Merrimack County Sheriff: Hilliard has a primary opponent in Montray for first time since 2008

  • Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard is running for a seventh term. Courtesy

  • Paul Montray is challenging incumbent Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard in the Republican primary. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 9/9/2018 11:00:15 PM

This election cycle has been a bit busier for incumbent Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard: For the first time since 2008, Hilliard has an opponent in the Republican Primary.

“It makes the workload a little heavier,” Hilliard said. “It’s a large county – we’re just a little over 200,000 people, 25 towns and two cities. It’s a job I love and enjoy.”

Paul Montray, a Henniker resident whose career in law enforcement began as a New York City police officer before moving to New Hampshire in 1990, is challenging Hilliard.

“It is something I have been thinking about for a long time and I thought maybe this was a good time to do it,” Montray said. “I am retired now and there was nobody else that has run against the incumbent.”

Montray was a police officer in Henniker for 4½ years in the early 1990s and later joined the Merrimack County Sherrif’s department in 1994. His first stint with the department ended in 2005 when he joined the New Hampshire State Police. Montray returned to the sheriff’s office in 2007 and worked there until his retirement in early 2017.

Now a retiree, Montray has returned to work as chief of security at Hillsborough Superior Court North in Manchester.

“I am a person of service to the community,” Montray said. “I have a lot of people I know in the county, and I have a good rapport with a lot of people there.”

The distinction that Hilliard draws between himself and Montray, as well as unopposed Democratic candidate Ricardo Rodriguez of Contoocook, is his experience running the department.

“It’s a very demanding job, something I don’t think either of my opponents understands,” said Hilliard, who retired from the Northfield Police Department in 2006. “It’s a $4.6 million budget that we have at the Sheriff’s office, and we bring about 35 percent revenue to the expense side of that budget.”

Montray recognized the experience of Hilliard, but said his own background of more than 20 years with the Merrimack County Sheriff’s office has him prepared for the responsibility should he be elected.

“I worked for 20 years and I think I have a good grasp of how the organization works,” Montray said. “I am not a politician, I am a working guy. And I am going to be visible in the community.”

Both Republican candidates agreed that the state’s opioid crisis will continue to be a top priority in the coming years.

“We need to try and get these people help right off as soon as they are arrested,” Montray said. “Get them into a program and work with the county attorney to get them on the straight and narrow.”

“We’ve got to apply education and we’ve got to apply services to help those who are addicted,” Hilliard said. “As important, we need sentencing that is consistent with what somebody does. Somebody using drugs, I don’t think throwing them in jail and throwing away the key is going to do anything for them. But those that are selling drugs, especially deadly drugs, need to face stiffer consequences.”

They also agree that education around the issue is critical to keeping children and non-users from experimenting with dangerous drugs.

Hilliard has overseen the continued operation of DARE programs across the county, including five schools that do not have resource officers. Montray has been deeply involved in this effort as well working as a DARE officer for 20 years in Henniker, Dunbarton and Chichester.

“I think we’re making progress in that we’re not losing ground,” Hilliard said. “People over the years have been critical of the DARE program, some people. I’ve always supported it because I think any time you can apply knowledge and understanding to somebody younger and explain what’s going on, that’s better than them not getting any information.”

The primary is Sept. 11. Hilliard has the advantage of experience as the incumbent and name recognition on the ballot. Montray hopes voters will consider a new option for county sheriff.

“I’m fiscally responsible, for sure, and I am not going to waste money,” Montray said. “I know a lot of agencies are shorthanded and they are doing their best with what they have. I would like to be able to assist them when they need the help.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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