In this Jan. 3, 2022, file photo, Bill Gardner, center, announces he will step down as secretary of state during a news conference at the Statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire. From left are Senior Deputy Secretary of State Robert Ambrose, Gardner and Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan. Credit: Holly Ramer / AP

CONCORD, New Hampshire — New Hampshire has a new secretary of state for the first time in more than four decades.

David Scanlan was sworn in Monday to replace Bill Gardner, who stepped down after 45 years of overseeing elections, the state archives and other divisions. Scanlan had served as deputy secretary of state for 20 years and said he plans to seek election to a full term later this year.

“The public should know that the department of state in New Hampshire runs pretty smoothly, and I expect that is going to continue,” he said. “The same will be true with our elections.”

Gardner, 73, was first elected by the Legislature in 1976 and reelected to his 23rd two-year term in December 2020. He said last week that neither poor health nor politics played a role in his decision to retire, and that he was stepping down because it was a “smooth time” between election cycles.

As the nation’s longest serving secretary of state, Gardner staunchly guarded the New Hampshire primary’s first-in-the-nation position in the presidential nominating calendar via a state law that requires the state’s primary to be held at least seven days ahead of any similar contest, and gives the secretary of state exclusive authority to set the date.

In recent years, Gardner came under fire from fellow Democrats, however, for his participation in former President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud and for backing GOP legislation to tighten voter registration rules. Both he and Scanlan, a former Republican state representative, also have spoken out against the sweeping election bill being pushed by President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress.

Story by Holly Ramer.