Azarian resigns from House

Gary Azarian.

SALEM, N.H. — Longtime politician and businessman Gary Azarian resigned suddenly from the New Hampshire House of Representatives Wednesday and will be required to step down from the Board of Selectmen after selling his home one year into his board term. 

"It was my hope and intention to finish this term and not seek re-election in November. However, a strong real estate market in the southern tier has allowed us to liquidate our assets in Salem quicker than anticipated, leaving me without a domicile and accelerating our long-range plans," Azarian wrote in a letter read aloud during Thursday's House session, at which he was not present. 

State law requires elected officials have a residence in New Hampshire. The Eagle-Tribune was unable to verify if Azarian had formally resigned from the Board of Selectmen at press time. Town Manager Chris Dillon did not respond to a request for comment.

The timing of Azarian's departure means that neither his selectman seat nor his house seat will be filled through an election in the near future. 

The Salem native was elected to his first three-year term on the Board of Selectmen last March. He was also in the midst of his third term in the state Legislature, from which he briefly resigned in 2014. 

Had Azarian given his resignation last week, his board position could have been filled during next month's town meeting election, according to the New Hampshire Municipal Association. At this point, Azarian's seat cannot be added to the March ballot. 

It is not clear when Azarian's home was put up for sale. He did not respond to requests for comment by press time. 

The former Republican lawmaker's resignation also leaves a third vacancy in Salem's legislative contingent. 

In the last six months, the town has lost both late Rep. Ronald Belanger and Rep. Fred Doucette, who resigned in November to take a federal job in Massachusetts. 

"It's unfortunate that Rep. Azarian, after stressing how well represented voters were with the remainder of the delegation, was unable to participate fully in the House for much of this year," said Salem resident and former state representative candidate Carla Billingham.

His seat on the Board of Selectmen will be filled by appointment. Vacancies created during the year are required to be filled within forty-five days, according to the town's bylaws.

The town is not required to fill any legislative seat left suddenly vacant before a general election. The deadline for holding a special election is March 15, with a notice of the open office having been posted at least 100 days prior to the primary. 

Holding a primary and special election costs between $20,000 and $30,000, according to Salem officials. 

The Board of Selectmen — including Azarian — declined to hold a special election to fill Belanger's seat after his death in July 2017.

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