My phone rang and the message from his aide was, "Weíve arrived and are over near the bandstand. Where are you? Weíll walk over to you."
The special guest of the evening had arrived. He crossed the common, shaking hands and greeting those attending the Newport 250th Charter Day Celebration last Thursday afternoon.
A few of us gathered around and chatted informally but our guest was distracted by a flag footfall game, under the guidance of PJ Lovely, going at the other end of the green. So, over he went, and as I glanced, he was throwing a touchdown pass into the good hands of a young player.
How many kids on a Thursday afternoon get a chance to catch a long pass from the Governor of their State? It was another example of how New Hampshire is a special place where citizens have easy access to their chief executive.
The Governor threw another pass and then it was time to go to the bandstand to offer his greetings on the 250th anniversary of the chartering of Newport by Governor Wentworth in 1761. He read a proclamation celebrating the anniversary, and declared October 6, 2011 "Newport Day in New Hampshire."
Back into the audience he went for pictures and handshakes. Peter Lovely, representing the Newport American Legion post, invited the Governor to fire the postís pre-Civil War era cannon. The Governor eagerly joined in and touched off the cannon sending a loud roar across the town.
As he departed he thanked townspeople for inviting him as we thanked him for being there on this important day for Newport.
The Governor had been to Portsmouth and Conway earlier in the day. And it was especially important to Berlin, a north country community that has been decades of economic decline, that the Governor was there to help break ground for a new biomass electric generating facility. He told me he believes the investment of $275 million in the plant will bring real change to that region.
All in all, he had traveled more than 300 miles on Thursday. When I saw him on Friday to talk over some legislative issues, I told him how appreciative I was, as well as the Newport community, for his participation in their celebration. He said he had a great time and noted it was the first time he had fired a cannon, and he loved the few minutes with the football players throwing passes.
He summed it all when he said that being out in the communities was "a critically important part of the job" of being Governor. He said it with a big smile as evidence of the pleasure he has in doing that part of his job.
This month is the sixth anniversary of the October, 2005 historic floods that devastated the town of Alstead and brought damage to every community in the region. The loss of lives in Alstead and Unity stunned us all and the damage to property and terrain in Alstead was beyond description because none of us had seen anything like it before.
Given John Lynchís decision to not run for Governor again, I wanted to write a couple of paragraphs about that October flood and his leadership. He had come to office in January, 2005, and the October floods were the first natural disaster he had to deal with. Those floods came on the heels of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast a few weeks earlier.
As some readers will recall, the Governor was leading a trade mission when the Saturday night storm struck. He had landed in Germany on Sunday morning only to be told of the disaster in Sullivan and Cheshire Counties. Changing plans immediately, he caught a plane back and was on the scene first thing Monday morning.
From that moment, he was in charge. And he did a masterful job. We went up in the State Police helicopter as only from the air could the damage be assessed. Governor Lynch, now knowing the challenge, became involved with everything necessary to get the lives of people hit by the storm back to normal. He spent four of the next five days in Alstead.
I wrote in an October 17, 2005 article, twice the length of my usual columns, "the Governorís leadership was extraordinary all week. He never hurried, he had time for everyone who wanted to talk with him about their personal situation and he always thanked volunteers, first responders and local officials and state personnel when he saw them. And he boosted the spirits of townspeople by personally showing his interest and support. Everyone is thankful for the Governorís leadership."
You cannot be Governor and not take hits from opponents and others frustrated by a Governorís success. He and I agree and disagree on public policy issues and legislation as part of our regular work together.
But when a Governor has shown unique and much appreciated leadership to all of New Hampshire during our all too frequent natural disasters, he or she deserves recognition. I am confident that no one involved with the Alstead floods would disagree about the Governorís contribution to helping their community.
We are going to be in a long political season leading up to our general election next November. Long before then, I wanted to offer a bit of perspective on Governor Lynch and his past and ongoing role in our region.
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