December 24, 2013BERLIN — Joe Kenney of Wakefield, who is vying against two other candidates for the Republican nomination on Tuesday, Jan. 21, in the District I Executive Council race, visited the Coös County Nursing Home on Wednesday where a county commissioners meeting was scheduled. He introduced himself to both elected and appointed officials plus a number of nursing home employees.
First, however, he met with this reporter in the nursing home's bright and cheerful sunroom, dedicated to the memory of the late Rep. Ed Mears of Berlin, an eight-term Democrat who worked in the Burgess pulp mill and represented the City in the House for eight terms, serving on the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitation Committee. Mears died in office in Feb. 2008, serving as chairman of the Labor Committee.
"I served with Ed on the House Labor Committee from 1994 to 1998," Kenney said. "Of course, we were on different sides of the political aisle, but it was fun learn his take on the North Country." He was a great American representative of the working class who was able to articulate a different perspective, he said.
"I also served with Sen. John Gallus, a Republican of Berlin, for four years in the state Senate, and he, too, was able to bring home to me how a proposed piece of legislation would affect Berlin and the North Country," Kenney recalled.
When asked for his position on the proposed 1,200-megawatt Northern Pass Transmission project, he replied, flatly and clearly: "I am totally opposed to it."
Kenney explained that even though the five members of the Executive Council would not perhaps deal directly with this issue, the seat is one of the most powerful positions because each one represents a fifth of the state's population.
Councilor Ray Burton was the state's first major elected official to oppose Northern Pass, which now of the most important issues facing the state.
The Executive Council, Kenney explained, controls who is appointed to boards and commissions and must approve all state contracts and expenditures over $10,000, ensuring that they are fiscally responsible and in the best interest of taxpayers.
"I absolutely would continue Ray Burton's legacy of encouraging North Country residents to seek appointment to boards and commissions," Kenney said.
"Judicial appointments to the courts are an important part of the job of Executive Council, ensuring that a nominee is judicially competent and will interpret the state Constitution as it is written," he said.
"If elected, I would also follow Ray Burton's example of attending all the grass-roots District I transportation meetings that are part of setting the state's 10-Year Transportation Plan every two years, including push T-21 funds to North Country projects.
When Kenney was asked where he stands on the Tea Party, he replied, "I'm a Reagan Republican; I'm for people first. I believe in an inclusive Republican Party."
Nonetheless, he said, the Tea Party has brought some really good issues to the fore: privacy; individual responsibility; limited government and liberty.
A UNH graduate, Kenney served in the state legislature for 14 years — state rep from 1994 to 2002 and state Senator from 2002 to 2008 — and served 34 years in active military service as a Marine. He is leaving military service and so qualifies for a pension that will allow him to be a full-time Executive Councilor.
The state needs to become re-engaged in a comprehensive economic development plan that will help the North Country focus on improving tourism infrastructure and its natural resources, including supporting the state Parks system.
"The state needs to re-engage in the Master Plan process," Kenney said. He commended Berlin and Coös County for branding itself as a desirable place to visit and to live and to work.
He said he is particularly attuned to not allowing the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR — pronounced JeL-car) to continue to operate so it can harm small businesses without their even being aware that proposed agency-generated administrative rules that have the same effect as law could be imposed.
Kenney seeks to have small businesses notified if rule changes are being proposed that could substantially change the business landscape.
"The legislative process is wide open with public hearings, but rule changes now take place out of sight," Kenney said.
When asked about his campaign, Kenney said, "I want to meet as many people as possible; I'm running a grass-roots campaign — not an endorsement campaign — and I'm looking for votes on Tuesday, Jan. 21 — the Republican primary," Kenney said. "I have a proven state record, and I can hit the ground running."
A "Catch a Cup of 'Joe' with Kenney" campaign tour has been scheduled in 15 communities.
Kenney will be at the Northland Restaurant and Dairy Bar on Route 16 at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 29, in Berlin.
There will be two "Catch a Cup of 'Joe' with Kenny events on Monday, Jan. 6, in Littleton: the first at 9 a.m. at the Coffee Pot on Main Street in Littleton and at 11 p.m. at the Littleton Diner.
The first person to take a photo with Joe at one of these events who then posts it on the "Joe Kenney for Executive Council Facebook page" will win a free 1 lb. bag of coffee.
The candidate who wins the Republican primary will face Democrat Grafton County commissioner Mike Cryans of Hanover on Tuesday, March 11.