CONCORD, N.H. (CBS) — Longtime New Hampshire State Rep. Richard “Dick” Hinch died suddenly Wednesday, just a week after being elected Speaker of the House.

Seventy-one-year-old Hinch, a Republican from Merrimack, was elected to his seventh term as a state representative in November. He had previously served as House Republican Leader (2018-2020), and House Majority Leader (2015-2018). Hinch was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and attended Salem State College. He served in the United States Navy from 1968-72.

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New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he was “profoundly sad” to learn of Rep. Hinch’s death. “Speaker Hinch was a fierce defender of the New Hampshire Advantage, a close friend, and a respected public servant. His loss will be greatly felt by the people of this state, and I ask Granite Staters to join me in praying for his family during this incredibly difficult time.”

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Sununu ordered all flags on public buildings and grounds to fly at half-staff Wednesday.

Former New Hampshire governor and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan said in a statement, “My prayers go out to the family of Speaker Dick Hinch, who honorably served our state as a long-time representative and our country as a petty officer in the Navy. I had the opportunity to work with him closely when I was Governor, including working together to enact a landmark settlement to improve mental health services and to increase funding for combating substance misuse. Serving in our legislature – and especially in leadership positions as Speaker Hinch did – requires tremendous effort, all in essentially a volunteer capacity. Speaker Hinch was deeply committed to this service, and I am grateful for all he gave to our state and our country. I join all Granite Staters in mourning his loss.”

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“Our thoughts and prayers are with Speaker Hinch’s family and loved ones during this heartbreaking time. Today, the New Hampshire Legislature lost one of our own. May we as his colleagues stand together and continue the important work of the people of New Hampshire. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife and family,” Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy said in a statement.