A run for Mayor’s Office

Incumbent Mayor Jim Donchess seeks re-election

Telegraph photo ADAM URQUHART Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess of Friday flips through paperwork while exploring the city’s budget proposal.

NASHUA — Mayor Jim Donchess said he intends to seek re-election to serve another term this year, but former city Alderman Mark Cookson is considering a challenge.

Currently, Cookson is exploring options and plans to announce his decision on whether to run for mayor this November in the coming weeks. Similarly, Donchess has not yet officially announced his run for re-election, but has indicated he is planning on it. He said a formal announcement should be ready by spring.

“I’m beginning to work toward running a campaign,” Donchess said.

In the meantime, while looking back at the accomplishments Donchess has made thus far in his current term, he still has more things on his mind he would like to accomplish if elected for another term in November. These goals include attracting more young people to the city, making commuter rail a reality and keeping tax rates at a reasonable level.

Schools

However, in terms of the Nashua School District, Donchess said schools certainly need more English Language Learner (ELL) teachers to help students who speak little to no English.

In July, The Telegraph reported ELL students in Nashua’s schools outnumber their teachers by a rate of 50-1. As more immigrants enter Nashua — which is officially a “Welcoming City” — Donchess recognizes the need to address this matter.

“As I work on the budget, I’ve certainly got the ELL teachers in mind and will try to do everything I can to make it possible for the school department to address that need,” Donchess said.

Additionally, other priorities in the school district include looking at hiring more paraprofessionals for the kindergarteners, as well as school psychologists. He said right now, he is reviewing the budget and talking with the school department.

“We are being hit this year with another issue, which I spoke of in the State of the City address, which is $3 million in additional health insurance costs, which is a very big number for Nashua,” Donchess said.

Housing

Donchess believes the city has made very great progress in terms of expanding the downtown economy, both in terms of housing and many other activities that take place in the heart of the city.

“We need to continue trying to expand the supply of housing, including affordable housing,” Donchess said. “We need a mixture of housing types.”

He said through home funds, the city has been able to support workforce affordable housing apartments at East Hollis Street, which target people who make 80 percent of the area’s median income, meaning $40,000 to $50,000. He said rental costs have gone up by 20 percent in the last few years.

“It’s not going to solve the problem, but it will help, and we’re looking at other opportunities to do the same thing,” Donchess said. “We’re always looking at opportunities to expand the supply of housing.”

“When I ran, I said I would seek to do 500 new units of housing in downtown in four years. And now, we’re at about year three and we’ve hit that goal already with Lofts 34, with the East Hollis Street affordable workforce housing and with Riverfront Landing, as well as a few micro units.”

Now, Donchess is working on the new Rail Yard District to try to add additional housing units there.

Looking forward, he wants to keep focusing on many of the same things, while improving the quality of life for Nashuans, but also directed towards the city’s reputation and image outside the city to attract the younger generation.

“Without some in-migration the city will stagnate and actually probably decline, so we need to attract our younger generation, the creative, energetic people that can lead Nashua in the future,” Donchess said.

Taxes

Another issue of importance for Donchess is trying to keep the tax rates at a reasonable level. He said the pressure on municipalities from state officials is ongoing. Not a year goes by that some additional cost is not imposed, or some revenue source reduced.

“The state often solves its problem by basically raising property taxes,” Donchess said.

“Right now, Nashua has the second-lowest, of the cities in New Hampshire,” Donchess said property tax rate. “The only city with a lower tax rate is Portsmouth, and it’s only a little lower,” Donchess said.

Who Is Jim Donchess?

“It’s just very inspiring to meet all the people in Nashua who are working hard for themselves, for their family, many people who are trying to improve the community,” Donchess said. “I think that’s a great thing about being the mayor. You can just work with so many people to try to improve the community, and every time that I encounter someone, I learn something.”

Previously, Donchess served on the Board of Aldermen, as he was first elected to city government in 1977. Later, in 1984, he was elected as mayor and served for two terms. In 2011, he was once again elected as an alderman. In 2015, he was once again elected mayor.

Who is Mark Cookson?

Cookson served two consecutive terms as Ward 1 alderman before serving two terms as an alderman-at-large from 2010-13 and again from 2015-18.

In a December statement, Cookson said, “After being approached by some people I hold in high regard in Nashua, asking me if I would be interested in running for mayor, I have decided it is time to deeply consider a run. It’s something I’d like to do, but it’s a family decision. So I will be speaking with my wife, daughter, and supporters from past campaigns over the coming weeks to see if a run at mayor is something we would like to do.”

“Right after the special election we’ll be announcing something,” President at Granite State Strategy Tyler Gouveia said Friday on behalf of Cookson in regard to the March 5 election for the vacant board of aldermen seat.