BRETTON WOODS — Gov. Chris Sununu was the keynote speaker at the 100th meeting of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, which took place Monday at the Omni Mount Washington Resort
In his speech, Sununu touted the way New Hampshire does politics, with its 400 state representatives.
“It’s really about engaging singles, families and businesses through a process that is very unique. The fact that we have a state — you don’t have issues like you see in Florida or New York or California — God bless California, that place is a disaster — Washington, places like that. Again, where there’s very little input. The decision-makers stay in the capital, in the statehouse, in their little bubble where they do their thing. And everyone else is just subject to their whims, where ‘we’ll see you at the next election.’
“But that’s not the way we do it here. It really is a team effort,” he said.
He also lavished praise on Taylor Caswell, whom he tapped as the state’s commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, as leading the charge for the North Country.
The reason he picked him? “He was always the best-dressed guy in the statehouse. No seriously, he had been on the front lines of these issues before and he was from the North Country. He really got was a key but often forgotten economic driver down in Concord,” Sununu said.
“Let’s face it, down in Concord everyone thinks that anything important happens in Concord. So you kind of have to ram it down their throats a little bit that when you have travel and tourism and lodging and the restaurant industry, so much of that is driven north.”
Caswell, he said, is an incredibly hard worker. “Anytime anyone picks up the phone, he’s right there. We visit businesses together, usually out of state, because we’re suckin’ ’em in left and right, it’s a great thing to do.
“I made the joke earlier, we all know it, I was experiencing it at Waterville, it’s even worse now in a way, we’re a victim of our own success, and that is workforce,” Sununu said. “We need the workers.”
He also mentioned, “We were just ranked about a month ago as the No. 1 state for millennials in theNortheast. We’re finally turning the tide, this is the place young people want to be.
“Now there’s still a bit of a mass exodus out of New England — it’s like being the best surfer in Kansas — but the point is you’ve got to take it step by step,” the governor said.
“You’ve got to create an atmosphere that is conducive to driving that next generation of workers, you’ve got to tackle tough issues.”
He noted that when he first ran for governor “in a pretty heated primary — I barely won the primary. On the day before the primary, I was closing on buying a small hotel in Waterville. Because we were going to turn it into something that our employees could live in. That’s how desperate we were. We took a profit center and said we need the employees to actually live here, and we turned that basically into an apartment building for our employees.”
In conclusion, he told the NHLRA members: “We’re going to need your help in Concord. And don’t just come down and advocate on what I want you to advocate on. Advocate on what’s best for you, your family and your business and your town. Pay attention.
“There’s a lot of different stuff going on down there” in Concord, he said. “It’s not all good. Some of it’s really good. Some we can all take pride in. You know people complain, ‘oh you signed 57 vetoes or whatever,’ yeah they were 57 bills that had never, ever reached the governor’s desk in the history of the state. Right? So they’re trying some pretty extreme stuff,” he said of the Democratic majority in the Legislature.
“At the same time, I’ve signed more legislation than my predecessor ever did. So we got more stuff done in a bipartisan way than ever before. No one likes to tell that story because it’s not as flashy.”
The following day, Sununu visited Berlin Middle School, where he presented city and school officials with a ceremonial check representing the additional $4.7 million the city will receive over this fiscal year and next.
Superintendent Julie King said the school system has had a difficult time with the closing of Brown School and cuts that have been made.