Nominations: Mark Howard To Superior Court Chief Justice; Bettencourt To Head Insurance

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Paula Tracy photo

Students from the Upper Valley Music Center, a non-profit community music school, provided the music for the Executive Council meeting Wednesday at Hypertherm in Lebanon. The students are pictured with Gov. Chris Sununu and members of the Executive Council.

Above, Gov. Chris Sununu is speaking to the Executive Council and members of the public Wednesday at Hypertherm in Lebanon. Paula Tracy photo


LEBANON – Judge Mark E. Howard of Manchester has been nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu to be the Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court.

If confirmed by the state’s Executive Council in the coming weeks, he will succeed Tina Nadeau who resigned last month before her term ended.

The term for Howard is for five years from confirmation which could be effective Sept. 30.
He is currently supervisory justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court based in Dover at Strafford County Superior Court.

Also at the Governor and Executive Council meeting Wednesday, Sununu nominated D.J. Bettencourt to be commissioner of the Department of Insurance succeeding Christopher Nicolopoulos of Bow who resigned. Upon confirmation, Bettencourt of Salem, who now serves as deputy commissioner and has been a long-time political ally of the now lame-duck governor, will receive $133,648 a year.

Dorothy E. Walch of Northwood was also nominated as justice to the New Hampshire Circuit Court and Tanya Spony of Brookline, also as a justice to the Circuit Court.

Acting Commissioner Lori Weaver was also confirmed to lead the state’s largest department, Health and Human Services, in a unanimous vote.

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield commended her service since taking over for Lori Shibinette, who resigned at the end of 2021. Shibinette led the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney noted he traveled with Weaver around the state to promote the new mobile dental clinic, and “I thank you for that and for being responsive,” to his and his constituent needs.

Sununu nominated Weaver to a four-year term. She will earn $161,791 a year.
Her department has the largest payroll and receives the largest sum of money to support the health and human service needs of the state’s 1.4 million citizens.

In an Aug. 1 letter to the governor, Howard said he was honored to be nominated and if confirmed “I would fully embrace the awesome responsibility to oversee the delivery of fair and meaningful justice to the citizens of our State efficiently and effectively.”
Howard has been a lawyer in the state for 36 years.
Born and raised in Cornish, he graduated from UNH in 1984 and the former Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1987.
He handled civil litigation issues for Merrill & Broderick in Manchester and then went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office where he focused on violent crime and narcotics prosecution before going into private practice.

In 2015 he was nominated by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan to the Superior Court and has served for eight years, with the last three serving as supervisory justice. He serves as a full-time judge in the Drug Treatment Court in Strafford County.

“I am confident that my significant experience as a trial lawyer, leader, and trial judge uniquely qualify me for the Chief Justice position,” he said.

He will have a public hearing before the council votes on his nomination, as will the other two judicial nominees.

Howard’s brother, Jeffrey Howard, was appointed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2002 and assumed senior status on March 31, 2022. He served as Chief Circuit Judge from 2015 to 2022.

The Governor and Executive Council held its August meeting at Hypertherm in Lebanon. Hypertherm designs and manufactures industrial cutting products.
The city has become a bit of a high-tech hub, said Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, who organized this meeting in her district.

Diane Travis, a student of criminal justice at Dartmouth College and a poet, read from Robert Frost’s “Birches.”

Students from the Upper Valley Music Center, a non-profit community music school provided the music for the meeting.

Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara welcomed the council to the city which has seen an increase in population by 22 percent in the past three years. He said that is expected to continue making it a challenge to accommodate all with housing stock.

While there is new housing, the vast majority are market rate apartments with little opportunity for home ownership, a challenge.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is a big driver of the increase in population but also international manufacturing companies and an upsurge in biotech firms are adding to the increase in size.

“Maintaining the health of the economy is not without its challenges,” he said. Another issue is affordable quality child-care.

The council’s summer roadshow through the state offers each councilor an opportunity to highlight the good works of locals and Warmington, whose District includes Lebanon, chose Hypertherm for her meeting.

At the meeting, the council recognized the Friends of Mascoma Foundation to address food insecurity among children in the region. They created the Friends Feeding Friends Food Pantry at the schools with no income requirements.

The council also kicked off the League of NH Craftsmen Fair beginning Aug. 5 which attracts over 20,000 annually at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury. They sell over $3 million in merchandise from local artists and for many it is the largest revenue producer each year for members of the 90-year-old fair.
It is considered the oldest craft fair in the country.
For information on the fair, visit

Following recent flooding, the Department of Transportation now have all roads open in the state with some of the most significant damage being in the Alton area and in the southwest corner of the state.
FEMA is being pressed to help.

All homes do have access to emergency services, said Commissioner of Safety Robert Quinn.
The agencies are working with the communities to keep the FEMA process as streamlined as possible.

Warmington said she heard from her constituents particularly in Acworth, which extended funds from previous disasters, that have no more funds to draw on.

She urged the state to take a proactive approach so that the payments can come more quickly.
She challenged the governor for not announcing an emergency declaration.

There is a new process, she said, and is concerned that the state can get some asphalt on the ground before winter.
“Let’s make sure the team is in direct contact with every potential town that may be looking to activate those zero interest loans,” Sununu said.

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