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Lauer, Whitney vie for District 2 commissioner seat

Incumbent Linda Lauer, a Bath Democrat, has filed for re-election as the District 2 county commissioner. She was appointed to the post in January after the death of Ray Burton. Darin Wipperman/Littleton Courier.
July 09, 2014
BATH— The town's lock on one of three Grafton County commissioner seats appears guaranteed for another election. The late Ray Burton occupied the office for nearly two decades. After Burton lost his fight with cancer, Linda Lauer was appointed to fill the seat earlier this year, and she is running for re-election. With fellow Bath resident Stephen Whitney, a Republican, also running, Bath will once again be the home of the District 2 county commissioner.

The commissioner trio oversees operation of the county complex in North Haverhill and a range of spending. Last month, the county delegation approved a nearly $39 million county budget.

Lauer, a native of Pennsylvania, was elected to the state house in 2012. She resigned that seat after her appointment as county commissioner in January. She taught chemistry at the U.S. Naval Academy and worked for defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Lauer continues to serve as Bath's emergency management director.

"I really enjoy being county commissioner," Lauer said. She has learned much through her interaction with communities, as well as during hands on time looking at county programs. On Monday last week, for example, "I spent the whole day shadowing the drug court," Lauer said. The alternative program for non-violent offenders offers the chance for a clean record through treatment and checks by judicial and law enforcement personnel.

Bath Republican Stephen Whitney is running to represent northern Grafton County as a commissioner. Darin Wipperman/Littleton Courier.
Detailed discussions with department heads have led Lauer to conclude county programs are well managed. She mentioned a detailed overview provided by leadership of the Grafton County Department of Corrections. "There was just no excess in that budget," Lauer concluded.

Lauer believes the county's support of social service agencies is "money well spent." She said a contracted staff member makes site visits to the organizations requesting county appropriations. Based on recommendations from those site visits, Lauer said, the county commissioners cut the requested funding by $78,000 this year.

The county's budget in FY 2012 funded social service requests at $523,750, Lauer showed in data provided. That is above the $508,000 budgeted amount for the new fiscal year.

Four members of the county delegation voted to cut the county's social service agency support by eight percent last month. Fifteen other members sided with the county commissioners' suggested level of spending, and the fiscal year 2015 budget passed easily.

Regarding her job, Lauer said, "There are things you can do to help people." The nobility of such service, Lauer said, was one of many things she learned from her interaction with Burton over the years.

Having been very fortunate in life, Lauer summed up her desire to serve. "I have a responsibility to give back," she said.

Whitney worked at the Grafton County jail for 26 years. He has lived in Bath most of his life.

Like Lauer, Whitney found much to praise in Ray Burton, who taught public servants that "all voices should be listened to for ideas," Whitney said. "I knew Ray for 50 years," he added.

Burton showed the power of "being decent to people," Whitney said. "If they needed something, he'd help them," Whitney concluded.

Whitney continued, "I can see all sides of an issue." Because a county commissioner must serve all fairly, he noted an interest in casting aside party labels for the good of towns. "When you're doing things for people, it should be non-partisan," Whitney said. "I learned a very long time ago," he continued, "to get along with people and to listen."

In remarks about Lauer, Whitney emphasized the positive. "I think she's a very nice person and a very intelligent person," he said.

Whitney supports the level of county spending on social service agencies. "I think there's a strong need," he said. Regarding the price tag for the agencies in the budget, Whitney agreed with Lauer. "I think that's a bargain," he said.

Although he respects the concerns of those who wished to decrease social service spending, Whitney said he did not want "a safety net with holes in it."

Whitney does hope to find more efficiency in county operations, and he would focus as commissioner on ways to increase county revenue. He would like to interact with county employees to gain their perspective on ways to cut costs.

Whitney would like to expand the amount of information residents have about county government. During experience as a correctional officer, Whitney interacted with towns on a regular basis, and he stressed the value of reaching out to people so they are as informed as possible on county plans and events.

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