Longtime town councilor resigns

MERRIMACK – Town Councilor Betty Spence stepped down Thursday night, submitting a letter of resignation addressed to fellow councilors, town staff and the community.

“Changes in the role of the governing body and my personal commitments have hindered my performance and ability to effectively represent the citizens of the Town of Merrimack,” Spence wrote.

She added that her decision to resign was made after “long consideration,” and that she intended to finish projects she’d been assigned to.

“Let me close by offering my sincere appreciation for all of the kindness, support and opportunities given by so many of you during my thirty-five years of service to the town,” she wrote.

Spence, who did not attend Thursday’s meeting, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Town council chairman Tom Mahon said Spence had indicated her intention to resign a couple of weeks ago, and that the decision had been very difficult for her.

“Her service and contributions to the community are well known,” Mahon said. “It was an extremely difficult decision for her and we respect that . . . We accepted her resignation with deep regret. She did bring a lot to the table, and we wished her well in the future.”

Spence threw her hat in the ring in 2006, when Merrimack’s selectmen’s form of government was on the brink of shifting to a town council.

In a Telegraph letter to the editor before the election, Spence referred to the charter proposal, saying she would be “happy to work under either form of government.” In a field of 10 candidates, Spence won partly on the strength of a grassroots, anti-tax group that supported her.

“To me, it was a pleasure to serve with Betty,” said former selectman and town councilor Dave McCray. “I learned a ton from her. She kept order . . . She came in after taxes had come up almost 40 percent, and she helped make Merrimack livable again.”

McCray, who served with Spence until his term ran out this spring, said he didn’t think anyone had served Merrimack longer than her, when you count her years of service as a town employee and on municipal boards.

A town resident for more than 50 years, she served as town clerk and tax collector, assistant town manager, interim welfare administrator, a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician.

“I don’t know how Betty found the time to sleep, she did so much,” McCray said. “But the biggest thing the town will lose is that people, no matter who they were, always felt that when Betty was involved, things were under control. They knew she did her homework and the heavy lifting.”

McCray said he was grateful that Spence pledged her commitment to helping with the town’s fall festival and business expo. In her resignation letter, Spence also wrote that she planned to finish her assigned council projects.

Town officials are now seeking candidates to fill out the remaining eight months of Spence’s term, which ends in April. Those interested are asked to send a letter to the Town Hall by Sept. 5 at 4:30 p.m.

The council has three weeks from that point to pick a new member, according to the town charter. Councilors will determine how and when that process will occur at their Thursday meeting.