By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LITTLETON – A Littleton selectwoman who ignited a clash in the community over LGBTQ+ art in public is apparently not running for re-election, but four people have filed to replace her.
The deadline was at 5 p.m. Friday for Carrie Gendreau and other candidates to file for a three-year selectman’s term. Gendreau did not sign up by the 5 p.m. deadline, according to Town Clerk Angela Brousseau.
Gendreau, who is also a Republican state Senator representing District 1 in the North Country, responded when asked if she was running for either seat in an email: “I would imagine that there are curious folks out there that would love to know,” with a happy face emoji.
Brousseau said there were four candidates who had filed as of 5 p.m. Friday and they were Kerri Harrington, Greg Darling, Rudy Gelsi, and Paul Lehmann.
Voters will pick one for the at-large, three-year term on the three-member Board of Selectmen in March.
On Jan. 8 Littleton Town Manager Jim Gleason announced he was resigning saying he was tired of the controversy enveloping the town, which stemmed from Gendreau’s comments while selectmen said they had no plans to “ban art” and said they never said that.
But Gendreau did call homosexuality an “abomination,” and has stood by her assertions that LGBTQ+ themed art on a Main Street building did not belong in her town.
There was discussion also about Theatre Up’s decision to stage “La Cage Aux Folles,” about a gay couple in the town-owned Opera House and whether the selectmen had any authority over the decision making process for what the theater group performs.
Members of the public said that Gendreau and the board have taken no blame for the black eye the town has received nationally from coverage of the issue and should resign.
Kerri Harrington said the controversy “was not about art. It was about hate for the LGBTQ community.”
At the Jan. 8 selectmen’s meeting Harrington thanked Gleason for his service and said she was sorry he was leaving. The crowd gave Gleason a standing ovation.
Harrington is one of the candidates now running for Gendreau’s selectman’s seat.
Resident Rudy Gelsi, also running, asked Gleason at the meeting why he was leaving, imploring him to tell the roughly 80 people there why he was doing so.
“I’m tired of what has been going on,” Gleason said. “It’s been very hurtful.”
Gleason’s son, who died of cancer, was gay and a member of the public has harassed Gleason about his loss.
Duane P. Coute, general manager of Littleton Chevrolet, helped to organize a letter signed by 1,066 which reads that Gendreau’s comments did not represent the historic inclusivity and creative cultural climate of the town and was damaging its reputation.
The letter calls on the selectmen for inclusivity and support for the arts and human diversity in Littleton.
Also, another letter underscoring the importance of arts and diversity in Littleton was sent by the entire New Hampshire Congressional delegation and signed by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Congresswoman Annie Kuster and Congressman Chris Pappas, all Democrats.
Gendreau is a first-term state Senator who took the seat when Erin Hennessey left the post and then won in September, 2022 over Democrat former state Rep. Edith Tucker of Randolph.
Gendreau’s two-year term in the state Senate will end at the end of 2024 and she has not indicated if she will run for re-election.
District 1 includes Atkinson & Gilmanton Academy Grant, Bath, Benton, Berlin, Bethlehem, Cambridge, Carroll, Clarksville, Colebrook, Columbia, Dalton, Dix’s Grant, Dixville, Dummer, Easton, Ellsworth, Errol, Erving’s Location, Franconia, Gorham, Haverhill, Jefferson, Kilkenny, Lancaster, Landaff, Lisbon, Littleton, Low and Burbank’s Grant, Lyman, Milan, Millsfield, Monroe, Northumberland, Odell, Piermont, Pittsburg, Randolph, Rumney, Second College Grant, Shelburne, Stark, Stewartstown, Stratford, Success, Sugar Hill, Warren, Wentworth’s Location, Whitefield, and Woodstock.
Correction: Carrie Gendreau said in an email when asked if she would run again: “I would imagine that there are curious folks out there that would love to know.”