David Millman ’23 announces campaign for Hanover Selectboard

If elected, Millman would be the first student ever to serve on the board.

by Jacob Strier | 3/4/21 2:00am

Source: Courtesy of David Millman '23

On Feb. 22, David Millman ’23 announced his campaign for Hanover Selectboard. If elected in May, Millman would be the first student ever to sit on the five-person governing body, which is the executive branch of Hanover’s government and serves the town's more than 11,000 residents. 

Millman, a Student Assembly senator, said the idea for the campaign came as a response to the town’s “reaction” to students’ return to campus in early fall. In particular, he noted Hanover town manager Julia Griffin’s July 24 op-ed “Selfish Students” as an example of the growing divide between the student body and the town. 

“I saw a fundamental disconnect of communication,” he said. “There is a way for the student body to communicate with the College administration and a way for the College administration to communicate with the town.” Missing, Millman said, is a way for the student body to communicate directly with the town.

Millman said he hopes to spread the word about this issue before the May 11 vote at the Hanover Town Meeting.

Two of the five current Selectboard members — Joanna Whitcomb and Nancy Carter — are up for election this spring. Athos Rassias will face reelection in 2022, while Peter Christie and William Geraghty’s terms will run through 2023. As the filing period to run for the positions does not begin until March 24, Millman said he was not aware of who else may be running.

Powered by a team of around 30 volunteers, several students have shared Millman’s campaign announcement video on social media, which has amassed over 5,000 views on Instagram and nearly 200 on YouTube. The video addresses the alleged division between Dartmouth students and other Hanover residents. 

If elected to the Hanover Selectboard, Millman will serve as a voting member of the body that passes local ordinances. He noted that if he were to ever feel unqualified weighing in on certain ordinances as a newcomer to local government, he would abstain.  

Millman added that he has several concrete goals to accomplish if elected. Primarily, he hopes to expand communication between the Selectboard and Hanover residents and increase “accessibility of local government.”  

“I want to fix the town website; it is antiquated and hard to access,” he said. “There’s not an effective newsletter.” Millman also said that municipalities in New Hampshire produce an annual report documenting the town budget and other information. He said he hopes to better publicize this information to the Dartmouth student body.

“Zoom has proven that all of this can happen online,” he said. 

In addition to better communication, Millman said he wants to increase access to local transportation like Advance Transit, explore the possibility of using DASH at local businesses and advocate for student COVID-19 vaccination. 

Griffin wrote in an email statement that no student has ever served on the Selectboard. She noted that over the years, a “small handful” have filed to run for the Selectboard, but none have been elected. 

“Obviously, big challenges include the need for any student to live here year round to serve on the Board and to make a three-year commitment to serving on the Board once elected,” she wrote. “Members need to be prepared to tackle any number of issues, interesting and mundane.”

Millman said that the three-year commitment to the Selectboard functions like a “barrier to entry.” He noted that the three-year commitment is “an issue” and added that he has not made a final decision about remaining in Hanover after graduation to serve out the rest of his term, which would run through 2024. Were he to resign prematurely, he said that he would do his best to facilitate another student assuming the role.

“There is a statute in the New Hampshire law that there has to be a three-year term,” Millman said. He added that after contacting the town clerk, he has come to the understanding that there is no “legal precedent” for elected officials to remain in office for the entire three years. 

While Griffin acknowledged that the absence of a legal precedent, she wrote that it would be “irresponsible” for a candidate to run without the intention to serve a complete term.

“The role of a Selectboard member is critical for the governance of a community,” Griffin wrote. “The learning curve is steep given the range of our operations and the large array of state statutes and regulations we must abide by, and, as such, the position deserves full dedication, year round for an entire term.”

Millman noted that, if elected, he would pursue a change to these regulations making service on the Selectboard more accessible to students. He said that the three-year term discourages student representatives, arguing that that “no one” will arrive as a freshman equipped to serve on the Selectboard, while upperclassmen will not have enough time to be in office long enough to “learn the ropes.”

“I would pursue, once elected, state advocacy to allow for localities to have a two- or three-year term and thus allow for a student seat,” he said.

Griffin wrote that the Selectboard acts as the legislative body for the town on some issues, while the annual budget, bond issues, amendments to the zoning ordinances and other town initiatives require approval by the voters at town meetings.

Campaign manager Nicolás Macri ’24 said that when he first reviewed Millman’s early campaign materials, he realized the prospect of the campaign was “totally possible.” 

Macri said student representation is important both because students care about the town’s resources and because direct representation will encourage respect for local ordinances.

“While we are here, we still live in this community and care about the roads, the parks, the businesses and everything that goes on in the town,” he said. “When you tell people that they “only” live here for four years, like some nomad who is not entitled to a voice in government, how are people supposed to think about the town?”

Macri said that one does not need to be within the “confines” of Hanover to care about its affairs and its future.

“It needs to be your primary [residence], though, and for nearly all Dartmouth students it is,” he said. 

Adam Van Uden ’23, who is eligible to vote in the May Selectboard election, said that he respects Millman’s efforts to stand up for what he believes in. Based on his experience with Millman during the application process for First-Year Fellows, Van Uden said he has faith in Millman’s morals. He also noted the importance of student representation in government.

“It’s super important that we have representation in the town board so that the people of Hanover know what we think and feel,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we are trying to strong-arm our way into gaining more power or influence, but it could lead to better communication so we understand each other and there are fewer disputes, more understanding.”