jack grew up in Windham and attended Pinkerton Academy before enrolling in college at Plymouth State University. He’s lived in Concord the last 20 years with his wife and just recently purchased a home last year. In 2013, he ran unsuccessfully for the Concord School Board and promised himself that if he were to run again for an elected position it would be when he was a homeowner.

The decision to run and purchase a home coincided with Mayor Bouley’s decision to step down and Jack thought it was as good a time as any to jump into the race on the last day of public enrollment.

“The citizens of Concord want to be helped and want to be led to the water,” Jack said. “If I can’t help them right away, I’ll be working on it. I want to get in there and make it happen and I want the citizens to know that I can make it happen and I will always be working on it. If we can solve it right now, great. But if we can’t, we will figure it out together.”

Kate West

West would make no ordinary mayor. A theater kid at heart with a child of her own, West has advocated for social justice since her high school years and as mayor, inclusivity and belonging for all residents is at the forefront of her campaign.

Combined with her experience on the Concord School Board, West would utilize her knowledge of the government, leadership training and interpersonal relationship skills to integrate policies and changes that would include access to transportation and language classes, while increasing transparency and community engagement, she said.

“It opened my eyes to how policy directly impacts the community and gave me an opportunity to understand how important it is to include the people who are going to be guided by the policies in the creation of those policies,” West said. “You can’t lead if you don’t listen and one of the major things I learned [on the school board] is that the biggest priorities of folks that are elected to public office is their ability to listen.”

West said she is excited to merge her experiences and perspectives, both personally and professionally, into her term as mayor. Additionally, she wants to make the council more intentional and efficient in its decisions, spending and purpose as a government body.

“I do have a unique perspective because I am a renter, I was unhoused, I am dependent on public transportation, I don’t own property and I don’t make six figures,” West said earlier this month. “I understand that I don’t have experience as a City Councilor but I have been an advocate for the community for a long time and I do think those are experiences that serve as a foundation in my ability to serve in this position.”

West moved to Concord in 2018 from Bradford to take advantage of the education offered in Concord for her daughter, she said. Not only did the move lessen her commute to her job in Nashua, it gave her child better access to public resources that aren’t as accessible to residents in a small town. She also wanted to be closer to advocacy groups in the city.

She has taken a series of liberal arts, sociology and community health classes and plans to complete her college degree in the future.

The city election will be held Nov. 7.

Jamie Costa

Jamie Costa joined the Monitor in September 2022 as the city reporter covering all things Concord, from crime and law enforcement to City Council and county budgeting. She graduated from Roger Williams University (RWU) in 2018 with a dual degree in journalism and Spanish. While at RWU, Costa covered the 2016 presidential election and studied abroad in both Chile and the Dominican Republic where she reported on social justice and reported on local campus news for the university newspaper, The Hawks' Herald. Her work has also appeared in The *Enterprise *papers and the *Cortland Standard *and surrounding Central New York publications. Costa was born and raised on Cape Cod and has a love for all things outdoors, especially with her dog.

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