The Hippo


Mar 26, 2019








What are you really interested in right now?

I’ve always been a history buff, so history and genealogy, for me, are sort of tied together and that’s been my hobby.

Next ag commish
From the House to the farm


Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in New Hampshire, lived on the same road all my life. My family was in the poultry business. We’ve been here at the homestead for about 101 years now. So farming is my background and both my grandfather and my father were involved in local politics, and so it was a natural fit for me. I served on the budget committee for four years and then I was selectman. And while I was a selectman, I ran for state rep. It seemed [like] sort of a natural progression for me.
Did you hold down a day job during that?
Certainly. I was in the poultry business and then transitioned to become a landlord, which I still am. So I was doing all my own roofing and painting and maintenance work, which pretty much is what I’ve … done all these years.

Let’s talk about your time as speaker. It’s an interesting story how you came to become speaker. Can you remind our readers how that happened?
I had backed Gene Chandler for speaker in 2014 and he came up short to Bill O’Brien, and we’d all lived through what had happened in 2011 and 2012 and just decided that was probably not a path that any of us wanted to go down again. So when he was not elected on the first ballot, I threw my name in the ring and after a couple more rounds was elected.
And because of that, and getting elected with the help of Democrats, you’ve been kind of a divisive figure among some conservative lawmakers. How did you square that with keeping a level head and doing the work of the people?
Well, certainly, my second term I was elected with solely the votes of Republicans, and people keep referring to the people who were opposed to me as conservatives, and I don’t really think that’s a fair description. They often refer to themselves as conservatives, but quite frankly, I think it’s more people of the libertarian bent trying to coopt that phrase. I am and always have been a conservative, certainly by New Hampshire Republican standards. … I think just by bringing the right people into the team and listening to those who actually had ideas and putting those ideas to work. We saw a lot of good legislation, particularly in the area of election law reform — we’ve seen a lot of movement there, and certainly that’s popular with most of the people in the state — we were working hard on the opioid crisis within a budget that is responsible and provides for the needs of the state while at the same time cutting taxes without increasing other taxes. If people want to take a look at how we came together and got things done, it’s basically by being traditional New Hampshire Republicans.
Was it a career goal of yours to become the commissioner of agriculture?
You know, I had never really thought of it. It’s something very important to me but it wasn’t something that had particularly crossed my mind and it came as a surprise to me when the governor asked me to throw my name in the mix. I was very pleased about it and very excited about it but it wasn’t a career goal, if you will.
Now that you have this opportunity, what do you hope to accomplish for the state’s agricultural economy?
I think, to a large degree ... it’s about making sure the emerging small farms, which there are many of them — we have about 4,000 farms in New Hampshire and most of them are relatively small. … They need to have the markets to support what they’re doing and I think we can do a better job of connecting the producers with the consumers who are looking for their particular product. … I’m hoping that we can develop a website that allows people just to go onto our website, put in the information as to where they live and what product they’re looking for and just have the options within a reasonable distance from their location pop up for them so they’ll be able to make those connections. … My knowledge of the legislative process is going to be invaluable to the department in moving forward with initiatives and budgeting.
— Ryan Lessard  

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