By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Robert "Bob" Luther, a longtime city councilor and serving state representative who passed away at the age of 72 in his home on Saturday, once remarked, "You can swing the the pointer to liberal or conservative, but when it comes to me just stop in the middle where it says Laconia."
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in Rockland, Massachusetts, Luther spent the last 44 years of his life in the city, 36 of them as a public servant and elected official. After a tour of duty in the United States Navy and a stint as a mechanic with United Parcel Service, in 1973 he came to Laconia where he fulfilled what he called "my childhood dream" by joining the Police Department.
Six years later, he traded his shield in Laconia for one in Gilford, serving another eight years before leaving law enforcement to become a security supervisor at Lakes Region General Hospital, where he worked until retiring in 2009.
"Ninety percent of my experiences in police work were funny," Luther recalled. But, he was brought to tears when he was called to photograph a 4-year4old girl who was beaten to death by her babysitter. "When I took them to be developed," he said, "I told them not to look." But when he collected the prints "They were crying, and the next morning I sat outside the station and cried. The only time in 16 years of police work I ever cried."
Humor and humanity marked Luther's political career. He served seven consecutive terms on the City Council, representing Ward 2 from 1996 to 2009, when he moved to another ward and resigned his seat.
Mark Fraser, who as a councilor and mayor served with Luther for six terms, remembered him for championing the playgrounds throughout the city.
"It was his pet project," Fraser said, explaining that at Luther's initiative $25,000 was budgeted each year for 10 years to improve the playgrounds. At the same time, Luther sought to trim electricity charges by lopping 2 percent from the annual budget.
Jim Cowan, a contemporary on the City Council, remembered Luther as "not a person of a lot of words who was not in the headlines, but was very important on school votes," indicating that he was often an ally of the School Board. But, during a debate over the school district budget in 2009 Luther remarked "I'm not sure they have a sharp pencil, but I'll lend them one."
Luther could be a hard councilor to pin down. In 2005 , when the council was wrestling with proposals to build new schools on Parade Road and add a tax cap to the city charter he found himself on both sides of both issues. First he supported then opposed a referendum on the issue of schools then cast the deciding ballot to place the tax cap on the ballot. Speaking later at a candidate's forum he said not only that he was personally opposed to the measure but also was lobbying his wife to vote against it.
A man of few words, Luther often spouted them with wit. Fraser recalled recognizing an employee of the Department of Public Works for his 35 years of service at the annual Christmas luncheon and later honoring the same man as the employee of the year. "This is your second date," Luther called from the crowd. "You can give him a kiss now."
When the state of New Hampshire fell behind on the rent for the Laconia District Courthouse, Luther suggesting serving an eviction notice. "I've got a Saturday free to help them move," he added.
Despite his reticence and penchant for one-liners, whenever the council was faced with an ordinance or resolution, which was required to be read aloud in its entirety, Luther readily accepted the task.
In 2009, after leaving the council, Luther announced for mayor, only to find Mike Seymour, the popular chairman of the school board, follow close on his heels.
"My only problem is that now I'm going to have to buy signs," said Luther, who took little more than a third of the vote.
Undaunted, a year later Luther ran for the New Hampshire House of Representatives and was easily elected, joining the Republican majority that held nearly 300 of the 400 seats. He was re-elected in 2012 and 2014.