In a scenario that was reminiscent of his earlier rise as Speaker of the House, Republican Shawn Jasper narrowly squeaked through as New Hampshire’s new agriculture commissioner — thanks to support from the opposite party.
When Jasper was elected Speaker in 2014, House Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans to secure his nomination. On Wednesday, the Executive Council's two Democrats also joined with one Republican to confirm Jasper as agriculture commissioner.
Democratic Councilors Andy Volinsky and Chris Pappas joined Republican Russ Prescott to approve Jasper’s confirmation. The two other Republicans on the council, David Wheeler and Joseph Kenney, were opposed.
The two Republican councilors opposing Jasper said they had doubts about his depth of agricultural knowledge and experience.
Kenney said he heard from farmers in Groveton, Ossipee and all across his district who felt Jasper wasn’t qualified for the position.
Among the qualifications offered by Jasper is that he worked on his family’s poultry farm as a child and has served as an adviser to the University of New Hampshire’s agriculture fraternity.
“He’s very good at policy, he’s very good at management, he’s very good at the things that you would want if you were going into a public hearing – but I would prefer someone who is actually a practitioner of farming,” Kenney said.
Wheeler had other concerns, too.
“What is more troubling to me is taking a Speaker of the House in the middle of the term and appointing him as a commissioner,” Wheeler said.
From here, Jasper will relinquish the speaker’s gavel at 9:59 a.m. on Nov. 30. An election to pick his successor is scheduled for 10 a.m. the same day.