Wednesday marked another career milestone for New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who sailed without opposition into a 23rd term, upholding his position as the longest-serving Secretary of State in the nation.
The moment stood in sharp contrast to the start of Gardner's most recent term, when he just barely fended off a challenge from former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern.
Joining the Legislature for an unprecedented outdoor Organization Day, held on an athletic field at the University of New Hampshire to accommodate concerns about COVID-19, Gardner started off his latest term by asked the newly seated lawmakers to appreciate the historical significance of the task ahead.
“You’ll have something for your children, your grandchildren, that you’re going to remember and pass onto them,” Gardner said. “At a time when there were a lot of struggles, a lot of anxiety, a lot of disagreement, but we’re getting through it. And it’s going to be up to all of you to do your share as part of that and honor the great state that all our voters have honored, and have chosen you to represent them in this biennium.”
The day also marked something of a homecoming for Gardner, who accepted his latest re-election on the same campus he graduated from in 1970 — just six years before he was first elected Secretary of State.
Among those nominating Gardner for re-election was his former UNH classmate, Rep. Ned Gordon. Gordon praised Gardner's handling of state elections amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, in part based on his personal experience as a local election official.
“It would be easy to think that someone who has been in Bill Gardner's position for 44 years would become stale or complacent," Gordon said. "However, I can tell you as a moderator, that is not my experience with Bill Gardner. He has never been more involved and active in making sure that our elections are fair and efficient than he has been in the last two years.”
Also among Gardner’s nominators was his former high school civics teacher and longtime State House ally, Manchester Sen. Lou D’Allessandro. According to D’Allessandro, at least one of Gardner’s former UNH professors was also on hand for the occasion, “so we cover all the bases in terms of education.”