By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – The state’s Executive Council rejected Gov. Chris Sununu’s nomination of Ryan Terrell to the state Board of Education, accepted with regret the resignation of Assistant Safety Commissioner Perry Plummer and listened as Sununu nominated North Country farmer Scott Mason as the state’s new Fish and Game director.
Ryan Terrell Rejected
On a 3-2 vote, the council on Wednesday rejected Sununu’s nomination of Ryan Terrell of Nashua to the State Board of Education. The rejection was along party lines with Democrats saying he lacked experience and past interest in schools.
“I thought it would be a 5-0 vote,” Sununu said. “I am absolutely shocked that at this day and age you would be shooting down a candidate like that.”
He said while the council could reject the nomination, “to not have him on the board would be …a missed opportunity.”
Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, said he would not “engage in the tokenism,” with the governor. He clarified his comment that Terrell lived in four different communities, which Sununu considered an asset.
“He did not show any interest in the schools,” in those communities, did not run for school boards, serve as a volunteer on a PTO or take any opportunities to support schools, Volinsky asserted.
Volinsky said Terrell also showed no interest in the state board until the governor picked him for it.
“This process works better if you collaborate with us,” Volinsky told Sununu.
Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, said she would be happy to support Terrell for other boards involving business where he has experience and interest. She said she found him a very congenial person but echoed Volinsky’s concern on experience.
In his letter to Sununu, Terrell described his educational background as taking the “scenic route,” growing up in New Orleans and attending many schools, including arts and music camps and charter schools, especially after Hurricane Katrina.
In 2014, he graduated from Southern New Hampshire University via the College Unbound program. College Unbound was a 3-year experiential learning pilot program that merged traditional classroom education with real-world internships and deliverable-based project work.
“In my current role as a Project Manager, I created the remote education portal for our clients and employees that allowed us to seamlessly pivot to remote work. In my professional life, I solve complex problems, using what Charlie Munger refers to as a ‘latticework of mental models.’”
“I’m interested in serving on the State Board of Education because I’m passionate about aiding the next generation of lifelong learners,” Terrell said. Read the letter here: http://indepthnh.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/New-Hampshire-State-Board-of-Education-interest-letter.pdf
.District 5 Executive Council Candidate Bob Clegg, a Republican and former state senator, issued a statement after Pignatelli and the other Democrats voted to reject the nomination, noting Ryan Terrell is an African-American nominee for the State Board of Education.
“New Hampshire Democrats like to preach about diversity and putting more African-Americans into leadership roles in New Hampshire, but when push comes to shove Debora Pignatelli rejected the nomination of an eminently qualified African-American nominee to the State Board of Education.
Pignatelli said she had three names of people of color in her district whom she would be happy to nominate for the post.
“Debora Pignatelli dismissed Mr. Terrell based on his party affiliation, now it’s time for the voters to dismiss her. It’s time for a change,” Clegg said.
There was no discussion during the council meeting of Terrell’s political party affiliation.
Councilors suggested that a public hearing for Scott Mason be held in person in Representatives Hall, but Sununu said it would drag the nomination out and he saw no advantage to a public hearing in person.
Sununu also nominated two new members to the Fish and Game Commission and swore in Democrat Kathleen M. Martins of Hooksett as a legislator, replacing Republican Dick Marple who died in December 2019 at age 88. Martins won a special election over Elliot Axelman.
Known as a leader in the state’s farming community, Mason is both the pick of the Fish and Game Commission who forwarded his name and the governor following the controversy over how Glenn Normandeau was not offered another term to head the Fish and Game Department.
Normandeau has been serving in a hold-over position since March and recently lost his wife to cancer.
Normandeau served the state for 12 years as the director of the department and without notice was informed by Sununu that the Fish and Game Commission voted to not offer him another term. Sununu stressed that it was not his decision but the commission’s.
Normandeau chastised them for not coming to him first and asking him to change things, noting he needed the job and the insurance to help cover his ailing’s wife’s health benefits.
The commission created a search committee, offered a nominee to Sununu but the governor asked them to go back and re-post the job, which resulted in the nomination of Mason.
Mason runs Northwinds Farm in North Stratford, N.H., and is one of three dairy farmer representatives from the Northeast region on the American Farm Bureau Federal Milk Marketing Order Work Group, according to the New Hampshire Farm Bureau.
The governor’s press release related to the nomination is here https://www.governor.nh.gov/news-and-media/governor-chris-sununu-nominate-scott-mason-fish-and-game-executive-director
Sununu also nominated Jeremy Ward of Surrey and Bruce Temple to the Fish and Game Commission. Ward will replace “Moose” Phillipson on the board.
A key leader in the state’s COVID-19 emergency response, Perry E. Plummer resigned Wednesday as Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Safety.
Noting he has served the public for 34 years, the Dover resident said it was time to pass the torch.
His letter of resignation is here https://www.governor.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt336/files/documents/perry-letter.pdf. He will serve in the position through June 30.
Plummer was praised by Executive Council and Sununu for being the right person in the right place at the right time to help lead the state through the crisis and past emergencies. In 2013, Plummer was appointed as the Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and as the State’s Homeland Security Advisor.
As Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, he was responsible to prepare the State to respond to major disasters, and for coordinating the state’s response to major disasters. As Homeland Security Advisor he coordinated homeland security activities by working with federal partners, other New Hampshire departments and agencies, local governments, other states, and the private sector.
In 2011, Assistant Commissioner Plummer was appointed as the Director of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services overseeing the Fire Academy, fire training curriculum and certification, and the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.
Assistant Commissioner Plummer entered the fire service in 1986 as a firefighter for the City of Dover and served as a lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, and chief of that department.
“I cannot thank Perry Plummer enough for his years of service to our state,” Sununu said. “From leading the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to taking a lead role in responding to COVID19, Perry has been at my side since my first day in the office and New Hampshire could not have had a better public servant.”
Nicole Kasinskas Denied
Nicole Kasinskas, 32, was requesting a commuted sentence hearing for the offense of attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. She was not eligible for an annulment.
The vote was 2-3 against a hearing with Councilors Mike Cryans, D-Hanover, and Volinsky voting yes and Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, Pignatelli and Russell Prescott, R-Kingston voting no.
After voting two weeks ago to hire a professional consultant to help the state implement a web-based immunization information system, it authorized a sole source contract with Sage Pursuits Inc., d/b/a Envision Technology Partners Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., for a web-based Immunization Information System in the amount of $2,651,554.
New Hampshire is the only state to not have such a system to track who is immunized.
Gatsas voted to oppose the contract and said there is no clear list of how much the state has spent on trying to get an immunization system. “We don’t see a total number,” Gatsas said.
Beth Daley, chief of the Health and Human Services bureau of infectious diseases, summarized a number of contracts that the council has approved noting some provide oversight over millions of dollars of immunizations the state pays for children. She said the state has among the highest immunization rates in the country.
“Ultimately, our goal is to protect people from diseases that can be preventable through vaccines,” she said.
Victoria Sheehan, commissioner of Transportation, said traffic is returning as Sununu has eased his Stay-at-Home orders. She noted overall the state traffic was down 50 percent when the pandemic first hit but now it is closer to down by 30 percent.
CARES Act Draw Down
As an informational item, as he has done in past weeks, Sununu added to the agenda an update on the drawdown of more than $1.2 billion in federal relief money due to COVID-19.
Pignatelli said she was concerned she did not have adequate information. Sununu agreed that it was confusing to understand. Cryans said his great concern is being in the rural part of the state is getting its money and money for first responders.
He urged the city and towns to reach out to the state’s GOFERR office to get help. He asked about Chambers of Commerce which don’t fit into a particular category to get money from the CARES Act because they are a 501:C6, a trade organization.
Sununu said he expects to make an announcement tomorrow on chambers that will allow them to access relief funding.
Cryans also noted difficulty accessing high-speed connections in the rural parts of the state, particularly during distance learning. Sununu said he will have an announcement on broadband as well Thursday along with measures to help homelessness, and private colleges and universities.
“All those will be addressed tomorrow,” Sununu said. “Broadband is a huge opportunity,” he said, to grow the state as people decide to move out of cities.
“We are already seeing a lot of interest,” in part due to the pandemic, Sununu said.
Meeting in Person
Councilors expressed an interest in returning to having meetings in person. But just how that might work, and where, while the state is still facing a pandemic, was discussed.
Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky asked for logistics for ZOOM conferencing in Representatives Hall to be reviewed for its next meeting.
100 Days of COVID-19
Sununu posted a video on Instagram Wednesday morning noting that the day marked 100 since the pandemic began in the Granite State. He mentioned the sacrifices and hardship in his note thanking the residents of the state of New Hampshire.
“Hats off!” Sununu said, “We’re coming out of it together. We’re gonna stick together. Thank you, New Hampshire!”
Budget Cuts for Adult Students
Pignatelli voiced concern for a 15 percent cut in services for the adult learning center in Nashua. Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said a funding formula for contracts may have impacted the historical funding levels.
He said he loved the programs and they were working hard. Their outcomes are “OK,” not as high as other areas of the state, he said.
“We are doing what we can to support the programs,” Edelblut said. He said that money will be reallocated and there may be some carry-over. The same concern is true for the Concord Second Start Program, which will see a cut, and Volinsky asked Edelblut to reconsider funding, particularly during a pandemic.
State Police Fist Bump
Safety Commissioner Bob Quinn was asked by Volinsky to explain a photo circulating the state that appears to show a state trooper fist bumping a counter-protester at a Black Lives Matter Rally in Concord last Saturday.
Quinn said it was being mischaracterized and taken out of context as the police supporting a certain viewpoint.
He said state police joined many law enforcement agencies across the state at protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man while in the custody of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
This trooper and a Concord officer were partnered together at the Concord event and called to respond to a disagreement between the two groups and were able to de-escalate the situation, Quinn said.
Prior to the photograph, the Concord officer shook the hand of a counter-protester and the trooper was uncomfortable with the handshake but agreed to a fist-bump.
Volinsky said he wanted to commend the trooper for working with both sides to de-escalate the situation. He also asked Quinn about an incident in Albany May 20 which is part of a criminal investigation involving police use of force.
“We will look to see if it was in compliance…that is being done in this case and we will look to see no violations of policy took place,” Quinn said.
He said to expect a report in a matter of several weeks.