Ward 11 Alderman Norm Gamache is part of a unique family dynasty in Manchester. Norm, his son Mike and grandson Chad belong to the only Queen City family that can claim four generations of firefighters. This impressive record of public service has been enhanced by Norm’s two terms as an alderman representing the heart of Manchester’s West Side.
A life-long resident of Ward 11, Norm has been married to his wife Arlene for 55 years. They have two children, Mike and their daughter Michelle Beck, who is a teacher.
Norm’s father Napoleon Gamache joined the Manchester Fire Department (MFD) one month after Pearl Harbor, and was assigned to Station #6 on Rimmon Street in January 1942. After serving in the military during World War II, Napoleon Gamache returned to Manchester and resumed his career as a firefighter. Napoleon retired in 1970.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Norm Gamache followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the MFD in 1963. After 33 years as a firefighter, Norm retired in 1996. His son Mike entered service with the MFD in 1983 and has achieved the rank of District Chief, the third highest rank in the department.
In 2010, after graduating from Plymouth State University, Mike’s son Chad became the fourth generation of the Gamache family to serve the Queen City as a member of the MFD. Chad was one of nine firefighters who were laid off for eight months due to public safety cuts triggered by Mayor Ted Gatsas’ 2011 budget.
Norm Gamache was first elected alderman in November 2012, in a special election to replace the disgraced Russ Ouellette, who had resigned his seat after being arrested twice for allegedly stalking a woman. Ouellette was charged with sexual assault, simple assault and imprisonment. Ironically, Ouellette had voted for the budget cuts that forced the layoff of Norm’s grandson.
Reelected in 2013, Norm Gamache will square off against Russ Ouellette in the November general election. Ouellette has attempted to capitalize on the attack on Gamache and his fellow aldermen Ron Ludwig and Barbara Shaw, for voting to approve a new teachers’ contract. Ludwig’s wife is a teacher, and Shaw, like Gamache, has an adult daughter who is a teacher. Gamache and Shaw’s daughters have not lived with them for many years. All three have been charged with having a “conflict of interest” that, under the 1998 City Charter, allegedly required them to excuse themselves from voting on the contract.
A member of the 1998 City Charter Commission told this writer that he regretted not keeping his notes from Commission meetings as he remembered discussions where the proposed conflict of interest rule was not intended to cover alderman who had children employed by the city, such as in the case of Gamache, Ludwig and Shaw. The position of alderman attracts public service minded people, such as firefighters, teachers and law enforcement officers, who pass on their dedication to the community to their children. To have applied the rule strictly to aldermen, many of whose children follow them into a life of public service, would have been ridiculous.
Ward 11 residents have expressed their dismay with the mayor and his allies for questioning the integrity of Norm Gamache, who along with his family, have served the ward and the City of Manchester for three quarters of a century. On Tuesday, November 3, they will decide whether to return Gamache to City Hall, where he has served them honorably, or give the disgraced Russ Ouellette a second chance. Most observers believe that voters will honor the unparalleled record of public service of the Gamache family by rewarding Norm with a third term.