Commissioner Seats Contested
GOP Candidates Challenge Grafton County Incumbents
Zoey Mourousas, 8, of Hudson, N.H., watches Jim Walker of Richmond, R.I., lift the foil off of the baked beans at the Grafton County Republican Committee's beanhole picnic hosted by Karen Certantes at her home in Enfield, N.H. on July 13, 2014. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Photographed on Feb. 24, 2014, in Enfield, N.H., Mike Cryans, of Hanover, N.H., is a Democrat running for the seat on the Executive Council left vacant by Ray Burton's recent death. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Kelley Monahan of Orford is a candidate for Grafton County Register of Deeds. Thursday, October 21, 2010.
Valley News - James M. Patterson
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GOP Grafton County Commissioner candidate Karen Cervantes speaks during the Grafton County Republican Committee's beanhole picnic hosted by Certantes at her home in Enfield, N.H. on July 13, 2014. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Republicans are mounting a challenge against all three Democratic incumbents holding office as Grafton County commissioners.
And former Register of Deeds Bill Sharp, now a Republican, is running against Democratic incumbent Kelley Monahan, who defeated him four years ago in a Democratic primary.
Longtime Lebanon Republican activist Karen Cervantes is running against veteran County Commissioner Mike Cryans, D-Hanover. The District 1 seat represents Lebanon, Hanover and Enfield.
Cervantes has identified herself as a Republican since she was 18 and has worked on numerous campaigns across the country, including former North Carolina Gov. James Martin and former U.S. Senator and Congressman Bob Dole. She is also the Grafton County Republican Committee area 1 vice chairwoman and was a member of the Lebanon School Board for seven and a half years.
The 65-year-old Lebanon resident, who also held a GOP picnic Sunday at her vacation home on Mascoma Lake in Enfield, said her priorities are to go through the county budget line by line to ensure there isn’t any “waste” and to make sure county employees have a good work environment.
“I’m a very strong fiscally responsible person, and I think we need to live within our budget and I don’t think you go after items and say we’ll just raise taxes,” said Cervantes, who grew up in Lebanon and co-owns Harrison Insurance Agency, Inc., in Lebanon.
Before the new Grafton County jail was opened in 2012, Cervantes said she told Cryans that she felt a new jail was necessary, but the county was spending too much money on the structure. She said she is very conscious of the impact of taxes, and how commissioners must be aware that residents also have to pay other levels of federal and state taxes.
Cryans, the 63-year-old incumbent, is running for his 10th consecutive term. Cryans said the way the commissioners currently put together the budget works “extremely well.” Each department head is responsible for presenting a budget to the executive director, who then hands the budget off to the commissioners, before it is tweaked and moved onto the executive committee and then the county delegation. And the budget often has bipartisan support, Cryans said.
“I think that Democrats and Republicans realize it’s essential to spend a certain amount of money to run the nursing home and jail,” Cryans said. “I don’t see where there’s any waste in the budget.”
During his time as county commissioner, the county had added a major addition to the nursing home, built a new jail and constructed a new biomass plant that has reduced oil consumption from more than 100,000 gallons annually to 10,000 gallons.
Cryans also pointed out that when it was time to build the new jail, the Legislature voted to allow the county to bond up to $38 million. But the county only bonded $33 million and was able to complete the jail for about $30 million, leaving money to build a biomass plant and knock down the old jail.
Cryans is a lifelong Grafton County resident who grew up in Littleton and has lived in Hanover for 29 years. He was formerly the executive director of Headrest, a nonprofit that provides addiction and crisis support, but resigned in January to focus on the upcoming elections.
Cryans lost a special election this winter to fill the late Ray Burton’s Executive Council seat, and also plans to run again for that position this fall.
Burton, a Bath Republican, also served both as a county commissioner and executive councilor.
In the other County Commissioner races, incumbent Linda Lauer, D-Bath, is facing challenger Stephen Whitney, R-Bath, for the District 2 seat, which covers northern Grafton County, including the Upper Valley towns of Haverhill, Lyme, Orford and Piermont.
And Paul Simard, R-Bristol, is challenging incumbent Martha Richards, D-Holderness, for the District 3 seat, which covers the Plymouth-area and the Valley towns of Canaan, Dorchester, Grafton and Orange.
Cryans said he thinks this is the first time during his nearly two decades as county commissioner that all three incumbents have been Democrats.
Cervantes acknowledged that District 1 is predominantly Democratic with a large amount of registered independents.
“If enough of (the voters) feel that my stance might bring more stability and a good hard look at the budget and spending wisely and running more efficiently. ...I think we will win,” Cervantes said.
Sharp, R-Lebanon, is also running as a Republican in an attempt to oust Monahan, an Orford Democrat. Sharp was elected as Register of Deeds in 2006 as a Democrat, and said he prides himself on moving land records online. But he lost the job in 2010 when Monahan beat him in a primary. In 2012, Sharp changed his party affiliation to run against Cryans for county commissioner, but lost.
The 72-year-old Sharp criticized Monahan for increasing the annual subscription to the registry from $50 to $120, calling the increase a tax.
Sharp said he initially set the $50 fee when he was register of deeds because it was all that was necessary to complete the job. “A fee becomes a tax when that amount of money that you collect is more than is necessary to do the job that the initial fee was intended to do,” Sharp said.
But Monahan said the annual subscription is not a tax on the voter, but a fee increase on the heavy user, such as people who use the registry for real estate, legal and title purposes.
Monahan said she is working on finishing an emergency management plan for the paper documents in the building and has recently made a microfilm transition to make sure that level of recording is protected.
While documents are digital today, Monahan, 54, said it is still important to her to cater to senior citizens and those who don’t have computer skills. She prides herself on making sure members of her staff are available to help people find documents, whether in person or on the phone.
“There are a lot of hats to this job, and I love it and I’m happy to run on my record,” Monahan said. “I’ve continued to cut the budget and work on efficiencies.”
Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo, D-Benton, County Treasurer Bonnie Parker, D-Hanover, and Sheriff Douglas Dutile, R-Haverhill, are running unopposed.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.