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INSIDE: COVERAGE OF MEETINGS IN TILTON, PITTSFIELD, CHICHESTER, HENNIKER, LOUDON, NORTHFIELD AND WEBSTER. A2, B1

Locals decide matters great and small

  • Town Moderator Gary Richardson accepts a plaque from Selectman Jim O'Brien during Hopkinton Town Meeting at Hopkinton High School in Contoocook, N.H. on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Richardson has served as moderator for 28 years.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Town Moderator Gary Richardson accepts a plaque from Selectman Jim O'Brien during Hopkinton Town Meeting at Hopkinton High School in Contoocook, N.H. on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Richardson has served as moderator for 28 years.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Wendy Koch of West Hopkinton, center left, catches up with Joab Owen of Hopkinton during a break between article discussions during Hopkinton Town Meeting at Hopkinton High School in Contoocook, N.H. on Saturday, March 15, 2014.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Wendy Koch of West Hopkinton, center left, catches up with Joab Owen of Hopkinton during a break between article discussions during Hopkinton Town Meeting at Hopkinton High School in Contoocook, N.H. on Saturday, March 15, 2014.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Town Moderator Gary Richardson accepts a plaque from Selectman Jim O'Brien during Hopkinton Town Meeting at Hopkinton High School in Contoocook, N.H. on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Richardson has served as moderator for 28 years.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)
  • Wendy Koch of West Hopkinton, center left, catches up with Joab Owen of Hopkinton during a break between article discussions during Hopkinton Town Meeting at Hopkinton High School in Contoocook, N.H. on Saturday, March 15, 2014.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

Moderator Gary Richardson led Hopkinton’s town meeting yesterday with good humor and grace, drawing laughs at times and a standing ovation at the meeting’s close. Over cheers and whistles, he saluted the crowd and thanked them before he adjourned his 28th and final town meeting. “I tried to do the best I could. I will miss it very much,” he said.

Richardson, also a state representative, is retiring after a long run presiding over the annual meeting. Elected in 1985, he said it’s time for someone else to take over.

Over the years, Richardson has seen the meetings become more civilized. “People have become much more willing to listen to other points of view,” he said. “Back in the old days, town meetings were held at night. . . . Some of our residents had perhaps been over-served, so things were pretty rowdy back in those days.”

One downside is how busy people are these days, he said. “With both mothers and fathers working full time, it’s hard for people to find the time to devote to serving their community.”

At the start of the meeting, Richardson accepted a gavel on behalf of the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen and a New Hampshire Senate resolution, presented by Sen. Sylvia Larsen, in honor of his service.

Richardson couldn’t name a specific favorite moment in his time as town moderator, but he remarked on the characters and citizens who made it memorable. “The great thing about town meeting, the people who are here really care about their town,” he said. “Whether they are for an article or against, they are participating in the process. It’s democracy at it’s best, as I’m concerned.”

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