By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — A week after setting up an exploratory committee, former State Senator Mark Hounsell announced Tuesday he will indeed run for executive councilor in District I, the seat his good friend Ray Burton held until his death Nov. 12.
“I am announcing today that I will become a candidate for the office of Executive Councilor, District 1,” Hounsell stated in release Tuesday morning. “I will run as a member of the Democrat Party.
Hounsell set up an exploratory committee — the Hounsell For Council Committee — to determine what would be in the best interest of the people of the district, and, after receiving positive feedback, decided to throw his hat into the ring for the executive council seat.
“I do stress that there exists no candidate equipped to do the work performed by Ray Burton,” Hounsell said. “However, as a lifelong resident of the North Country. my experience and knowledge is very unique”
Hounsell was up front that Burton cannot be replaced.
“I’m not looking to replace Ray Burton. No one can,” he said by phone Tuesday. “I’ll use Ray Burton as an example of how it should be done. There’s only one Ray Burton.”
Hounsell says he will run as a Democrat “with sincere attention given to both Republican and Independent ideas,” he said.
A Republican, Burton was first elected to the council in 1977. Aside from a brief time in 1980, he was re-elected every two years since then. The five-member council approves state contracts and nominations.
Grafton County Commissioner Mike Cryans, who lives in Hanover, announced Tuesday he will also seek the Democratic nomination. The 62-year-old Cryans is a Littleton native.
Hounsell, who currently serves on the Conway School Board, was appointed by Burton and the full executive council in April as the newest member of the State Public Employee Labor Relations Board. He was nominated to the post by Gov. Hassan.
Hounsell, who holds a degree in medieval studies and philosophy from Plymouth State University, began his political career in 1976 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Conway Municipal Budget Committee. He later was elected as constable for the Town of Albany from 1981-82, and he was elected to the N.H. State Senate in 1984 and reelected in 1986.
“I have never been a populist. I never looked to be popular,” he said. “There are two contributors to this. The first is that by wanting to be popular, your ability to see the issues are clouded. The second is popularity is a fleeting thing.”
Hounsell first served on the Conway Board of Selectmen from 1999-2002, and then ran for second term in 2005. He also served on the Conway School Board in 2005, following the path of his good friend, the late Dick O’Brien, who served on both seats simultaneously prior to his death.
Hounsell doesn’t believe a candidate for executive council needs to be already entrenched in Concord.
“I was told similar things when I first stated out that you’ve got to have been there and be part of the establishment,” he said. “I didn’t believe it in 1984 and I don’t believe it now.”
A memorial service for Burton has been set for Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. at the Hartman Student Union Building at Plymouth State University.