By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 8, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Bob Casassa remembers being 12 years old and watching his father preside over Town Meeting in Hampton.
His father, Alfred, was one of Hampton's most respected moderators, serving 20 years, from 1967 to 1987.
Now, Casassa is following in his father's footsteps. Wrapping up his first year on the job as moderator, Casassa has already overseen two elections and recently moderated his first deliberative session.
Today he will be presiding over his first town election.
"I've enjoyed it very much," said Casassa. "I hope when I'm done, people say I brought something positive to the position."
Former Moderator Paul Lessard said so far, so good.
"He did an outstanding job," said Lessard, who served as moderator for nine years. "In a few years, he's going to be as good as his father."
When Casassa, a lawyer who practices in Hampton, ran for election last year he promised to "run Town Meeting in a fair and impartial manner."
It was a promise Lessard and others said he exceeded after last month's 10-hour deliberative session.
Casassa said he's enjoyed his first year on the job, including the marathon deliberative session.
"It was a long day, but worthwhile," said Casassa. "There were a lot of significant issues. We spent the morning on the budget. In the afternoon, I thought we would pick up some speed, but when you have articles such as turning the Budget Committee into an advisory board and establishing a Charter Commission, there's going to be discussion. It took a while but it was certainly worth it."
Casassa credits his success to the support he's received from town officials and the community.
When asked if he received advice from his father or other former town moderators, Casassa said he didn't receive any "specific pointers."
"I did meet with the town manager to go over the warrant to educate myself to get ready for the discussion," said Casassa. "I think sitting through a number of meetings and watching other town moderators was the most help."
This year, Casassa did something different at the deliberative session. He didn't have Town Meeting vote to either recommend or not recommend the articles that will appear on the ballot.
Casassa said he wanted to save time, and even if an article was voted down it would still appear on the ballot.
He said one of the toughest issues that came up during his first year on the job happened after the town and every other town in New Hampshire received a letter from the state attorney general's office in July.
The letter cited accessibility deficiencies at polling places, which were against state and federal law, and gave all towns until Aug. 27 to get into compliance.
Casassa said Hampton was able to get into compliance with everyone in town working together.
"That is a classic example of everyone coming together, " said Casassa. "While we only had few things to address, the timing of the letter was very close to the election."
Casassa said there were several reasons he wanted to become moderator, including that his father had held the position.
"Certainly, growing up I saw him do the job," said Casassa. "That added some interest. Separate and apart from that I wanted to serve the community."
Also, as the attorney for SAU 21, Casassa attended numerous school deliberative sessions.
When asked if he was planning to run again as moderator, Casassa said he's just concentrating on his first three-year term right now.