The Hippo


Oct 22, 2019








What are you really into right now?
Well I’ve never seen a plane ticket I didn’t like. … I love to travel. 

Citizen of the year
Presidential speechwriter turned local leader

By Ryan Lessard

 How did the Chamber surprise you with the award?

I always go to the Chamber annual dinner and have for 27 years, so off I went. I called my husband and said, ‘I forgot, it was the chamber annual dinner. I won’t be home for dinner.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ve got some painting to do. I’ll see you when you get home.’ So I had no idea. ... One daughter flew in from New Mexico and she has two small children and a husband who’s a neurosurgeon, so to see her there was a major shock. … And then another daughter came in from New York, and my son came in from Washington.
You’ve filled a number of interesting leadership roles over the years. What has had the biggest impact on you?
Moving from Washington, D.C., to Concord, New Hampshire [in 1991], because I did a lot of volunteer work in Washington and was active, but not anywhere as active as I’ve been since I’ve been in New Hampshire. The nice thing about being in New Hampshire is you really can roll up your sleeves and get involved. You can actually raise your hand and say, ‘I’m really interested in your organization. I’d like to get involved.’ And people are very open and welcoming and they let you … participate. You can make a difference here, whereas you can make a difference in other places but it may not be quite as easy.
What personal strengths do you think you bring to the table? 
I think I just work hard. I think … I like to get the job done, I like to succeed, I like to accomplish whatever the goal may be. And so, I try, in doing that, to look at multiple solutions to a problem. I don’t think every situation, every goal has only one path, so I like to look as diversely as I can to solve a problem. And I love solving problems or meeting goals. 
How did your start as a media writer and presidential speechwriter prepare you for your future leadership positions?
I was privileged to work … for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan ... and was able to watch how, and in totally different ways, they were able to accomplish some really pretty significant policy issues for the country. … It was really incredible at a young age to be able to watch how leaders really worked and worked in different capacities. … I grew up in a small town … and then went to Washington and was just fascinated by ending up where I did and being able to watch — obviously, in the Nixon administration — a very … historic, extraordinary situation. And it was fascinating to see where there was leadership within, where there wasn’t. … I’m trained as a journalist and I think probably one of the reasons I look at things the way I do is because of that training; because you’re looking, you’re investigating, you’re analyzing, you’re watching, you’re looking for trends. … When you observe, you learn. And, in my case, I learned how to participate. 
You’ve volunteered on and chaired numerous boards in the state. What are you most proud of when you think of the work you’ve put into those organizations?
Well, they’re all so totally different, because I’ve done everything from the Chamber board to preservation, to health care, cultural organizations, business organizations. It’s very hard to say, other than I just look back and hope that I have contributed to each one in some way that was meaningful. 
What’s a lesson you learned early in life that you’ve carried with you in your business dealings?
I think it’s just hard work. I came from a family who valued hard work and valued honesty and integrity. And that’s what I’ve tried to do. I’ve tried to work hard and be … straightforward and honest and keep my integrity. 
What advice do you have for young people in New Hampshire?
Get involved. When I moved here, I took the children one day to Pat’s Peak to learn how to ski. ... They were out skiing and I was sitting in the lodge and there was this nice woman also having a cup of tea. [I asked her] ‘What pointers can you give me?’ ... And she said to me, ‘New Hampshire people are involved. Everybody is involved. It makes no difference what you’re involved in, you just have to get involved.’ … And holy cow, she was absolutely right. — Ryan Lessard  

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