November 13, 2013LANCASTER — Former social studies teacher Ron Pelchat is very concerned about from which section of District 1 its next executive councilor will come. Longtime District 1 Executive Councilor Ray Burton recently announced he would not seek reelection because his cancer had recurred.
Pelchat taught for 30 years — 13 in the Lancaster School, sandwiched between stints in both the Stratford and Groveton schools, and Burton was a great resource to him in teaching civics to his students.
"Burton's announcement is terrible for the North Country — and, of course, for Ray!" Pelchat said, using his DynaVox Vmax+ adaptive communications device to mitigate his limitations in speaking that are a result of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Coös residents never had to pay that much attention to what was happening in Concord because they could count on Councilor Burton, he explained.
"Ray was so good at protecting the North Country that we didn't need to pay attention; we could focus on other things," Pelchat said.
He pointed out, for example, that it did not surprise him to see that Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, and former governors, including Republican Gov. John H. Sununu and Democrat John Lynch, came to the Nov. 1 unveiling of the Burton commemorative monument at the new Scenic Byway overlook in Bretton Woods. Both Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, spoke at the well-attended ceremony, he noted.
"Burton crosses the aisle because he has integrity," Pelchat said. "Now, we need to find a North Country person to fill Ray's position.
"We need to seize the moment — it's a watershed time: a world without Ray," he said.
The southern tier of District 1 has many cultural and geographic advantages and also abounds with educated leaders.
"That's not so in the North Country," Pelchat continued. "Here leadership plays a vital role, because the North Country is often seen as backwards or made up of 'hicks,' which is a disadvantage in Concord. Ray always made sure our interests were represented."
Pelchat urged that Coös residents now work together across the aisle to find someone who has the ability to continue Burton's track record.
"We must find the same energy that has gone into fighting Northern Pass to find and elect a suitable replacement for Ray," he said. "It's even more important; we cannot be lazy about this! Finding a replacement for Ray is an intellectual issue — and not an emotional one."
A dialogue must begin that includes both Republican and Democrat Party leaders and committees, Pelchat explained.
"We need to find someone to represent the uniqueness of the North Country, and I suggest that we pool our resources and focus on finding someone," he said, adding that preferably that person would come from the western side of Coös since Berlin appears to have turned the economic corner that could lead to renewed prosperity.
"This is one time that those Below the Notches must not interfere — it's North of the Notches where we have the need," Pelchat said.
Turning to another topic, Pelchat pointed out that November is National Family Caregivers Month. He praised the efforts of his wife Anita, who is his primary caregiver, ably assisted by family and friends.
On Friday, Anita was babysitting two active grandchildren: four-year-old Colin Milligan and five-year-old Kye Pelchat, as well as Chase, a nine-year-old who was quietly playing electronic games, and, for a short time, Lilly, who attends a private pre-school program. WMRSD schools were closed that day for a professional workshops as well as on Veterans Day on the following Monday when these youngsters' parents would also be working.
The DynaVox Vmax+ adaptive communications device, which Pelchat was able to buy thanks to Medicare, allows him to communicate by moving his head to type sentences, letter by letter, because of an infrared device activated by a dot on his glasses.
When he completes a thought, the device speaks Pelchat's words aloud. Anita prefers the sound of a British male, who speaks both clearly and crisply.
Pelchat can also use the DynaVox to interface with his computer, connecting to him to e-mail and Facebook and several newspaper sites plus Google, to make phone calls, and to control the flat-screen TV, mounted on the wall of his first-floor bedroom. He can easily change channels.
The DynaVox has a different arm that also allows him to use it while sitting in his electric wheelchair.
Sometimes, Anita said, she is surprised to see that Amazon has sent a package that she is not expecting. She explained, "Ron can order things he wants using the DynaVox."