Mike Cryans, the Democratic candidate for the 1st District Executive Council seat, attended a meeting of the SEA’s Political Education Committee on Monday to introduce himself and answer members’ questions.
There is a Republican primary next Tuesday, Jan. 21 (you can read more about the candidates here), and the winner of that will face Cryans in the March 11 special election.
Cryans long served alongside the late Ray Burton — who held the 1st District Council seat until his death last year — on the Grafton County Commission. He said the two developed a close friendship in the 16 years they served together on the commission.
“I like the relationship we had, because it was a Democrat and a Republican who proved that party lines don’t always make the difference,” Cryans said. “A lot of times, it’s how you view things. Our view was to get things done.”
The father of two said he’s spent most of his life, except for his college years, living in Littleton, Bethlehem and Hanover, where he lives now with his wife and youngest son. Cryans said he’s driven to do well, something that will serve him well if he’s elected.
“I’m not trying to fill Ray Burton’s shoes, I’m just trying to do the best I can do,” he said. “I will try to do the very best I can if I’m elected.”
Cryans pointed to his time on the Grafton County Commission as an example of what he’d do on the Executive Council.
“During my time at Grafton County, we’ve treated our employees very well,” he said. “I view the employee as the backbone of our operation — they’re the ones who make it work.”
“Obviously, there are all these issues pressing on everyone … retirement, health insurance … but when you look at it, the employee is the one who keeps things going,” Cryans said. “I’ve always been a strong believer in a strong working environment.”
He pointed to the Grafton County jail, which was replaced and eventually torn down, as an unfit working environment.
“We thought it was unconscionable to have not just inmates but employees in that environment,” he said, noting that extreme cold and heat could make being in the building torturous. “We tore it down when it was all over, because I didn’t want to see something put back in there. It would be unfair for me, as someone with decision-making power, to say ‘it’s not good enough for this, let’s try to make it something it isn’t.”
The site of the prison has been leveled off and is now Ray Burton Park.
SEA Director Cheryl Towne, who works at the Glencliff Home, attended the meeting via Skype and said the next executive councilor’s accessibility is very important for her.
“One of the great things about Ray was we could email him, call him, and he got back to us — the guy was incredible,” she said. “I want to know how us, as the little people, are going to be able to get a hold of you.”
Cryans said he could only hope and try to be as accessible as Burton was.
“I don’t know that anyone can be as accessible as Ray — I have a phone, email — but he was remarkable,” Cryans said.
Towne also expressed concern that Glencliff would be forgotten or targeted for closure now that Burton was gone, and Cryans did his best to reassure her.
“First of all, Cheryl, I’ve probably been to Glencliff with Ray about a dozen times,” he said. “I would say, if you weren’t there, where would the patients go? I learned a lot from Ray, but one thing was the tremendous respect he had for your operation.”
Cryans said that on the Executive Council, he would be open to hearing all points of view before making a decision.
“I’m not going into this having an answer for every issue,” he said. “My philosophy is that sometimes, you need to step back and listen, be open and receptive and not say right off the bat, ‘I know how I’m going to vote on that.’ I’m certainly not a ‘no’ voter. If you want somebody who’s going to say ‘no’ on everything, I’m not your guy.”
You can read more about Cryans on his website, www.mikecryans.org.