LEBANON – In June, Al Patterson ended his 40+ year residency in Lebanon by selling his home on Farr Road for $ 515,000, offering to step down from the zoning board and leaving town.
The move, Patterson later said, was largely out of frustration. After losing his seat on the school council in 2013, a failed candidacy for New Hampshire House in 2014, and two unsuccessful election campaigns for the city council, it was clear to him that the city would not change.
And with change, Patterson, 56, means spending cuts, lower taxes and, he says, a return to the days when Lebanon was made up of working-class and middle-class families.
“I’m a Lebanon guy. I’ve lived here all my life, loved the city like nothing else and loved the people, ”Patterson said in an interview last week.
But, he added, the city is “poorly run” with rising tax rates and few amenities to show them.
Patterson, who was appointed to the Lebanon Zoning Board in 2013, said he and his wife Barbara had moved to a neighboring city but asked not to be named.
Patterson, a Republican candidate for New Hampshire House, said it wasn’t just rising taxes that supported his decision to move. The political climate in Lebanon has changed significantly, he claims, partly driven by gentrification.
A fiscal conservative like him, he concluded, can no longer win city-wide elections.
“Lebanon has become extremely liberal,” he said.
Just a few months ago, in March, Patterson made an offer to working class residents in Lebanon: to elect him to the city council and have their votes heard.
Annual tax increases, he said, would be cut, pressures on Lebanon’s seniors would be eased, dreaded water and sewer increases would be cut, and everything would be accomplished by reviewing the city’s needs, fat loss and questioning new projects.
“We have to set up a budget that we can afford and stick to it,” he said in an email to the in February Valley news. “We don’t have to go into debt like we’re a teenager with a credit card who thinks we should always get a higher spending limit.”
Patterson started his campaign on the idea that voters, especially long-time residents of the city, could no longer afford rising electricity and tax bills and would be forced to leave the country. The city’s working class would be ousted, Patterson warned, being replaced by graduate and college students, medical workers, and the “young professionals” to whom the city’s expensive new homes are being marketed.
But when the election results were tabulated, Patterson received 802 votes, finishing second in a three-way battle against longtime councilor Karen Liot Hill, who won 924 votes, and Vermont Technical College teacher Sylvia Puglisi, who received 303 votes.
Liot Hill, a former Republican, describes herself as a center-left Democrat. She declined to comment on Patterson. Puglisi was supported by the Upper Valley Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
Barbara Patterson, who ran for the school board, also lost, finishing fourth in a seven-way race for three seats on the board.
The results underline that the elections in Lebanon in the 21st
In 2000, the city’s registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats from 2,892-2,865, according to the City Clerk’s office. But by 2020 that makeup had flipped, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 5,451-1,964.
The last Republicans elected to represent Lebanon at New Hampshire House were the late Terri Dudley and then-Mayor Ralph Akins in 2002. Akins lost a reelection bid the next year as an Independent and is now a Democrat. All four city officials in Concord have been Democrats since then.
The shift to the left has also penetrated local politics, with few or no votes in the city council or school council openly calling themselves “conservative”.
But while there are certainly fewer Republicans holding elected offices in Lebanon, that doesn’t necessarily change the election results, said Karen Cervantes, a longtime Lebanese citizen and Republican activist.
Cervantes was a member of the Lebanon School Board for seven years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that time she was part of a three-party electoral bloc that was still a minority and tried unsuccessfully to cut spending.
“It has been going on for years,” she said of the city’s democratic control. “Alan’s move won’t affect anything more than it has over the past 20 years.”
Cervantes also pointed out that Patterson’s recent campaign wasn’t just about saving taxpayers’ money. As a former police officer from Hanover, he opposed the budget cuts proposed by the Upper Valley DSA to the Lebanese police authority and opposed the group’s efforts to abolish the position of Lebanese school resources officer.
While residents between 1,011 and 1,006 voted to approve a pending arrest warrant article urging the Lebanese school district to “give up” its school resource post, the board eventually decided to keep the job in May.
Patterson also competed against Liot Hill, who is now 17 years old and who often stands up for the interests of businesses and taxpayers before the city council.
State Senator Sue Prentiss, D-Lebanon, added that elections across the city were previously not a party issue, with local issues typically dominating the campaigns. But in recent years, she said, national politics and issues often play out at the local level.
“It created a much more striking contrast,” said Prentiss, a former moderate Republican who served as Lebanese mayor, of the police debate. “I think the people who applied for office had to not only stand by their vision for the city and share their background, but also their ideologies and their way of thinking.”
Like Patterson and his conservative beliefs, Liot Hill was asked about her democratic activism during the election, Prentiss said, as was current councilor Devin Wilkie, who was backed by the Upper Valley DSA.
“It created a contrast for voters,” said Prentiss.
Meanwhile, school committee chairman Dick Milius, who worked for Patterson for two years, also said his absence in Lebanon “will leave a void”. He remembers Patterson, along with a small voting pad that often advocated lower spending.
“He didn’t win too many of those fights, but I think when Al was on the board you could count on that side to be brought up all the time,” said Milius.
However, the head of the school board is confident that others will run and says Lebanon is still made up of “a significant number of people with different political and social views”.
Lebanese Mayor Tim McNamara, a native of western Lebanon, made a similar statement.
“I think we still have a lot of voices across the spectrum in this city,” he said. “People are not going to change their minds just because a person has moved out. People will still run as they should. ”
Tim Camerato can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3223.