CONCORD, N.H. — Nearly 14 years after New Hampshire’s famed “Old Man of the Mountain” rock formation crumbled, its image endures on license plates, road signs and more. So, too, will the image of the man who led the state at the time, after the unveiling Thursday of former Gov. Craig Benson’s official portrait.

Benson, a Republican, served one term as governor from 2003 to 2005. A millionaire who built Cabletron Systems into the state’s largest employer, he promised to run the state like a business, but he ended up being the first governor in 78 years to be denied a second term.

On Thursday, former Republican Gov. Steve Merrill described Benson as an entrepreneur who championed innovation like no other governor, but who was humble enough to stand in Merrill’s kitchen soaked from rain and ask for his support.

“I said to my wife … Someone who would do that, someone of such stature who would come to our kitchen just to talk is going to win, and he’s going to change New Hampshire,” Merrill said. “Craig, you did both. Congratulations.”

The portrait depicts Benson in Representative’s Hall at the Statehouse, with an American flag as a backdrop.

“This country’s great for two reasons, and both of them are in that portrait,” Benson said. “One, we love this country. And two, we have people are willing to come to this very chamber, 400 of them, for no pay, and work to make this place a better place.”

The artist was Richard Whitney, who has painted seven other New Hampshire governors. He joked that Benson was so handsome, he couldn’t go wrong, but in an interview before the ceremony, said there were some challenges.

“Painting the flag so it was a secondary object that didn’t overwhelm the governor was a very difficult challenge,” he said. “I spent as much time on the flag as I did on the portrait.”

Whitney, however, is used to such challenges. He accompanied former Gov. Judd Gregg to the summits of Mount Washington and Wildcat Mountain for his portrait. Former Gov. John H. Sununu gave him three pages of instructions about his portrait, including that it show a computer screen displaying details of the state budget. That portrait also includes depictions of family photos of his eight children.

“I had to make an exact likeness of each one, so I spent more time on the painting of the photo behind him than on the rest of the portrait,” Whitney said.

Whitney could end up painting one of those children again – current Gov. Chris Sununu, who took office in January.

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