Citizen of the Year 2019 Michael L'Ecuyer

Michael L’Ecuyer, president and CEO, Bellwether Credit Union, poses in downtown Manchester on March 8. He has been named the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Citizen of the Year.

Perhaps Michael L’Ecuyer can help improve the toxic political climate in Washington after he retires this fall.

People who know him well think he’d be up to the challenge.

“For me, I’ve seen 15 times, in the middle of a spirited debate with no easy answer, he’s able to smile, hesitate for a second and find a way to bring people together to a common core, which is hard to do,” said Peter Ramsey, president and CEO of the Palace Theatre.

“He just has the ability to read the room and give a great response at a critical time,” Ramsey said last week.

L’Ecuyer, president and CEO of Bellwether Community Credit Union, was named this year’s Citizen of the Year by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

“I think Mike really has a true skill and ability to make people feel comfortable and welcome about expressing themselves and bringing those viewpoints together,” said Michael Skelton, the chamber’s president and CEO.

L’Ecuyer, 61, of Bedford, came to Bellwether in 1998. Since he became president and CEO in November 2001, the credit union has grown from $197 million to $500 million in assets and more than doubled its workforce.

Over the years, L’Ecuyer has helped many causes in the Manchester area, including serving on the Palace Theatre board since 2001.

“I think he’s an expert at assigning duties, determining what’s essential for a business to be successful and managing his resources,” said Ramsey, who called him a mentor and “a very good friend.”

A native of Fitchburg, Mass., L’Ecuyer said he learned working in banking that “you have to give back to the communities you do business in.”

He admits to his wife that he occasionally gets “temporarily overcommitted.”

L’Ecuyer is a board member at Northeast Delta Dental and has served with many local organizations. He has served as chairman of New Hampshire Go Red for Women, board member of City Year New Hampshire and chairman of the March of Dimes signature chef’s auction.

“I don’t think he knows the definition of the word ‘no,’ ” said John Gennetti, Bellwether’s chairman of the board.

“You meet interesting people,” L’Ecuyer said in an interview Friday. “You learn new things without going to a classroom.”

People who volunteer “get that the world is bigger than them,” L’Ecuyer said. “I’ve never gotten anything accomplished by myself.”

Bellwether provides each of its 92 employees with eight hours of paid time each year to volunteer. Many workers volunteer many more hours of their own time at various nonprofits.

New Hampshire, he said, might rely on volunteers more than some other states.

“Communities have needs, OK, and if government is relied upon to meet those needs, you may have less requirement for nonprofits,” L’Ecuyer said. “For us, we seem to take care of our own. We deal with it locally.”

L’Ecuyer will be feted at the chamber’s annual dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown hotel on April 18.

Skelton said a secret chamber committee scrutinized the nominations of about 20 people this year.

“Mike was a perfect example of the exemplary business leader who’s achieved tremendous success with his company and growing his company while at the same time giving selflessly to his community and setting an example of how others should and can do that,” Skelton said.

L’Ecuyer served twice on that awards committee and once chaired the chamber board. He also introduced Joe Reilly, a former banking executive, at a 2013 dinner honoring Reilly as the chamber’s Citizen of the Year.

Former Mayor Sylvio Dupuis said winning the 1979 award “taught me that hard work and strong relationships could be rewarded.”

L’Ecuyer offered advice to those thinking of volunteering:

“Find something you love, find a mission you’re passionate about and it won’t feel like work,” he said.

mcousineau @unionleader.com