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April 17. 2013 9:53PM

Chief liquor enforcement officer leaving after 8 years


Eddie Edwards, Chief of Enforcement for the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission. (BOB LaPREE/UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER - Eddie Edwards, the teetotaler who brought a no-nonsense approach to the enforcement of state liquor laws, will retire at the end of June after eight years on the job, he said this week.



Edwards said he plans to become a consultant and work with government agencies and the beverage industry on matters surrounding compliance with state liquor laws. He said it is not a lobbying job in the traditional sense.

The Hampton resident, a registered independent, said he will probably enter politics in about four years.

The announcment ends a stalemate over Edwards' position. After an overhaul of the state Liquor Commission went into effect in 2009, officials realized lawmakers had authorized two job descriptions dealing with the enforcement of liquor laws in the state.

There was chief, the job that Edwards holds that gives him protection as a classified state employee, a pension after 20 years and generous benefits.

Then there was the job of director, a job the Liquor Commission wanted Edwards to fill and that would give the commission the ability to fire him.

"I think it's fair to say we haven't always seen eye to eye on every issue," Edwards said. In fact, he said his departure follows a confidential agreement with the Liquor Commission over his job.

The New Hampshire Union Leader has been unable to make contact with Commission Chairman Joe Mollica.

Edwards said he worked as a corrections officer for five years in Strafford County for five years before joining the Liquor Commission in 1995. He became chief in 2005. In his early years, he was instrumental in shutting down two problem bars in Manchester, the Omega dance club and Flo's Bar & Grill.

But one enforcement turned politically sensitive when a state Rep. Dan Eaton, D-Stoddard, asked a liquor commissioner to have Edwards return video surveillance equipment from the bar of a friend. The Commissioner, Mark Bodi, said he felt pressured from Eaton. An Attorney General investigation ensured, and Bodi evenutally resigned.

Eaton lost the election in 2010 but was returned to office last year. Edwards said he has had no problem with Eaton in the New Hampshire House.

When he speaks about his tenure, Edwards said he was proud of increasing the compliance rate of state liquor laws from 70 to 95 percent, earning accreditation for his Enforcement team, and focusing on education and licensing requirements for restaurants and bars.

"I think we have enough laws," Edwards said, "I don't think they're properly applied, properly enforced."

Edwards said he recently married and plans to remain in New Hampshire, but he expects his consulting job will take him to other states on work.



mhayward@unionleader.com


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