CONCORD, N.H. -- Harry Descoteau, the New Hampshire State Retirement System's first executive secretary, died July 28 of cancer.
Mr. Descoteau, who was 64, was in charge of daily operations of the $4.2 billion retirement system, which pays pensions to retired teachers, police officers, fire fighters and state employees, as well as some municipal retirees.
Maurice Denault, deputy executive secretary, who was hired by Mr. Descoteau as his assistant in 1969, said he considered Mr. Descoteau a friend.
"He was apolitical," Mr. Denault said. "He ran the system in a very fair and consistent manner."
J.P. Singh, director of finance, worked closely with Mr. Descoteau for six years.
"He was a real professional who was open minded and respected your views," Mr. Singh said. "I will remember the way we used to take a certain issue and discuss all of the different aspects of the situation and come up with a final decision."
Mr. Descoteau began his career with the state government over 35 years ago as an accountant. He soon was appointed New Hampshire's first assistant state treasurer and was chosen to administer the state's pension fund in 1967, when the state merged four retirement systems. In 1977, the Legislature made the retirement system a separate component of state government and Mr. Descoteau was made its first executive secretary.
Because Mr. Descoteau had planned to retire Nov. 1, the system trustees began searching for his replacement in May, Mr. Denault said.
"We haven't interviewed anyone," said Ed Theobald, chairman of the board of trustees. "We are now in the process of evaluating applications that have come in."
Mr. Theobald, who worked with Mr. Descoteau for two years, said he was an amicable and responsive man who was interested in all trustee issues.
"He was (with the system) when the fund only had a few million and it's too bad he didn't get to enjoy the retirement plan he worked so hard for," Mr. Theobald said. "There is going to be a big void to fill. We can replace him but we can't duplicate him."