The Hippo


May 28, 2020








 What are you really into?

I’ve always been interested in history … genealogy. I’ve tried to kick that up a notch to make connections and help other people make connections.

Helper guy
Meet Bow’s town manager

By Ryan Lessard

 How did you first get involved working in local government?

I grew up in Connecticut, came up to Keene State right about 1980. I actually had majored in journalism and public affairs so I was going to be covering politics and current events. And I switched over my major to political science. Still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Did an internship with a regional planning commission, so I thought I wanted to be a town or city planner and when I graduated I did try to get some work in one of the regional planning commissions. Actually, before I graduated, I did some work for the state legislature. … I did committee research and it was a temp job during the session. I did work with a gentleman there who suggested that I might like being a town administrator or town manager. There were a couple openings at the time so I applied and I got the job in Pembroke. I was 24 when I started. It was a time period when a lot of towns were growing and they all needed administrative help. … I stayed there 18 years, which is a long time, I think, in our business. … And then we got to a point when … there was a pretty big turnover on the board and they decided they wanted to … cut the salary back and kind of cut back on some of the duties required of the town administrator. So I decided … to take a break from it, finish up my master’s and figure out where I wanted to go next.
Fast-forwarding a bit, how long have you been Bow’s town manager?
Just over six years. 
What was the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the role?
The biggest lesson is things do take time but it is a true democratic process. We still have the traditional town meeting … where the voters in town get together and they decide what the budget’s going to be and vote on the warrant articles and you just need to be prepared and sometimes patient. We had a public safety building that we had brought proposals for, actually three in a row, and the first two times it failed. I think everyone realized there was a need, they just didn’t like the cost of it. … So I’ve learned to just be patient with the process, get everyone involved, get them the information and let the citizens make decisions.
What have been the biggest demands on your time as Bow’s town manager?
That safety building took a lot of time, we changed … our health insurance plans to a high-deductible plan, which took up a lot of time. I think I had three committees going at once that I had to attend, so it was pretty much three nights a week for a while. There’s a capital improvements committee meeting that I was going to, and then budget committee meetings. 
That safety building project has been in the works for some time. Is it safe to say, that’s the biggest project you’re working on right now? 
Yea, for our own stuff, our own buildings, we have that, we have a community center study [underway] to replace the community center or renovate it, we have a lot of infrastructure projects going, we have a bridge replacement, an intersection realignment — those are state aid projects. … The town had talked about it years back that they need to put aside money for a fire station and a community building, because they’re combined now in a metal building that was put up in the ’50s, but there had never been any concrete planning on how to achieve these steps. So infrastructure of buildings and other stuff fell by the wayside over the years, so we’re kind of playing catch-up with that. … It was a long process with committees and ultimately the first project that we came up with … was $7.3 million and that failed. Actually, it was only by 10 votes … by a two-thirds majority. … Then it was $6.3 million and that failed miserably, so we went a different route … with a limited or capped budget … for $3.5 million.
Are there any other development projects going on?
The town also changed an area at the intersection of [Interstates] 89 and 93 to a mixed-use development district, which will allow a retail residential kind of mix. They’re pretty popular. … I think that will be a longer-term thing to come to fruition but at least we’re set up now with the zoning change.
If you had a superhero name or a title other than manager that speaks to your strengths, what would it be?
Helper guy. — Ryan Lessard 

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