For years now, Hippo has run weekly Q&As — with candidates for public office, authors, downtown boosters, business people, people who have gone on journeys or achieved interesting goals and even the occasional psychic.
These conversations offer a different way to get to know the people in our community. And occasionally, we’ve even sat down with some for longer interviews — conversations not just about the news of the moment but also about the past and the issues that matter to someone who has played a role in state politics or spent a lifetime entertaining audiences.
We’ve published more than a dozen of these conversations in our 10 years. Here’s a look back at what some of these folks have had to say.
Donald Hall, poet
Donald Hall first spoke to the Hippo for the Oct. 10, 2002, issue. Hall, who was U.S. Poet Laureate in 2006, lives northwest of Concord. In 1998, he released a book of poems called Without, which dealt with the illness and death in 1995 of his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon. His collections of poetry since then have included The Painted Bed in 2002 and White Apples and the Taste of Stone in 2006, a collection of his poems from 1946 through 2006. In fall 2009, he published Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry.
In 2002, Hall spoke with Dan Szczesny about The Painted Bed and about Kenyon.
Do you believe you need to be passionate in order to be a poet?
Yes. What most people do in living is, in order to avoid suffering, they turn the volume down in general, and you can’t do that. Now, maybe we have that character to begin with, which is why we can continue to be poets. The incidence of bipolarity in writers, as you probably know, is extraordinary.
Do you try to repress the emotion when you are writing or embrace it?
I don’t try to pull back. I don’t know how to pull back. I guess I don’t believe in it. It’s a subject of will when it comes to those extremes.
Hall also spoke about living in New Hampshire and the farm house in Wilmot that had been in his family.
You’ve written that the people of this house and farm inhabit your present, not your past. Is that still the case?
Yes. I mean I don’t literally see them — we didn’t feel their presence like they were ghostly presences. But it just was habitual. It’s metaphorical, rather than spiritual. I mean here is the barn where I used to sit on a three-legged stool and watch my grandfather milk as he recited poems to me. I have the stool in the parlor now. There’s so much here that goes way back. I was first here in 1928 at the age of six weeks.
What type of energy or inspiration do you get from the community? How does it become part of your work?
It has diminished as the community has gotten older and died and has not been replaced by the same people with whom I have the same long continuation of community. But then again, when I was growing up, I was, like a lot of kids named Donald, called Donny, and when I came back there were still people calling me Donny, and it sounded great! My grandmother played the organ in the church from the age of 14 to 92, and that is continuity. I can practically see her little black sequined hat. And there are a lot of people I see occasionally who were with me in Sunday school, so there is some continuity of the same people, the same buildings. I come back and the hills are so much more full of forest now, but they’re still there. Continuity. …
Hall spoke with Dan Szczesny again for the Aug. 3, 2006, issue of the Hippo shortly after being named poet laureate.
Are you intimidated by the company of past laureates you keep?
No, why should it?
I assume you are friends of some of them.
I know them or are friends with some of them. Pinsky is an old friend and I talked with him on the telephone.
Have they given you any advice?
Ted Kooser told me that he wrote 500 postcards saying “I cannot read your manuscript,” “I cannot write a blurb for your book.” I will do that too. Pinksy told me I was not to expect any help from the Library of Congress. You don’t have an assistant or a secretary there. You don’t have an office. You have certain duties which I’ve spoken to you about but they are very minimal. You are a stand-in for poetry.
This title has now increased your reading fees, made you more of a valuable entity.
Yes, I’m told that the normal fee for a poet laureate is $10,000 per reading. I’ve been getting $5,000 for a long time.
The most important question I guess is how will this title affect your social life.
It’s going to get me some! I don’t have any and I will be seeing more people than I ever have otherwise, which may be something good for me at this age.
Is that something you’re looking forward to?
Not particularly, but it will be there and I’ll see what I can do with it. …
Your career has spanned half a century, giving you the opportunity to work with and be part of many different literary movements and trends. Instead of asking you what’s the secret to life, I’ll settle for what’s the secret to a good poem. Though if you have the secret to life, that would be good too.
[Laughs] I want the poem to be the receptacle and embodiment of a feeling or a series of feelings, feelings sometimes in contradiction to each other, and with that as my end I need to arrive right with the beauty of sound and the beauty of resolution of metaphor and all sorts of things I would call beauty, and that is the tool or the method for expressing and memorializing a particular feeling.
Dick Anagnost, developer
Dick Anagnost has been the public face for a lot of Manchester’s development projects over the years — particularly when it comes to turning historic buildings into modern residential or commercial space. The Bond Building, the Chase Block, the Pearl Street School, apartments across the city — Anagnost seems to be perpetually in the news for bringing new purpose to properties, including his current project, River’s Edge, which will feature Elliot Hospital facilities, on the former Jac Pac site. He spoke to Dan Szczesny for the Jan. 2, 2003, issue of the Hippo.
From your perspective as a local developer, is there a danger in redeveloping a city and losing its character?
