LACONIA — In the 16 years he has served as a Grafton County Commissioner, Mike Cryans said he took the greatest pride in surprising the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, with whom he served on the commission throughout his tenure, by unveiling a plaque dedicating the site of the old county jail as a park in his name.
Cryans, a Democrat from Hanover, is vying against Joe Kenney, a Republican from Wakefield, to succeed Burton on the Executive Council. While he is quick to say "I'm not trying to fill Ray's shoes," he readily admits to seeking to follow in his footsteps. "Ray redefined the office of executive councilor," he said in an interview this week, explaining that Burton raised constituent service to the highest priority. "I want to continue to that," Cryans said, adding that he would seek to place men and women from the district on boards and commissions in state government..
Cryans, 62, was born and raised in Littleton, where he graduated from high school in 1969 before earning his bachelor's degree at Springfield College in 1973. He returned home and taught physical education at Littleton High School for five years before joining Littleton Savings Bank as a trainee. The bank became the Dartmouth Banking Company and Cryans was its senior vice-president when it was sold 15 years later. He spent a decade self-employed, providing financial counseling to small businesses and working families since 2003 has served as director of Headrest, a substance abuse and recovery facility in Lebanon.
A long distance runner, Cryans twice set the fastest time for a New Hampshire resident competing in the Boston Marathon and still runs 10 miles a day, often before dawn.
Although drawn to politics by the success of Hugh Gallen of Littleton who served as governor from 1979-1982, Cryans did not seek public office until 1996, when he ran against Burton for the Executive Council. He said that he told his closest friend and confidant of his intentions only to have his father tell him "you can't beat Ray Burton." A year later he was appointed to the Grafton County Commission and has been returned to office at every election since, mostly recently in 2012 with Burton's endorsement.
Cryans noted that he could find no record that a Democrat had ever been elected to the Executive Council in District 1. Nor could he recall Democrats ever holding four of the five seats on the council. "I'd like to be first and make it four-to-one," he remarked, only to discount partisanship. "It's more important that the people of the district have the best person," he stressed. He said that in listening to people throughout the district "it's not this issue or that issue. It's don't forget us." Remembering how many people would seek Burton's assistance, he reflected that "since Ray's death those requests haven't stopped, but there's no one to answer them."
"I'm not a 'no' person," Cryans said. "I believe compromise is not a bad word. I want to get things done," he continued. "I have marathoners mentality — put your head down and crank it out." Expecting to be branded a "tax and spender," he pointed to his contribution to the construction of the Grafton County Jail as an example of his commitment to fiscal responsibility. He said that the initial price tag for the project was $60 million, which the commission whittled to $38 million, then trimmed to $33 million and finally completed for $30 million while building a biomass plant that has significantly reduced the county's oil consumption and energy costs.
Reflecting on the plight of the North Country, where the population is aging, the young are leaving and the economy is faltering, Cryans confessed "I don't know what the magic answer is." He remembered when a group of young people in were asked how many intended to remain, only one raised his hand. Improved transportation infrastructure and Internet capability, he said are high priorities for the business communities.
"Government can do wonderful things," Cryans said, referring to public schools, senior centers , nursing homes and the programs and services that support individuals and anchor communities. "It's easy to spend the money where the people are," he said about the distribution of state investment. "But I will champion the people I think should be championed."