The Speaker of the New Hampshire House is looking to put down his gavel to lead the state’s agriculture department. Although it may be an unusual career move, Speaker Shawn Jasper says he’s been eyeing the commissioner's job for a while.
Jasper grew up in a family of poultry farmers. His grandfather and father bred chickens for nearly 75 years in Hudson - producing more than 160 million eggs.
Jasper says he’s continued to keep up on agriculture issues over the years through the legislature and as a nearly 30-year advisor to UNH's agriculture fraternity.
“It’s been a passion of mine – it’s my roots, my heritage," Jasper said. "It’s difficult for me to leave this position because obviously being Speaker is a tremendous honor – this is another opportunity, one that won’t come around again.”
Gov. Chris Sununu announced Thursday his support for Jasper as agriculture commissioner. Jasper says he will remain in the Speaker's job until he’s confirmed as commissioner, which he’s hoping will happen late next month. If he gets the job, the House will elect a new speaker at the end of November.
Deputy Speaker Gene Chandler of Bartlett is among those interested in the role. Rep. Laurie Sanborn, a founder of the business caucus in the House, announced she will run for Speaker. In a statement, Sanborn criticized Jasper's tenure, specifically the defeat of right-to-work legislation and the House inability to pass its version of a state budget bill five months ago.
"It is time we have strong conservative leadership in the Speaker's well once again," she said. "I have watched as divisiveness and backroom deals have ruled the day and I aim to put an end to the political games playing out in Concord."
Rep. John Burt, a Republican from Goffstown announced he is also in the race. And while Democrats are in the minority by 49 seats, House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff of Concord says he will again seek his party's nomination for the job.