Two years ago, I ran for an elected position that has no responsibilities: Register of Probate (ROP). I could not resist the opportunity. I even managed to win. And now, I am running for re-election.
Just to recap, every county has a ROP. Their job was intended to help people navigate the court system with disputed wills and estates, guardianships, and name changes. In 2011, the legislature voted to put the county court employees in charge of the probate process. The ROP remains on our ballots because it is part of the New Hampshire Constitution. To get ROP removed from our ballots would take a constitutional amendment. Until then, every elected ROP gets an official title and $100 for filling a symbolic position.
When I ran in 2018, I put out a survey asking voters to weigh in on what should happen to the office of ROP.
The survey results were split 50/50 between restoring the office of ROP to its former duties or eliminating the position entirely. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
After I won the election, I sat down with several constituents to hear why they feel that it is important to restore the position. I spoke with a mother who maintains legal guardianship of her adult son. I spoke to a mental health professional and some of his clients about their guardianship issues with Probate Court. All of them felt the process would be smoother if they had someone acting on their behalf. I also spoke with a legal assistant and two lawyers who find the new automated probate system confusing.
In 2019, a bipartisan bill to restore the position was introduced to the House Judiciary Committee. I submitted the feedback that I had gathered from my constituents. The bill did not pass. This is not the first time a bill to restore the position has failed.
I’ve also used the office as a platform to talk about issues that affect Granite Staters and to promote solutions.
For the last three years, I have done my part to fight the opioid crisis. In 2017, I championed a law that allows lay practitioners to practice ear acupuncture as certified Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists. This makes it possible for people to take charge of their health, and for every city and town to bring affordable non-pharmacological stress reduction techniques into their communities. The Governor’s Recovery Task Force endorsed the expansion of ear acupuncture services and The Manchester Alderman approved funding for ear acupuncture training.
At a conference in April 2019, I met with Arizona Magistrate Judge, Chuck Pyle, who advocates for the inclusion of ear acupuncture in our criminal justice system. This allows for violence reduction, integration of trauma, and building resilience, as opposed to punishment and shaming, which do not prove to be effective.
Judge Pyle and I are both inspired by the work of New York psychiatrist and addictions specialist, Dr. Mike Smith, who pioneered the use of ear acupuncture in behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment. Dr. Smith also designed model drug courts with ear acupuncture at the center.
Last fall, I trained with Dr. Tom Corbin, who ran the very successful drug court acupuncture program in Broward County, Florida. New Hampshire is in a great position to add ear acupuncture to its drug court program.
So, why am I running for re-election to a position that has no responsibilities? It’s a way to stay engaged with my community, especially during a pandemic.
Elizabeth Ropp is an acupuncturist in Manchester and running for reelection as Hillsborough County Register of Probate as a Democrat. She lives with her husband, Eric, and her two cats, Annie and Sophia. She drinks a lot of coffee and tries to make a difference. If you have any questions, please feel free to connect through her Facebook page.