County attorney chosen

MANCHESTER – Assistant Attorney General Marguerite Wageling became Hillsborough County’s new top prosecutor, taking the oath of office just minutes after winning a special election.

After swearing in Wageling, Judge James Barry welcomed her to the post of county attorney: “Be prepared and be on time.”

Wageling said she would have to work out a transition with the attorney general’s office, where she directs the investigations of licensed professionals, to step into her new post.

“I do need to be here full speed as soon as I can,” Wageling said as she accepted congratulations from local legislators.

Wageling replaces John Coughlin, who resigned when his N.H. Army National Guard detachment was activated for an assignment in Iraq.

The county attorney is responsible for the operation of four offices, 21 assistant county attorneys, five victim advocates and 15 administrative staff. It has an annual budget of about $3 million. It also is the source of legal information for the police departments in the county.

The Hillsborough County legislative delegation appointed Wageling as Coughlin’s replacement.

Wageling was not the favored candidate originally. A steering committee of delegation members screened the six candidates before Tuesday’s vote and the committee leaned toward Kerry Steckowych, a prosecutor for the Goffstown Police Department. But members of the committee said the recommendation was not binding.

The 80 members of the legislative delegation looked elsewhere.

Wageling won on the second ballot. The vote was 44-36 in a secret ballot.

While committee members said the candidates were not polled about their party affiliation, Wageling is a Republican. Coughlin, also a Republican, won the post in 2002. Wageling said she would run for the seat in November.

During her five-minute speech to legislators a the Hillsborough County Courthouse on Tuesday night, Wageling said she was wanted the job because members of the county attorney’s office, along with police chiefs and members of the legal profession, asked her to become a candidate for the position.

“I have a passion for the work,” she said.

Wageling, who worked in the Hillsborough County attorney’s office for 15 years, said the office is a fast paced environment and the county residents should not have to rely on a novice to prosecute crimes.

During her long stint, Wageling prosecuted nearly 120 felony cases annually from arsons to negligent homicides, assisted local police departments and served as the staff attorney in cases against alleged child abusers.

“I know the county. I know the job,” she said.

County Sheriff Jim Hardy, who lobbied for Steckowych, said, “We had some excellent candidates for the appointment. She’s a seasoned professional. She’ll do a fine job.”

Wageling, 46, and her husband, Mark, live in Manchester with their two children. She also serves on the Zoning Board of Adjustment in Manchester

Other candidates for the position were Andrew Ouellette of Amherst, a prosecutor in the county attorney’s office; Kate Dyer of Lexington, Mass., a former district court prosecutor; Henry Spaloss, a Nashua attorney; and Dennis Hogan, a Nashua attorney.

Andrew Nelson can be reached at 594-6415 and