The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos: Nashua and those rankings lists

Talk about having the Midas touch. Mayor Jim Donchess seems to have it. And he’s got the numbers to prove it.

I have a peculiar theory, which is that Nashua pops up on more top rankings lists whenever he assumes the corner office.

Just a few weeks ago, named my community the “9th Best-Run City in America.”

Some of you might be asking what is WalletHub? Turns out WalletHub is a personal finance media outlet based in Washington, D.C., known for its popular rankings lists.

And WalletHub also placed Nashua second in the country for “Quality of City Services.”

Not bad for the beautiful Gate City and another feather in the mayor’s cap.

Back in 2016, Money magazine announced its list of the Top 50 places to live in the country, and the Gate City nailed the 16th spot.

It was the only New Hampshire community to make the list.

Interestingly, Jim Donchess was back as the city’s mayor after a 24-year hiatus.

He defeated Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Williams in a hotly contested 2015 race, garnering 56 percent of the vote.

Donchess had previously served from 1984 to 1991.

One of several possible reasons he gave for the city’s success as a likable and progressive community to set down roots in was its new base: “I think there are young people moving in, and there are millennial young people getting involved in a lot of different activities,” said Donchess to the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2016.

But the city’s popularity with young people means Nashua has a housing shortage, according to a recent article by Union Leader correspondent Kimberly Houghton.

Sarah Marchant, community development director, said that “Rents are soaring, and in large part, it is due to lack of supply.”

Marchant mentioned that some 500 new apartment units would be available in the coming months, but that’s still not enough for the city. More construction is needed to avert a growing housing crisis, she said.

Looking back to the vintage Donchess years, Nashua was named the best city to live in by Money’s first-ever ranking in 1987. During his first two terms in the nonpartisan position, Donchess had established public kindergarten, increased salaries for teachers and strengthened the tax base by $850 million. The city was thriving with a low crime rate and a Aaa bond rating.

Again, in 1997, the city won the title of #1 by the magazine. Mayor Don Davidson was at the helm then. Davidson showed off a bumper sticker that said loud and proud: “Nashua is back on top.”

Let’s be frank. A high ranking for any community feels great no matter who’s in office. These kinds of honors make the city’s residents and business owners swell with pride.

Can Mayor Donchess do it again when Money magazine issues its Best Places to Live in America for 2018 in autumn?

Maybe it’s luck, kismet, great public relations. Or maybe the mayor’s just on a roll.

Ask Donchess, and he’ll tell you it’s more than just him. “It is really the people in the city who are working to make this a better community ­— everyone contributing is the underlying strength, “ Donchess once said.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at