With his announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2014 Ray Burton's career as an elected official is coming to an end. Daniel Webster once wrote, "What a man does for others, not what they do for him, gives him immortality."
I saw Ray not too long ago. We had a nice visit as we reminisced on times gone by and talked about things to come. I enjoyed our brief talk and left his presence feeling the same way I have always felt after spending time with him. I was encouraged, upbeat, more enlightened and more hopeful for a better tomorrow than I was before our visit.
What is it about Raymond S. Burton that inspires people in such a way? The answer could be found by looking at the body of work that he has produced over 45 years of public service.
Ray Burton was born and raised, and still lives in Bath. He graduated from Woodsville High School in 1958 and next went on to Plymouth State College, where he earned a bachelor of education in 1962. He taught in public schools in both Andover and Warren. It was not long before he turned his attention to politics. It quickly became evident that his passion and his talents were well suited for government service. In 1977, Ray was first elected to the executive council where he has served with fidelity and honor for 34 of the last 36 years. During that time the people of District 1 have been the beneficiaries of his hard work and dedication. The fact of the matter is that the entire population of the Granite State has reaped the rewards championed and promoted by Councilor Burton.
Ray also serves the people as a Grafton County Commissioner. A post he has held for the past 22 years.
One thing that cannot be emphasized enough is that Ray Burton, as a native of New Hampshire who has lived his entire life in the northern region of this state, has a deep and true understanding of the lifestyle and character of Northern New Hampshire residents. During his time as an executive councilor, officials who head the government agencies in Concord, governors from Meldrim Thomson to Maggie Hassan, legislators, judges and all others were and are made aware that there exists a New Hampshire north of Concord. Ray often encourages all of them to "start looking out their northern windows."
One initiative that Ray began was his student intern program. Over the past 36 years scores of young women and young men have reaped the unique advantages of being close to the action of government by gaining practical experience that only Ray Burton could provide.
I remember in 1986 I was serving District 2 in the state Senate and Ray Burton, of course, was the executive councilor that included my senate district. We both represented Plymouth which is home to Plymouth State University (in 1986 it was Plymouth State College). It was in the spring of the year and after a few days of heavy rain the Pemigewassett River flooded its banks resulting in the displacement of many inhabitants who had homes along the river.
The need for food and shelter was real and it was immediate. Ray in his gentlemanly, yet insistent manner cleared the way so that the State's Civil Defense Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, State Police and the administration of Plymouth State College could muster their resources in order to provide the help and relief needed by the people affected by the flood.
I recall at that time listening to Ray advise me that if you put good and capable professional people in the positions of leading agencies and departments, provide them with the necessary resources and then stay out their way, good results are best assured.
Ray has never been an ideologue. He acts and votes in a manner that he believes will be for the best for the people. As a lifelong Republican Ray Burton has a way of avoiding, or ignoring, the partisan skirmishes that from time to time plague the political landscape. His votes are not partisan, his votes are well thought out, inclusive, wise, benign and constructive. Ray has never allowed politics to get in the way of helping people. His fingerprints are on the much of the positive progress we the people enjoy today.
It has been said the difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician is concerned about the next election, while a statesman is concerned for the next generation. Ray Burton is clearly a statesman. The good that he has done on behalf of countless others assures that he will be remembered for a long, long time.
Mark Hounsell served in the NH State Senate from 1985 to 1988.