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N.H. councilor Burton honored at overlook ceremony

BRETTON WOODS, N.H. — A new overlook with views of Mount Washington and surrounding peaks was dedicated Friday to ailing Executive Councilor Ray Burton, with several hundred people crowded into a tent erected for a rainstorm that gave way to sunshine just before the ceremony began.

The dedication was a who’s who of New Hampshire’s present and past political leaders gathered to honor Burton’s decades of service. Both of New Hampshire’s US senators, former US representative Charles Bass, former governors John Lynch and John H. Sununu, plus present and former executive councilors and lawmakers attended.

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They flocked to shake Burton’s hand and hug him as he arrived at the Mount Washington Hotel for a brief and special Executive Council meeting to accept a portrait that Burton donated to the state. The five-member council approves most state contracts and judicial and other nominations.

‘‘I’m holding court,’’ Burton joked, then took over the meeting by introducing various dignitaries and asking if they wanted to speak.

‘‘Going through the past year of 2013 has made me fully aware how important health is,’’ he said, alluding to his declining health. The 74-year-old announced recently that his kidney cancer had returned and he would not run again.

His peers on the council would not let what could be one of their last meetings together end without paying tribute to his dedication to the North Country.

‘‘In public service, you are the gold standard,’’ said Executive Councilor Christopher Pappas.

US Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen praised his dedication to service, prompting Burton to interject: ‘‘Anyone else from the congressional delegation here I can lobby today?’’

Burton rode from the hotel to the overlook ceremony in his ‘‘parade car,’’ a 1975 yellow Oldsmobile Delta 88, with Governor Maggie Hassan. Hassan said Burton, who is known for working for his constituents, lobbied her for several appointments on the way over.

Dozens of people lined the entry to the overlook with ‘‘Burton for Certain, Thank You Ray’’ signs, in a reference to one of his campaign slogans.

Hassan said she told Burton he had always worked to bring people together in his long life of public service.

‘‘Thank you for making your life’s work, the people’s work,’’ she said.

Lynch said Burton knew very well that ‘‘all elected officials report to the people, not the other way around.’’

Burton was elected to his first term in 1977 and, aside from a two-year absence early on, has served ever since. He said he has served under 10 governors.

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