January 29, 2014N. HAVERHILL — Bath resident Linda Lauer, who was elected to the state legislature in 2012, was sworn in Monday morning as the new Grafton County commissioner. She was selected by 17 of the 21 present members of the county delegation.
The delegation is comprised of all members of the state House of Representatives from Grafton County.
Lauer fills the vacancy created when Ray Burton, long time county commissioner, lost his battle with cancer in November.
Lauer's name, along with fellow Bath resident Richard Long, was provided to delegation members from the group's seven-member executive committee. Twelve applicants applied to fill the commissioner vacancy. Across multiple meetings, the executive committee reduced the list to five before selecting Lauer and Long as the finalists.
Both candidates delivered a ten-minute address to the delegation members. Long noted his experience as a Belknap County commissioner. He and his wife of 38 years moved to Bath from the Lakes Region in 2011. Of the reason for the move, Long said, "There was one too many traffic lights down there. That's why we came north."
Lauer was a chemistry teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy before working at Lockheed Martin. Lauer said she developed a good deal of budget experience during her time managing projects for the defense contractor.
Lauer promised to be bipartisan. "I'm not too concerned about party affiliation," she informed the delegation.
A native of Pennsylvania, Lauer has found a permanent home in New Hampshire. "I wasn't born here," she said, but, "I'm going to die here."
Two issues of state law were raised before the delegation voted. First, Lauer is required to resign her state house seat. Also, Brad Bailey, a Monroe Republican, mentioned his concern that the entire delegation, rather than just those who represent towns in District 2, was able to vote on the commissioner vacancy.
Resident Edward O'Brien said he was a friend of Lauer's. Nonetheless, he noted some towns would be left "without proper representation" if she was selected county commissioner.
Both Lauer and fellow Democrat Sue Ford represent Bath in the House. Even with a second representative, O'Brien suggested some towns would be "only with half representation" if Lauer left the legislature early.
Before the vote to select the new commissioner, Bailey spoke of "an uneasy feeling that I have." Bailey wondered about the wisdom of the existing statute that allows the entire delegation to vote on the vacant commissioner's seat.
Rick Ladd, who represents Haverhill, said he received input from the Secretary of State's office on the issue. A statutory change is the only way to alter the eligibility requirements, he said. Thus, all present members of the delegation could vote.
Littleton Republican Ralph Doolan then made a motion for a ballot vote. Otherwise, a roll call could be used, which would publicly record whether a particular member voted for Lauer or Long. Doolan preferred a ballot vote "in fairness to the candidates and the group," he said.
A unanimous delegation, with Lauer abstaining, agreed with Doolan. Bailey was then placed on a three-member group to distribute, collect, and count the ballots. The group included two representatives outside of commissioner District 2, Patricia Higgins, Democrat from Hanover, and Harold Reilly, Republican from Hill.
Reilly announced the results, which gave Lauer the job with a 17 to 4 vote. As with previous votes during the morning, Lauer abstained. She was given a round of applause from the delegation after her victory was announced.
The morning's work was not yet done. Grafton Superior Judge Timothy Vaughan arrived at 11:30 a.m. He then administered the oath of office to Lauer. Her term of office concludes in January. In November, voters will have a chance to select the commissioner for the two-year term that begins early next year.