Dianne Mercier, president of People's United Bank NH greets guests as she was honered as Citizen of the Year by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce during its annual dinner held at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester on Thursday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
Mercier honored as Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year
MANCHESTER — Dianne Mercier said she’s accepting the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Citizen of the Year award on behalf of hundreds of volunteers who helped her become a soft-spoken powerhouse in civic and corporate life.
“This stands for everything I’ve come to depend on for my entire life,” said Mercier, the 55-year-old president of People’s United Bank who three decades ago was a single mother of two children struggling to make ends meet.
“I like to be part of a team, it’s at that level I am most comfortable. Everything I’ve been able to accomplish has been because of the dedication of people around me,” she said.
A packed house at the Radisson Hotel honored Mercier with past winners spanning over the last 38 years on hand to pay their respects.
“As someone who has two daughters, Dianne is someone I want them to model after,” said Andy Crews, AutoFair CEO who was the chamber’s Citizen of the Year in 2015. “She is methodical, compassionate, nobody works harder to bring people together than she does and she’s incredibly humble about it all.”
Mercier said it’s difficult to name accomplishments she’s most proud of, given a resume that includes serving more than a dozen organizations.
She highlighted three, first her work for the Manchester Boys & Girls Club.
“The Boys & Girls Club is very special to me because they were there when I needed them,” Mercier said of the place her children went to after school while she worked as a bank teller.
“It’s more than a beautiful building, it’s a program that gives families opportunities and hope for their futures.”
Then there’s her service for nearly a decade on the Elliot Health Systems board.
“It’s such an important and iconic institution in this city because so many people rely upon it,” Mercier said.
And the third was Rivier University in Nashua where Mercier has chaired the school’s board of trustees.
“The rate of so many first-time in the family going to college graduates is just astounding,” Mercier said. “When I first learned that stat, I just had to become involved in it.’’
Mercier also served on the chamber board.
“We’re just in awe, Dianne, of what you have been able to achieve on behalf of your city and this state,” said Michael Skelton, the chamber’s chief executive officer and president.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said Mercier has been a tireless advocate for children.
“If you ask for her help, she never says no and she brings to everything she does a selfless quality,” Gatsas said. “She’s never been about, ‘hey look at me, I’m a bank president.’ For her, it’s always about getting results.”
New England Council CEO James Brett came up from Boston for Thursday night’s awards dinner and said Mercier has been a standout on his board. “She will go out and advocate to companies that they should become members of the council. I consider her our unofficial ambassador, she’s a real treasure any organization would want on their side,” Brett said.
Mercier said Manchester stands out for innovation when it comes to tackling the toughest crisis of the day, the epidemic of opioid drug overdoses.
“Whether it’s setting up the drug court, the Safe Station, Hope for Recovery, Serenity Place, these people have all collaborated together to try and make a difference,” Mercier said.
But the bank executive said New Hampshire must do more to expand mental health services since they are often at the root cause of addiction.
“The lack of access to behavioral health is so alarming. It’s a crime how many people are unable to get mental health care, the need is just so great,” Mercier said.
“We need insurance companies to step up to the plate to cover more mental health services, we need more professionals and we need to value what they do since they can go to Boston and make 30 percent more than they can make here.”
Mercier says solving the community’s most difficult challenges is not about looking for easy answers.
“These are complex problems and if you think there’s one solution, you’re probably wrong,” Mercier said.
“I am a very curious person. I like to pull at strings and ask a lot of questions.’’
Crews said Mercier personifies an inspiring life story.
“She’s never forgotten where she’s come from and she has no regrets,” Crews said. “To me, that says a lot about a person.”