By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The contest for the Belknap County District 3 Commission seat between Commissioner Hunter Taylor of Alton and Jonathan Smolin of Alton for the Republican nomination for a two-year term is one of the most closely watched in the county.
Taylor, who was appointed by a unanimous vote of the County Delegation to fill the position of County Commissioner for District 3, representing Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford and Meredith, following the resignation of Steve Nedeau in December 2014, said he is proud of the achievements of the commission over the past 18 months and would like to continue to work with Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) to bring effective, transparent and fiscally responsible solutions to county problems.
He is a retired attorney who had a private practice in New Jersey and has taught at the University of Georgia and Rutgers University law schools and moved to Alton following his retirement in 2010. While in New Jersey, he served as a school board member for nine years; and four years, three as chairman, of a land use board in Mount Holly.
Smolin, a surgical assistant at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, said he will bring significant private business experience to the commission and is concerned about keeping the services provided by county government affordable. He said he originally was a mechanical engineer who built race cars and exotic cars in New York and started a second career in the medical field after graduating from the Maine Medical School of Surgical Technology in Portland, Maine in 1997. He and his wife and two sons moved to Alton in 2005.
He started several businesses and served as director for a year (2012-13) of the Satler School for Nursing in Manchester, where he said he also was chairman of the surgical technology program, but decided to return to the operating room several years ago.
Smolin ran for governor in the 2014 Republican primary, finishing fourth with 2,620 votes, a little over 2 percent of the total votes cast. During his campaign, he said he was opposed to both a personal income and general sales tax and would follow the lead of Colorado by legalizing the use of marijuana as well as open the state to casino gambling.
He also said that he would eliminate Common Core from the public school system and empower local school districts to determine the appropriate curriculum and testing for their students.
Smolin has said that the programs advocated by Taylor could lead to an unwarranted expansion of human services which would outpace the county's ability to pay and cited a lack of support for Taylor's campaign by county legislators as reasons why people should look at supporting him.
Taylor said the new community corrections center and renovations to the existing jail, both of which are both scheduled for completion before the end of 2017, are among the accomplishments he is most proud of. He says that previous commissioners were looking at a $42.6 million facility and the cost of the one under construction will be less than $8 million.
Taylor also pointed to the savings realized in reduced health insurance costs of nearly $200,000 achieved through collective bargaining agreements with three of the four county unions. He headed the county team that negotiated the three collective bargaining agreements.
He said the major issues facing Belknap County in the foreseeable future include not only substance abuse and related problems, but also the rapidly aging population of the county. He noted that in addition to the costs related to the operation of the Belknap County Nursing Home, the county now pays a little over $6 million annually for senior care to fund the non-federal share of Medicaid benefits for long-term care of needy seniors who are Belknap County residents.
"It is crucial to better and more affordably serve the needs of our needy seniors," said Taylor. "We need programs that allow them to live in their homes longer. Such programs would be a win for the seniors and a win for the taxpayers. These programs need to be developed now before we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis."
Taylor said he has clashed with members of the County Delegation over priorities for the county and said his advocacy on behalf of outside agencies, whose funding was cut by the delegation, has no doubt cost him the support of some of those legislators. But he said those agencies provide services which are critical to the county and should be funded.
Smolin, whose campaign has been aided by George Hurt (R-Gilford), who is not seeking re-election, has also been endorsed by Rep., Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) and District Two County Commission candidate Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton)
Taylor has been endorsed by fellow commissioner DeVoy, and most recently was endorsed by a candidate for the legislature from Gilford, who attended a meeting in Gilford in early July along with other candidates for legislative seats from Gilford and Meredith which Smolin attended and at which a joint advertising venture of the candidates and Smolin was discussed.
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