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A positive attitude has served Lisa Hatz well in her position

CONCORD — Lisa Hatz traces her career choice to her baby-sitting days, watching young children with significant disabilities.

"I really wanted to be able to help them in whatever way I could," the Concord resident said.

About a decade ago, she became a counselor with the New Hampshire Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Today, she is the state director of vocational rehabilitation, overseeing about 100 employees and a $15 million annual budget. The bureau at any given time is helping 8,700 people.

"You definitely need to have a lot of empathy. You also need to have a real positive attitude," Hatz, 37, said of counseling the disabled. "If you fall down, you get back up and try again. It is so challenging to help people with disabilities to help them find and maintain employment. You get a lot of doors slammed on you."

But that experience as a counselor has helped the Illinois native work with other state and federal agencies.

Jim Hinson, who nominated Hatz for the 40 Under Forty honors, said workers helping the disabled frequently don't get the same recognition as those in other fields.

"She is a true leader and a valuable asset to New Hampshire, New England and represents us well throughout the rest of the United States of America," Hinson wrote.

Clients, who make an average wage of about $16 an hour, have filled jobs as a licensed nursing assistant, medical laboratory technician, receptionist and administrative service manager.

For the past three years since taking over the reins, Hatz said the department has surpassed its goals, by 74 people last year alone.

"The higher the number, the greater the number of people going to work," she said.

She considers the person she most admires, outside of people in her own family, as Manny Enriquez, a mentor she has had in her professional development.

She considers her key current professional challenge as "the changing makeup of our agency staff" and her last major achievement as the New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation Department being named the Business Assistance Organization of the Year in 2012.

She considers the biggest problem facing New Hampshire as "the ever-changing workplace and accomplishing goals with so many new folks."

Her favorite place in New Hampshire, discovered on a recent visit, is the Castle in the Clouds, which she calls "simply amazing and beautiful."

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