LACONIA — Richard "Dick" Breton, who passed away earlier this week, will be remembered as an effective public servant and avid motorcycle rider, who served as a commissioner at the Laconia Water Works for two decades as well as two stints as a city councilor.
"Dick was a key player," said Seth Nuttelman, superintendent of the Laconia Water Works. "Although the chairmanship of the commission generally rotates, he was a go-to guy throughout his tenure. He brought a lot of financial expertise to the commission and was a very structured man who always thought things through," he continued. "In his 20 years, we did a lot of stuff, including upgrading the treatment plant and replacing water mains."
Breton was a first elected to the City Council in 1971 and served for two terms. Three decades later, following the death of incumbent Fred Toll, he was one of seven candidates — Pat Wood, David Stamps, Scott Vachon, Pat Emanuel, Doris Makely and Diane Hanley were the other five — who applied to complete the unexpired term. At the time, the council was divided over a proposal to construct a new high school and middle school on Parade Road. Breton was the candidate of Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), who with councilors Judy Krahulec (Ward 1) and Jim Cowan (Ward 4) opposed the project. With the support of the three, Breton was appointed by a three-to-two vote.
Controversy erupted when Breton refused to resign from the Water Commission. Mayor Mark Fraser, after consulting the New Hampshire Attorney General, ruled if Breton could not hold both offices, but was overturned by the council. Wood then sued Breton, who ultimately resigned from the Water Commission.
As a city councilor Breton proposed holding a referendum on whether to build new schools at an estimated cost of $76-million or renovate old schools. Meanwhile, Councilor Rick Judkins (Ward 5), one of the two to oppose Breton's appointment, resigned. He was replaced by Bob Hamel, who has held the seat ever since, which confirmed the unassailable majority of those opposed to the construction of new schools. When his stormy term ended, Breton did not seek election, but instead returned to the Water Commission, where he served until July 2014.
"Dick was a good friend of mine for a long time," said Hamel, who recalled that they met in the early 1980s when his wife joined New Hampshire Savings Bank where Breton was a vice president and branch manager. The two shared an enthusiasm for motorcycles and often rode their Honda Gold Wings in tandem.
"Dick was a fixture at Dunkin' Donuts at 8 a.m. every fine Sunday for pick-up rides," he said. Breton was also a regular at the annual rallies in Daytona and at Lake George (Americade) as well as made several trips to Sturgis, South Dakota. Hamel said Breton also enjoyed parading his antique cars, a 1931 Ford Model A coupe and an old Buick to cruise nights at diners in the Lakes Region.
"Dick was a good friend and a very smart, open-hearted man who was a big part of this community," Hamel said.
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