You always watch out for that, but I don’t think that’s the case. An outside developer is going to come in based on the foresight of people recently in office and in the Planning Department. They looked at Manchester and said “this is the character we want to have here, this is the character that we want to maintain” and they put this into effect by creating things like a Millyard Review Committee.
Is that the reason why there hasn’t been much interest from chains, a Starbucks or a Barnes & Noble, for the downtown?
Well, there has been a lot of interest. The problem is we can’t necessarily fit their criteria and if we are going to make them think outside the box — I mean even Dunkin’ Donuts, we had a heck of a time getting them onto Concord and Elm streets because we had to make them think outside the box. A retailer comes in and says “we need this many households, this amount of disposable income, this amount of square footage in a square box in a vanilla shell.” They have the same parameters that their real estate people are sent out in the field with and they rarely deviate from those parameters. That’s why you see most of them in shopping malls, because they can get their square box and relocate half the distance between a Gap store and a Filene’s and all these other criteria that… they have developed. …
So it’s a matter of convincing them to come?
It’s all in the way it’s presented. We’ve been successful in redeveloping the Chase Block, the Bond Building… I mean, I know there was controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood, but we took an old auto parts store and turned it into a very beautiful building and the neighbors are very pleased with their neighbor. Even though we went through all that, those are all things that are redeveloping downtown. They are diverse in their uses, diverse in their tenants. This kind of diversity is what attracts a lot of people
… if you were to consider downtown Manchester between Valley and Bridge streets as being a shopping mall and somehow get all those merchants and landlords to pull together and market it that way, you’d have a vibrant retail sector downtown just like in the Mall of New Hampshire.
former Manchester Mayor
If there was an issue facing Manchester, Bob Shaw had an opinion about it. Father of four and husband of wife Lorraine, Shaw owned two Manchester businesses (Shaw’s Service Station and later Bob Shaw’s Italian Sandwich Shop), was active in the Rotary and served two terms are Manchester’s mayor. He spoke to Amy Diaz about his life in Manchester and his time in city and local politics for the Dec. 11, 2003, edition of the Hippo. Part of that interview reran in the Aug. 19, 2004, edition, a few days after Shaw died in a traffic accident. He was 70.
In the 2003 interview, Shaw spoke about his family — his four children and his 11 grandchildren.
I think that’s what you strive to reach is a point that you are the grandfather. That they’re around you and you talk to them. In a given week, I probably talk to half of them…. My grandchildren get all As on the honor roll, almost all of them….
He and Lorraine said they stayed together for almost half a century in part because it’s what they promised each other they would do.
It takes forgiving. If you have somebody that’s so opinionated, that knows everything, that’s always right, you can see who’d have to be the forgiving person. … The one thing that we have going is that we’re thankful. And that we never argue about money.
Part of what Shaw felt made him a good mayor was his management and problem-solving skills.
My only ability, probably, is that I can see what something should look like. OK, now I’ve got to figure out how to make it look like that. When I came in, I could see how the budget should be written. … Simple solutions to complex problems.
Shaw said one of the first projects he tackled as mayor was fixing the schools, which suffered from neglect.
I got the city workers to identify the solution. I used almost all inside talent. I didn’t pay people to come in and give us advice. So this inside talent worked out really, really well. These people were waiting a long time to tell you what was wrong and how to fix it. I go to the school, why isn’t the school clean? Well, mayor, we can’t clean the school if we don’t have solvents, if all you have is water and a mop …. Teachers would have to buy their own window shades.
Barbara Lawler, actress
Michelle Saturley spoke with Barbara Lawler for the April 22, 2004, issue of the Hippo. Lawler was named Best Actress in a Musical in the 2003 NH Theatre Awards for her role in a local production of Ragtime. Though a mild-mannered manager at a local bank by day, Lawler, a Bow resident, acted in local theatrical productions and did local and national television commercials and radio voiceovers. Lawler performed in the Actorsingers production of Cats in 2006.
How did you get into acting?
My mother always called me “Sarah Bernhardt” as a kid, so I think I was a pretty dramatic kid. I started acting in high school, and I was always singing in the chorus. The bug really hit, and I decided I was going to go to college to study acting. Then my life took a different turn, and instead I got married and had a family. When the kids were little, I was busy, so I didn’t have time to do anything else. But as they got older, I started auditioning again. The first auditions I did were for Stage One, back when George Piehl still had his summer season over at the Palace Theatre. I did a few more shows there, and then over at Actorsingers in Nashua, and it just expanded from there.
When you were raising your children, how did you find ways to keep the creative spark?
I’ve always been an entertainer. And when your kids are little, you are so busy, sometimes you just don’t think about anything else. But I guess I found small ways to keep that alive. I did a lot of crafts with the kids, and we sang constantly. Music was a big part of their upbringing. I did a lot of sewing, too. I used to make matching outfits for the kids for holidays and such. It’s funny, because they look at old photographs now and they say, what were you thinking? …
How do you keep the work in the theater from interfering with your family and work life?
