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N.H. Political Races Down Ballot: What Does A County Commissioner Do?

Register to vote sign outside of Manchester city hall.
Dan Tuohy; NHPR

New Hampshire voters will choose a number of local political leaders, from county officers to state reps, on Nov. 3.

Every Friday leading up to the election on Weekly N.H. News Roundup, we talk about one of these down-ballot offices, from what powers they hold, to how they impact your daily life.

We talked with Paul Bergeron, current county commissioner in Hillsborough, who is not running for re-election this year, about this office. 

County commissioner in brief: The executive board of a county, in charge of county finances and policy.

In this capacity, they oversee corrections, including the sheriff’s office and county attorney’s office, as well as the register of deeds’ office, and long term care facilities. They also manage county buildings, land, and personnel, including all county employees.

This interview was edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full episode of The Exchange here.

What does the county commissioner do?

Paul Bergeron: Every county operates a little bit differently. In Hillsborough County, under our umbrella, is the Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown. It’s a 300 bed nursing home in Goffstown New Hampshire.

Also under our umbrella is the Department of Corrections, with the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, where all county people are held pending trial, and some post trial. Also under us is the sheriff’s department, the registry of deeds, and the county attorney’s office.

In addition to that, we do provide financial assistance to a number of other organizations in New Hampshire. To name just a few: the UNH Cooperative Extension, the Meals on Wheels program in Hillsborough County, and Waypoint.

Is this a very partisan position?

Paul Bergeron: It absolutely is not… We are responsible primarily for the people and the residents under our care, which is close to three hundred people when we’re at capacity at our nursing home, most of whom are Medicare and Medicaid patients, all though we do have some private pay, and then people are being held at the Department of Corrections in Manchester.

So we primarily are just looking to do the right thing most of the time.

Is the role of county commissioner often a launching pad for a bigger elected position?

Paul Bergeron: Well, it depends on how you look at it. Some people say that it’s been, generally, in many instances, people who have been state representatives and folks that had served in the Statehouse [then] end up going to county government.

Christina joined the Civics 101 team in 2021. Previously, she worked on The Exchange, NHPR's flagship live news talk program, where she produced shows on topics including healthcare, social services, politics, and breaking news. She grew up all over the country, but considers New Hampshire her home base.

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