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Councilor Ray Burton is very ill, will not run again

Executive Councilor Ray Burton, a Republican of Bath, announced on Sunday that his cancer has returned and he would not run for re-election to either the Council or Grafton County Board of Commissioners. File photo. (click for larger version)
October 30, 2013
BATH — District 1 Executive Councilor Ray Burton, a Republican who has also served for 22 years as the District 2 Grafton County commissioner, announced on Sunday that he would not run again for either of these elected positions.

Burton, who turned 74 on Aug. 13, has served for 32-plus years as one of five members of the Executive Council, setting the state's longevity record in this important post.

"It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that my cancer has returned," he emailed reporters and other elected officials. "After several days in and out of the hospital I will be heading home to Bath to rest.

"Due to this recent health development I wish to inform you of my intention not to seek re-election to the posts of Executive Councilor and Grafton County Commission.

"Even though I will not be seeking another term for public office I will fulfill my duties entrusted to me," he continued. "My office is always willing to assist the constituents of Grafton County and Executive Council District 1."

"I wish to thank my fellow residents of New Hampshire for giving me the privilege to serve them. In addition, I thank my fellow Councilors and the Governors I proudly served with.

"I would also like to thank the 350 directors and commissioners I have had the honor to work with over my years of public service. All decisions and matters addressed were always in the best intention to see our state succeed, and I am honored to have been allowed to serve and work to make a difference for the Granite State."

Cos County commissioner and fellow Republican Tom Brady of Jefferson mulled over the sad news for some hours and then said in a phone conversation, "It is as though an earthquake had struck northern New Hampshire. The landscape has forever changed, and it's too soon to either measure or to understand the full impact that this will have on those of us in the state's northern counties. Burton made sure that those who live in the state's southern tier "know there is life north of Concord."

His fellow Grafton County commissioner Mike Cryans, a Democrat of Hanover, told a marvelous story — possibly apocryphal — when he accepted the North Country Council's "Lifetime Achievement Award" on Burton's behalf on Thursday night. Cryans said that some years ago when a young reporter figured out that Burton had just become the most senior member of the Executive Council, he said to him, "Congratulations, you'll now be known as the Dean of the Council!

"Burton laughed, however, and asked rhetorically, 'Why would I want to be the Dean of the Council when I'm already King of the North Country!"

Comments from across the state on both sides of the aisle have poured into reporters' Internet inboxes.

State Senator Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat of Dalton who served as an intern to Burton when at Franklin Pierce College, said, ""I'm full of sadness as I contemplate politics without my friend and mentor Ray Burton, the persistent, perennial Executive Councilor, who will not seek another term as he faces serious illness. He has been an extraordinary public official, a champion for the North Country and a politician who transcended politics and became an icon. God bless Ray Burton and the North Country as we endure the loss of such a steadfast public servant."

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat of Exeter, also issued a warm and appreciative statement: "Ray Burton's steadfast dedication to the people and communities of the North Country and his unmatched public service have for decades strengthened the entire State of New Hampshire. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside Councilor Burton, and I deeply appreciate his invaluable knowledge and deep commitment to the Granite State. I will work with the Executive Council to provide any support Councilor Burton requires as he continues to fulfill his duties on behalf of his constituents. My thoughts and prayers are with Ray and his loved ones in this difficult time."

Former Governor John H. Sununu said, "I am deeply saddened to hear that Councilor Ray Burton will not seek re-election after over 30 years in public service. As a former governor who served with Ray for six years, I was always impressed with his dedication and deep commitment to his constituents. No one has done more to stand up for the North Country than Ray, and his institutional knowledge and bipartisan leadership will be missed on the Executive Council."

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