Governor for 8 years, he's got NH in his heart
Though he grew up in Massachusetts, John Lynch said he knew he'd found home when he came to New Hampshire.
"New Hampshire is small enough to really be like a family," said Lynch, who served an unprecedented four terms as governor. "You can have friends in every corner of the state and everybody knows everybody or has a connection."
Lynch is one of five people chosen for a Granite State Legacy Award, presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader and sponsored by Centrix Bank,
Lynch and his wife, Dr. Susan Lynch, live in Hopkinton and have three children, Jacqueline, Julia and Hayden. Last year, he opted not to seek a fifth term, instead choosing to return to private life. The transition has been smooth, he said, but perhaps a bit lonely.
"When you're governor, you're with people all the time," he said. "And that's not the case now. The hardest part of the transition has been going through withdrawal from people."
Lynch, 60, said he looks back on his eight years as governor and finds a source of pride in his ability to bring people from different walks of life together to confront the issues that faced New Hampshire.
"I tried to pull people together to solve problems and to create opportunities for the citizens of New Hampshire," he said. "I tried to put partisan politics aside because that's what the people of New Hampshire wanted."
Lynch is sometimes difficult to pin down and label politically. He stood firmly against a state sales or income tax and extended the reach of the death penalty in cases of home invasion, but he also signed into law a bill allowing gay marriage in New Hampshire.
"I've never thought of issues in terms of party," said Lynch. "I think of them in terms of what's best for the people of New Hampshire."
That unwillingness to adhere to party lines helped Lynch build coalitions in the state, he said.
Reducing the state's high school dropout rate to one percent is an example of the cooperation Lynch was able to encourage, not just from legislators, but from educators and administrators.
Lynch said that changing the age kids can drop out from 16 to 18 was simply setting the bar.
"But the dropout rate was lowered because of educators working together with us in a collaborative way, developing programs within schools to try to help students who were struggling with finding success in a traditional classroom," Lynch said. "The law was the goal, but keeping the kids in school fell to the schools."
Lynch also takes pride in the ability of New Hampshire's people to come together in times of crisis, such as the Alstead flood that killed seven in 2005, or the murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
"My worst day as governor was the day Michael Briggs was shot," Lynch said.
Funerals were also difficult for Lynch, especially those of soldiers who returned home to New Hampshire to be buried.
His brightest days were those spent with fourth-graders who came to visit him at the State House.
"Fourth-graders are so much fun," he said.
Lynch won't be attending the Granite State Legacy Awards ceremony; he'll be traveling out of state.
"I'm very disappointed I won't be there," he said.
Dr. Sylvio Dupuis, Donna Sytek, Carolyn Benthien and Claira Monier are also being honored at this year's awards, which will be presented Thursday, June 13, at 5:30 p.m. at The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester.
Tickets are $45 and include hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. For reservations, call 206-7834 or email email@example.com.