Ted Gatsas would like to put the lessons he’s learned from a lifetime in both business and politics to work for all of New Hampshire.
Gatsas, currently Mayor of Manchester, stopped by the Nutfield Publishing office Tuesday, May 24 to discuss his upcoming run as a Republican candidate for Governor. He said he already knows his way around Concord, having served as a member of the New Hampshire Senate and as both President of the Senate and Minority Leader. Now he hopes to serve his state in a different office.
Gatsas graduated from Manchester’s Central High School and received a bachelor of science from University of New Hampshire Manchester. He ran Staffing Network with his brother Michael, and began his political rise with an election as alderman. He was elected to the Senate in 2000. He served his town and state concurrently, Gatsas said, noting, “For 10 years I had an election every year.”
He has served his home city as Mayor since 2009.
Gatsas said his experience – in business, on the state legislative side and as mayor of the state’s largest city – will help the state at large.
“I have opinions and I will tell you them,” Gatsas said. “We may not always agree.” He likes to cut through the small talk and get problems solved, Gatsas said.
And that’s what he said he did in Manchester. One of his goals was to reduce the cost of city government, and he found several economies that worked. In his administration, the city replaced 9,000 street lights with LED illumination. “That saved us $450,000 a year,” he said.
He also put municipal employees’ health care under a microscope, converting some plans to Health Savings Accounts. “The employees enjoy them and we’re saving money,” Gatsas said. “We should be looking at that at a state level.”
The casino issue is off the table for now, Gatsas said, and with one being built in Massachusetts, it won’t be back for a while. “It would not generate the revenue people think it will generate,” Gatsas said of expanded gambling.
If expanded gambling does go through, he warned that its revenues should not be used as part of the regular budget. “It might dry up,” he said. “Any money from gambling should be used for one-time expenditures.”
If elected, Gatsas said he will work to correct the “downshifting” of expenditures the state government has done, especially with retirement funding. “It’s going to cost $4 million in Manchester, and there aren’t a lot of buckets we can draw it from,” he observed. “And the burden is shifted to homeowners.”
He wants to look at expenses daily and reduce the cost and the size of government, using “synergies” he developed in Manchester. When he took office, he said, there were five different garages for five different city functions. He built a municipal complex with five garages under one roof.
“You buy X amount of tires, X amount of oil,” he said.
The basis for that is communication with department heads, so he can develop these economies, according to Gatsas. With regular communication, he hopes to deal with the issues that “don’t make sense” about the current state of the state. For example, “We have $20 million in surplus, and there are still disabled people on a waiting list.”
The cost of energy also affects his constituents. Gatsas said he has one condition for Northern Pass to go through: that 30 percent of the power generated stay in New Hampshire.
“We should have learned our lesson when we sold Seabrook,” he said of the nuclear power plant. “If we had 30 percent of that energy, we would not have a problem today.”
Gatsas said he is concerned about New Hampshire’s substance abuse epidemic, which he calls the “Fentanyl epidemic.” “We have got to make it more difficult for people to deal Fentanyl,” he said. “If you’re caught dealing, you should be arrested for attempted murder.”
Gatsas again pointed to Manchester, where he has implemented several measures to fight back against drugs, dealers and their victims. “We just implemented ‘Safe Stations,'” he said. “We have designated 10 fire stations as ‘safe stations.’ If you are looking for help, you go to one of them.”
He has instituted a 2-1-1 hotline staffed by Granite United Way. The state does have a drug hotline, Gatsas said, but it’s nine digits. People in crisis need “something that makes more sense,” he said.
And he’s pleased with what the private sector is doing, most recently the remodeling of the former Hoitt Furniture building. Developers Dick Anagnost and Andy Crews will convert the 37,000-square-foot facility on the corner of Valley and Wilson streets into a center for recovery services, with four nonprofits housed under its roof.
While Gatsas does not believe in throwing money at the problem, he said money is needed. But he wants to make sure it goes to the addicts, their families and their treatment, rather than to administration.
“We need to remove the stigma and find them help,” he said.
As mayor of the largest city in a small state, he already has a profile. On a recent swing through the North Country, he stopped in the Littleton Diner and found people already knew him. “These four guys in the corner saw me and they called, ‘Hey, Mayor, come over here,'” Gatsas recalled. At least one of them became part of his North Country campaign volunteers.