PORTSMOUTH — Seven candidates for an open seat on the Police Commission were named Thursday, while others interested in filling the one-year term have until Jan. 2 to express interest.
During a Dec. 20 meeting of a committee, formed to vet police commission candidates, the following were named as having expressed interest in serving on the citizen's police-oversight committee. Mayor Jack Blalock announced the names in order of which they were received, he said.
* Tom Coakley, a Bartlett Street resident, who previously ran for Police Commission.
* Former City Councilor and South Street resident Stefany Shaheen.
* Former City Councilor Ken Smith, a Myrtle Avenue resident.
* Albert "Buzz" Scherr, a Greenleaf Avenue resident and University of New Hampshire law professor.
* H. Kevin Watt, a resident of Octopus Avenue.
* New Hampshire state Rep. Jacquie Cali-Pitts, a Bedford Way resident.
* Former Portsmouth police detective Thomas Hart, a Cutts Street resident.
The committee is tasked with filling a seat vacated by the November resignation of Arthur Hilson, who resigned for health reasons. Hilson's term expires the day after the November 2019 election.
The selection committee chairman is Blalock and members are City Councilors Nancy Pearson and Doug Roberts, former mayor and attorney Tom Ferrini and attorney John Lyons.
Ferrini briefed the committee about the process used in 2015 when former commissioner Gerald "Jerry" Howe retired for health reasons. Ferrini served on that committee and said a finalist was selected by paper ballot and recommended to the City Council. As someone who went through that process before, Ferrini said, he advised that interested candidates be asked to speak in a public forum and give "a stump speech."
Lyons asked if City Attorney Robert Sullivan could pre-qualify candidates to ensure no one with a criminal background, for example, becomes a finalist. Sullivan said he would.
Pearson asked if the committee would be looking for a specific set of criteria in candidates. Ferrini said he thought the committee could solicit input from the two police commissioners and the police chief for their input about qualifications, questions to ask and other factors to consider.
Blalock said the process will be conducted in public and televised. He reminded that the committee will chose a finalist to recommend to the City Council, which will make the final decision.