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Frat Bro Elected to County Post

Saturday, November 08, 2014
Hanover — Dartmouth College senior Sam Todd inspected his ballot in Hanover early Tuesday morning and noticed there were no candidates for the office of Grafton County register of pr obate.

So, Todd wrote in his Alpha Delta Fraternity brother Michael Wopinski, known to his buddies as Mick Wop, for the post.

Upon exiting the polls, Todd reached out to a group of friends and asked them to “vote for Mick Wop.”

When all the votes across Grafton County were tallied, Wopinski, a Dartmouth senior and the social chairman of the college’s rugby team, had won with a total of 20 write-in votes.

“I don’t want to take all the credit,” said Todd, who describes himself as Wopinski’s “unofficial campaign manager.”

But, he added, “I don’t think Mick would be where he is today if it weren’t for me.”

Wopinski voted in Hanover, but did not vote for the position of register of probate.

“For me, it was a joke,” said Wopinski, a Chicago native who is now a Hanover resident. “I had no idea it was possible that I could win.”

His write-in challengers included Philip Hanlon and Keggy the Kegger, according to results provided by Hanover’s Director of Administrative Services Betsy McClain.

If no one is listed for an office, it’s an “open invitation” for voters to consider writing someone in, McClain said.

“If nobody runs for the office and we have somebody that may in fact be interested in dipping a toe into the municipal government world, I’m all for it,” she said. “I think it’s pretty neat actually.”

Wopinski said he is researching the register of probate position to determine what the job would entail and whether he will accept it.

“I don’t think my position is one that will have a whole lot of influence,” he said.

The position was formerly a full-time job, but most of the duties of the post were repealed and shifted to the circuit court clerk in 2011. At the same time, the salary was reduced to $100 per year.

The change was part of a broader consolidation of the family, probate and district courts at the time, according to a 2011 release from the New Hampshire Bar Association.

There used to be a register of probate similar to the register of deeds, but the legislature “reduced that job considerably,” said County Commissioner Mike Cryans.

The register of probate does not report to the commissioners, Cryans said.

“I am unaware of any role that the elected official has in the probate office since the reorganization of the probate,” said Lebanon attorney Barry Schuster.

Wopinski is not the first Dartmouth student to win a Grafton County seat.

Democrat Vanessa Sievers, a 20-year-old Dartmouth College student from Montana, gained the post of Grafton County treasurer in 2008. She used a Facebook campaign targeting college students at Dartmouth and Plymouth State University to oust incumbent Republican Carol Elliott.

Sievers missed several meetings and some deadlines to invest county money. She did not seek re-election in 2010.

Though Schuster described the register of probate post as “ceremonial,” he described the collection and organization of vital records as “one of the essential elements of government” in that it “provides security and stability for people and their property.”

A registered independent, Wopinski does not plan to pursue a career in politics, he said.

He expects to graduate with a double major in economics and Russian in June. Upon graduating, Wopinski plans to move to New York to work for an investment bank, he said. Under state law, residing outside of Grafton County for 30 days will make him ineligible to hold the register of probate position.

Should the office become vacant, county officials will appoint someone to the post, said Hanover City Manager Julia Griffin.

Even though the position has little influence, Wopinski said he hopes to set a good example if he takes the job.

It’s “a pretty cool thing for Dartmouth students to become involved in local politics,” he said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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