3-year Alton resident wins close vote for appointment to Gunstock Commission

LACONIA — Ruth Larson of Alton, a retired attorney who moved to the Lakes Region from New Jersey three years ago, was elected to a five-year term on the Gunstock Area Commission by the Belknap County Convention last evening.
Larson edged Doug Lambert of Gilford by a 6-5 vote. Lambert owns a manufacturing firm and is a former member of the Gilford Budget Committee.
Others receiving votes for the five-year-term were Chris McDonough of Gilford, owner and chief financial officer of Fratello's and Homestead restaurants, who received three votes, and Michael Gillepsie of Gilford, who works for a communications company which owns three television stations in New England, who received one. In total, 11 men and women asked for an appointment.
A two-year term to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Commissioner Chris Blackstone of Alton was won by Chuck Lowth of Meredith, an incumbent 15-year member of the commission whose term is expiring. He garnered eight votes to five for McDonough and two for Lambert.
At one point in the vote for the five-year term it appeared that there was a 5-5 tie, but Rep. Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton), who had originally said she wanted to vote for Lowth, changed her vote and cast it for Larson when she realized that Lowth had said he was interested only in the two-year term.
Larson, a retired attorney who worked for CIGNA Insurance in New Jersey before establishing her own private practice in Princeton, New Jersey, retired in 2010 and moved to Alton.
Unlike many of the 11 candidates who had highlighted their own business experience and ties to Gunstock in their brief five-minute interviews, Larson said that she had applied for the job because she wasn't sure anyone else was going to.
''I was very pleased to see so many well-qualified candidates,'' said Larson, who said that she had once run a law office with 40 people and would approach the job as a commissioner ''with a sense of humility and no agenda.''
She said that one of the motivating factors for her application was her experience of weekday skiing at Gunstock over the last year. ''I didn't see many people on the lift lines and I didn't think the area was doing that well. But I later learned that was because I wasn't there on the weekends when it was really busy and I know now that the area has been doing very well,'' said Larson.
She said that she was pleased by the vote and intends to work closely with other commissioners to fulfill Gunstock's mission as a four-season attraction which is responsive to both residents and visitors.
Lowth said that he was interested in the two-year term because he wanted to see the commission continue to work cohesively and continue to make progress following the proven business model developed from Gunstock's master plan.
He said that no matter what a person's background, the ski business is unique and that is a great deal of on the job learning required for commission members. He said that his appointment would help keep ''a normal rotation for the commission'' and not have two new commissioners learning the ropes at the same time.
The five member-commission was established by state legislation in 1959 and removed authority over the day-to-day operations of Gunstock from the Belknap County Commissioners and placed it in the hands of a five-member commission whose members would be appointed by the County Convention.
Under the state law that established the commission, no more than two members of the board may reside in the same Belknap County municipality. Laconia is currently the only such municipality currently represented by more than one — Sean Sullivan and Bob Durfee. John Morgenstern of Gilford is the other member of the current board.