Wopinski '15 elected register of probate

by Lucia McGloin | 11/10/14 6:25pm

In 2012, Paul Finkelstein ’13 ran for Grafton County sheriff and lost. This Election Day, Michael Wopinski ’15 fared better, and was appointed to Grafton County register of probate.

When he went to vote early last Tuesday morning, Sam Todd ’15 saw no listed candidates for the office of register of probate.

“Mick Wopinski was the first person that came to mind,” Todd said.

He said that he galvanized support for Wopinski’s impromptu candidacy by talking to fellow members of Alpha Delta fraternity, who had already planned to go to the polls.

Wopinski received 20 of the 95 write-in votes cast for the position, according to results provided by Betsy McClain, Hanover’s Director of Administrative Services. Other candidates included Keggy the Kegger, College President Phil Hanlon, Saaheb Sidana ’16 and Spencer Blair ’17.

Blair is a member of The Dartmouth’s opinion staff.

No one opted to run for the position of register of probate, a “largely ceremonial” role, Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said.

The Ciruit Court Probate Division presides over wills, estates, adoptions and similar matters. Representatives from the offices of the New Hampshire Secretary of State, County Administrator and state Judicial Branch said they did not know any details about the register of probate’s responsibilities.

Max Parker ’17, who voted for Wopinski, said he would vote for Wopinkski “no matter the position” because of his leadership on the rugby team and contributions to the Dartmouth community.

Todd attributed much of Wopinski’s success to the solidarity of AD.

“The house is a vehicle to accomplish goals, whatever they may be,” he said. “Mick’s election shows that when we are united, we have the power to effect real change.”

He said that although the position of register of probate may not entail significant responsibilities, his quick political success has larger implications for student participation in local politics.

“The election showed me the importance of every vote in elections,” Wopinski said. “Everyone has the possibility to make a difference.”

Wopinski, a double major in economics and Russian, said the position might be more suited to a student with greater interest in government.

“There are so many Dartmouth students interested in politics at a national scale, that we forget about smaller levels of government where they can potentially be involved,” he said.

Wopinski, who will move to New York after graduation, said he has not yet determined if he will accept the position. Residing outside the county for 30 days would make him forfeit the position, the Valley News reported.

The position pays $100 per year. It was a full-time job until the state reorganized county courts in 2011. The probate courts merged with the district and family courts, saving the judicial branch around $900,000 in annual salaries for the state’s 10 probate registers, the Concord Monitor reported.

Wopinski is not the first Dartmouth student to run for local office.

In 2012, Finkelstein campaigned for Grafton County sheriff. He said that about a week before the elections, he went to Hanover’s town hall with friends from his fraternity, Alpha Chi Alpha, and decided that the incumbent sheriff “needed a challenge.”

He said that he was not surprised to lose, but was impressed by the 140 votes he received after just a week of campaigning as a write-in candidate.

“Dartmouth is a major hub of the Upper Valley and it is great for students to get involved in local government,” Finkelstein said.

In 2008, Vanessa Sievers ’10 ran as a Democrat to beat Republican incumbent Carol Elliott for Grafton County treasurer, winning by 586 votes.

After Sievers missed three monthly meetings, however, lawmakers called for her resignation. Sievers apologized to the county’s Executive Committee, but finished her term in office, the Valley News reported. Sievers could not be reached for comment by press time.

Institute of Writing and Rhetoric professors Richard Abel, a Democrat representing Lebanon, and Wendy Piper, a Democrat of Enfield, were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Abel said that after a career of teaching leadership studies, he wanted to put those ideas into practice. He said he is interested in raising the minimum wage and supporting education and social programs.

“It is an opportunity to connect the Dartmouth community to the legislature,” he said.

Piper has served as a state representative since her election in 2012. She did not respond to requests for comment by press time.