CONCORD — Newly elected Republican Executive Councilor Joe Kenney was sworn in by Gov. Maggie Hassan on Wednesday, surrounded by family, friends and three former GOP councilors.
Kenney was elected in a special District 1 election on March 11 to replace longtime Republican Councilor Ray Burton, who had represented the North Country district since 1981 on the board that provides advice and consent to the executive department on appointments and contracts.
In the wake of a contested primary and a hard-fought race against Democratic challenger Michael Cryans, Kenney took his seat at the council table after paying tribute to his predecessor.
“I’m filling the shoes of a legend,” he said. “I’m very mindful that I need to carry forth the legacy and good work of Ray Burton.”
Kenney’s swearing-in was a homecoming of sorts for former GOP councilors. Ruth Griffin of Portsmouth, who served from 1987 to 2007; Ray Wieczorek of Manchester, 2003-2013; and Bill Cahill of Hampton, 1985-1987; were in the council chambers early, greeting incoming councilors and congratulating Kenney.
He alluded to the recent death of his mother, and said, “I could think of no one better to represent my mother here today than Ruth Griffin.”
Kenney joins Chris Sununu of Newfields as the other Republican on the five-member council, with Democrats Colin Van Ostern of Concord, Chris Pappas of Manchester and Debora Pignatelli of Nashua. He voted “no” with Sununu on a $1.6 million consultant contract submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services to help implement Medicaid expansion because it was a “sole-source” contract, not put out to bid.
The contract was approved 3-2 after Commissioner of Health and Human Services Nick Toumpas explained that the same firm had helped two other states obtain the necessary waivers from the federal government for the premium assistance approach New Hampshire hopes to implement using federal funds.
The council also confirmed George N. Copadis of Manchester for another five-year term as Commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security; and Jeffrey Rose to a four-year term as Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development. Rose was appointed for one year in 2013 to fill out the term of Commissioner George Bald, who retired in 2012 after 13 years as the state’s economic development chief.
“During his tenure at NHES, Commissioner Copadis has worked to support workers through some of the most difficult economic challenges that our state has faced in generations. And at DRED, Commissioner Rose has successfully led New Hampshire’s efforts to help existing businesses grow and to attract new, innovative companies to the Granite State,” said Hassan.