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Shurtleff, St. Hilaire may leave city seats if confirmed for state roles

  • Rep. Steve Shurtleff poses for portrait in the Representative’s Hall gallery at the State House on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • City Councilor Dan St. Hilaire (right) shakes hands with Steve Duprey in the new lobby of the Merrimack County Court after the tour on Tuesday, October 9, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 11/23/2018 4:54:49 PM

Two of Concord’s longer-serving city councilors may be stepping down within the next month.

Both councilors, Steve Shurtleff and Daniel St. Hilaire, were nominated last week for larger statewide roles.

Shurtleff, a Democrat who has served as a Concord at-large councilor for 11 years and as the Ward 1 state representative for 15 years, is up for speaker of the House. St. Hilaire, a Republican currently representing Ward 10, was nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu for a position as a superior court judge. He has served on the city council for more than a dozen years.

Both said they would resign from their roles on the city council to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interests if confirmed, which could lead to multiple special elections in the city.

“I just feel that once a person’s on the bench, they need to be neutral and detached from other branches of government,” St. Hilaire said Monday, adding that municipal cases often end up in superior court.

In St. Hilaire’s case, the resignation would not be optional. Rule 38 of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges in both district or superior court from holding elected positions, according to judicial branch spokeswoman Carole Alfano.

St. Hilaire has previously held high-profile positions in the state. He served as an executive councilor from 2011-13 and as the Merrimack County attorney from 2003-09. He currently works as the chief operating officer for the state’s liquor commission.

St. Hilaire said he was honored to be nominated and would miss his time on the council if confirmed.

“I grew up in Concord and I look to remain here,” he said. “I’ll still be interested in what goes on; I’m pretty proud of the accomplishments the council has been able to come up with in the last decade. I’m proud to be living in Concord.”

St. Hilaire said he has no idea where his potential bench would be. A public hearing before the Executive Council on his nomination is scheduled for Dec. 3. A vote on his confirmation could happen on either Dec. 5 or Dec. 19.

Shurtleff, meanwhile, said he doesn’t think securing the speaker position would lead to a conflict as a city councilor. But he doesn’t want to take any chances.

“There have been times when the state has done things, where we and the city haven’t always been happy with what they’ve done,” he said Monday. “We want to try and be good neighbors.”

One possible pending issue is what to do about the Legislature’s garage on Storrs Street. The structure is in need of repair, and Shurtleff said he’d like to see the House of Representatives and city staff study the issue jointly.

Shurtleff has led Democrats in the State House when his party was in the minority and the majority. As a Concord city councilor, he has served in only one of the city’s four at-large positions, which are voted on by the entire city.

The two roles have overlapped more than one might expect, he said.

“They’ve ended up complementing each other,” he said. “I’ve gotten calls where someone was calling about a state issue, and it was actually a city issue. In that respect, it’s been easier for people who have reached out to me, who weren’t sure who they were supposed to talk to.”

With Democrats in control of the House, Shurtleff is all but assured to take the speaker role. His expected confirmation will take place Dec. 5.

Shurtleff said he’d expect to step down shortly after the vote, but wants to finish out his term at the Dec. 10 council meeting.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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