Dec 12, 2014 7:00 AM
New House Speaker Shawn Jasper's tough task: Picking his team
Brand new House Speaker Shawn Jasper had a daunting task.
How could he possibly build a leadership team 60 strong when only around 30 Republicans voted for him?
Jasper says the final lineup is a diverse mix of trusted friends and those who stayed loyal to main rival Bill O'Brien until the end.
"All I had to look for was the most talented and qualified people and I called them up and in 97 percent of the time they were right on board,'' Jasper told NH1.
Brookline Republican Jack Flanagan was in Jasper's inner circle helping to plot the bloodless coup that made Jasper speaker on the third ballot last month.
John Hunt of Rindge stuck with O'Brien but Jasper kept him on as House Commerce Chairman.
"I'm going to look for the best qualified people and that's what we have done here. Who is the best to lead the committees?'' Jasper asked rhetorically.
Rick Ladd of Haverhill nominated O'Brien on that fateful day but Jasper promoted him to lead House education policy. Neal Kurk epitomizes the old guard and was at O'Brien's side. but Jasper still trusts him to lead the House Finance Committee.
After 20 years in the House, Jasper already knows it makes a difference when the speaker is doing the asking.
"The reality is I've been around a long time and once the speaker is in place, everyone wants to be the speaker's friend,'' Jasper added.
The goal for new House Speaker Shawn Jasper was to show he'd moved on from the bitterness and had built a diverse team with not just his own supporters but also supporters of Bill O'Brien. He accomplished that task.
Others given new responsibilities that might be seen as rising stars include Kathleen Hoelzel, a Raymond Republican who will be chairman of the House Election Laws Committee. She has the leadership role of assistant House whip and will be reporting to Merrimack Republican Dick Hinch, a close Jasper insider who's clearly grown in stature under the new administration.
Others likely to step up are New London Republican Dave Kidder, who will head up policy on Fish and Game at a time when that agency faces a long-term financial crisis, and longtime Hollis moderator Jim Belanger will chair the House Municipal and County Government Committee.