Nashua City Civics Class Is Surprisingly Popular

Mar 7, 2017

Board of Alderman president, Brian McCarthy, addresses the class.
Credit Emily Corwin / NHPR

Not even Mayor Jim Donchess expected the city’s new thirteen-week, twenty-six hour class on city government to fill up so fast.  

“Fifty people seemed like comfortable number,” Donchess said. When those seats filled up quickly,  his office closed registration.

The syllabus includes subjects such as what happens to solid waste, and what tax assessors do.

“Well, I wouldn’t call it dry,” Jay Welch said as students streamed into the city’s auditorium. Like many who showed up, Welch is an avid volunteer.

What’s the appeal? Answers ran the gamut.

Gloria Timmons said she’s thinking about running for the Board of Aldermen.  “They have a lot of power, and I want to be able to direct that power in the right direction,” she said. Timmons, who is retired from the US Army and state government, said she worries city government may be serving the needs of the privileged more than others.

Bill Bordy was also in the army, as a medic in the late 60’s, and is also retired – from the tech industry. “This election was so important that it motivated me to get off my butt and get involved in politics,” he said.  Bordy said he voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary and Hillary Clinton in the general election. He signed up for the class in an effort to heed Sanders’ call to “get involved.”

“To me this patriotic duty to fight for our democracy,” he said. “this is more important to me than my army service. When I was in the army it involved foreign battles. This is a domestic battle.”

Muhammad Mustak Arif did not show up to battle.

He’s a refugee from Burma who volunteers with local civic groups. He said he wants to share information with other refugees about how local government works.

When you’ve been stateless for years or decades, Mustak Arif said, having a government at all may be unfamiliar.