Explaining the N.H. Executive Council

NASHUA – With Tuesday’s general election rapidly approaching, most New Hampshire residents likely know the roles of Congress, the governor and the state Legislature.

However, many remain somewhat unsure as to the role of the state’s Executive Council.

The Executive Council is a five-member body that serves to advise the governor. The members approve, or disapprove, the governor’s nomination of judges, along with all major heads of departments, such as the Department of Education, Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Services and the state Attorney General.

Members also vote on approval for contracts with a value of $25,000 dollars or more, while playing a vital role in managing and overseeing the state’s 10-year Highway Plan.

The council also approves the spending of a major portion of the approximately $5.2 billion dollars that is appropriated annually by the Legislature.

The five council districts each feature approximately 263,000 people. The city of Nashua is in District 5, along with these communities: Amherst, Antrim, Bennington, Brookline, Deering, Dunbarton, Fitzwilliam, Francestown, Greenfield, Greenville, Hillsborough, Hollis, Hudson, Jaffrey, Litchfield, Lyndeborough, Mason, Merrimack, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston, New Ipswich, Peterborough, Richmond, Rindge, Sharon, Swanzey, Temple, Troy, Weare, Wilton and Windsor.

David Wheeler of Milford is the District 5 councilor. Moving to the north, Christopher Pappas is the current councilor for District 4, primarily representing the Manchester area.

District 3 Councilor Russell Prescott represents most of the the Seacoast Region. Andru Volinsky is the councilor for District 2, which stretches across the state from east to west to include Dover, Concord and Keene. District 1 Councilor Joseph Kenney represents the northern two-thirds of the state’s landmass.

Wheeler, a Republican, is seeking re-election this year. During a recent forum in Nashua, Wheeler said he agrees with Gov. Chris Sununu’s policies of cutting taxes and regulations for businesses. He also wants to see New Hampshire become a right-to-work state, as he said this will give employers more predictability, stability,” he said.

Wheeler’s challenger this year is Democrat Debora Pignatelli, who served as an executive counselor from 2004-2012.

As stated on the council website, the councilors serve as watchdogs, and Pignatelli said this has benefited the state, particularly in terms of the judiciary.

“We have a really good judiciary in the state and one of the reasons is because we have these public hearings,” Pignatelli said.

“It’s a way of saying to the governor, ‘You may nominate these people, but in the end, they work for us, the people of the state,'” Pignatelli said.

“It’s been pretty successful and even though I’ve been out for four years now, they have continued to hold public hearings on nominees,” Pignatelli added.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243, or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.