Karen Liot Hill ’00 to seek 2024 Democratic nomination for second Executive Council district

The Lebanon City Councilor, At-Large is the first elected official to declare her candidacy for the race.

by Taylor Haber | 8/11/23 5:00am

Source: Courtesy of Karen Liot Hill

In an exclusive interview with The Dartmouth, Lebanon City Councilor, At-Large Karen Liot Hill ’00 said she will seek the 2024 Democratic nomination for the second Executive Council district — an advisory body for the governor. Liot Hill, who is the first elected official to declare her candidacy for the race, said she expects to make a formal announcement in September. 

Currently the longest-serving member of the Lebanon City Council, Liot Hill was first elected in 2005. She served as Lebanon’s mayor from 2008-2009 — a position elected internally by the City Council — and has concurrently served as Grafton County Treasurer since 2017.

“I am running for Executive Council because it is a really important role in New Hampshire, in terms of exercising oversight and accountability on behalf of taxpayers,” Liot Hill said. “It is an important role of being an advocate for your district … and [the second district] deserves to have all those communities represented at the table in Concord.”

The New Hampshire Executive Council is one of only two such advisory bodies in state governments nationwide, according to a primary source on the history of the Executive Council in New Hampshire. First enacted by King Charles II in 1679, the Executive Council has endured since the colonial era, advising the governor on budgetary matters exceeding $10,000, the decennial highway plan and judicial and executive appointments, among other issues. With a three-vote majority, the Executive Council is able to veto the governor on most matters, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

On June 1, the second district’s seat opened when Councilor Cinde Warmington, the sole Democrat in the chamber, announced her candidacy for the 2024 gubernatorial election. Republicans have held a 4-1 majority on the Council since 2021.

Liot Hill said she “is prepared to carry [Warmington’s] approach forward” as the lone progressive voice on the Council, while also emphasizing collaboration in the governing process. Though the Lebanon City Council is officially non-partisan, Liot Hill said she has forged partnerships in her current positions and is prepared to do so on the Executive Council.

“I have worked over the years with very staunch Republicans who I know voted differently from me in the federal elections,” Liot Hill said. “But where we’ve been able to find common ground on behalf of taxpayers [is] at the local level.”

Doug Whittlesey, Lebanon City Councilor for Ward 1, said Liot Hill “has a tremendous amount of experience,” especially with regard to government oversight of taxpayer dollars.

“Her ability to work with others and understand their perspectives and their positions, and being able to represent the group effectively, is such a critical skill for an Executive Councilor that I think that will be just a natural transition for her,” Whittlesey said.

Devin Wilkie, Lebanon City Councilor for Ward 2, said Liot Hill’s candidacy and her record as a “very strong proponent of Lebanon,” will be a voice for the entire Upper Valley.

“She has been a strong advocate for Lebanon, and I think she is going to try to make sure we are heard, and that New Hampshire is reminded pretty quickly that we in the Upper Valley are a strong contributor to New Hampshire,” Wilkie said.

Liot Hill said she uses the acronym CAR — Contracts, Appointments, Roads — to describe the Executive Council’s responsibilities in state government. A firm believer in the idea that “the biggest part of state government is health and human services,” Liot Hill signaled her support for funding reproductive healthcare contracts, which the Executive Council has cut in recent years. 

Liot Hill said she moved from New York to attend Dartmouth, where she majored in government and minored in education. While pursuing her honors thesis, Liot Hill said she studied public education systems in towns near the Connecticut River — an experience which she said led her to fall “in love with New Hampshire.”

“[I] knew this is where I was going to stay and raise my family,” she added. 

Liot Hill said her time at the College was “unconventional,” since her daughter, Marina, was born while Liot Hill was an undergraduate. 

“I like to say I graduated with honors in government and a three-year old,” Liot Hill said.

After graduation, Liot Hill said she stayed in the Upper Valley and worked as an event coordinator for the College during the 2003-2004 presidential primaries. During the election, Liot Hill said that a speech by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, then a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, convinced her to become further involved in politics.

“[Dean] said to his supporters, ‘Voting isn’t enough … you get an A if you run for office,’” Liot Hill said. “So that was in 2004, I was 25 [or] 26, and I said, ‘Alright, I want that A.’” 

That same year, Liot Hill said she served as campaign manager for four Democratic state representative candidates in Lebanon, all of whom were elected. Since 2004, Lebanon’s state house delegation has been entirely Democratic. The following year, Liot Hill ran for and won a seat on the Lebanon City Council.

Since taking office, Liot Hill said her government experiences, both at the local and county levels, have given her a perspective on how statewide decisions affect everyday Granite Staters.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years because I am really passionate about making the world a better place, and just making my community — or the area where I can have an impact — better over time,” Liot Hill said. “That’s really my driving force.”