Sometimes it does. That’s why my family ended up being involved in theater with me. … That’s why my husband got involved with running the sound at a lot of the shows I’m in. As a matter of fact, if I’m not in a show, sometimes we will run sound together. I’ve learned a lot about that aspect of theater that I never would have known otherwise. … And my son Sean was actually in a few shows with me when he was little.
Frank Guinta, a former Manchester alderman, surprised many when in November 2005 he beat incumbent Bob Baines in the city’s mayoral election. Will Stewart talked to Guinta for the Nov. 17, 2005, edition of the Hippo, about his plans for the city, which he would go on to serve as mayor for four years. He left office earlier this year and is currently a candidate in the Republican primary for the state’s 1st Congressional District.
On a scale of one to 10, and be honest, how surprised were you that you won?
We looked at this race, from the beginning, as a race we thought we could win. We also knew that we had to run an almost flawless campaign. We started to see, in October, the hard work begin to pay off because you could see the momentum shift. I think by the time we got to the “6-55-3” message, we really started to see people galvanizing around it. We were elated. I was thrilled, the team was thrilled. We always thought that it was neck and neck so, you know, we were happy that we won, but we were not shocked by any stretch.
Do you feel you have a mandate from the people?
Well, I think the appropriate term is that people clearly want change. And the fact that 6-55-3 — six years of tax hikes, 55-percent increase in violent crime and three failing high schools — resonated. Elections are more about issues and those are the issues that I ran on and those are things that I’m going to deliver changes on in the city. And I think I have the support of the city. …
What’s your opinion of government’s role in development, particularly the public-private partners that have become popular as of late?
I think the role of government is to foster an environment that allows the private sector to succeed. And we need to foster economic development and growth in the community. We also want to be mindful of what we want our community to be ... you cut taxes through economic development, it’s tax base expansion. And you have to have a plan in place ... where development occurs for the betterment of the community so we can use that tax base expansion for tax relief and provide a more diverse business community.
Deborah Scranton, filmmaker
Deborah Scranton, a documentary filmmaker, was behind one of the most compelling early films about the war in Iraq — The War Tapes, which was released in 2006. This movie told the story of the troops by giving the three soldiers cameras and letting them record what they saw. Richie Victorino spoke with Scranton, as well as the three soldiers — Mike Moriarty, Steve Pink and Zach Brazzi — for the June 22, 2006, issue of the Hippo. Scranton’s newest film is Earth Made of Glass, which had its world premiere at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival in the world documentary competition. The film is about Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s efforts to expose the truth about the Rwandan genocide and genocide survivor Jean-Pierre Sagahutu’s journey to find out what happened to his father.
Filmmakers are notorious for being control freaks. Was it difficult to give up the cameras?
I guess the way I looked at it was, it was a very conscious decision to never allow myself, or anyone from the production team, to go to Iraq. Because if any one of us went it would have immediately diminished what the soldiers were creating. It would become about us. When I went down to Fort Dix and I hopped out in front of 180 guys and told them about my vision I made them a promise. I said that we would tell their story wherever it took us, through their own eyes and their own words.
Why do you think the soldiers were able to trust you and your vision?
I think in any documentary film, a lot of it is based on trust and relationship. The film isn’t about the Internet but it couldn’t have been made without it. It allowed us to talk back and forth with each other and discuss the process. …
Do you find that the film achieved what you wanted it to achieve?
[pauses] I’m really proud of it. I meant what I said that I gave them my promise that we would tell their story, wherever it took us, no matter what.
Was there anything about the footage that you were surprised about?
I was surprised by the visceral experience of a 360-degree war. Once you lock and load and leave the base, the frontline is wherever you are, whether it’s an IED [Improvised Explosive Device — roadside bomb] or a VBIED [Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device — a car bomb], not knowing if it’s friend or foe. …
What do you hope this film to do?
To spark conversations and start dialogue. I think right now there’s a divide. There are people who know a soldier, who are living it, and I think there are a lot of people in this country that don’t. We’re a country at war. I think it’s important to understand what that means, as best we can.
Barry Steelman, movie expert
Barry Steelman has been a fixture on the Concord movie scene for years. He owned and operated the movie theater Cinema 93 and later owned Cinema 93 Video, which closed in 2009 (and before Concord, he ran now-closed theaters in Manchester). Now, he’s the facilities manager at Red River Theatres, the independent theater he helped to bring into existence in Concord. He regularly organizes film events at the theater, such as the recent series of Movies about Movies, that bring together film experts and movie-lovers. Amy Diaz spoke with Steelman for the Nov. 9, 2006, issue of the Hippo.
Were you always interested in the movies?
Yeah. I can probably remember going to the movies in 1949, so I was six.
As it became a lifelong passion, what did you want to do in movies?
As a young person, the dream was to either be in the movies … [or be] a filmmaker.
In the fall of 1955, Steelman’s grandfather had a stroke. Steelman’s mother took Barry with her to visit him, in Worcester, Mass. She decided to stay longer, keeping Steelman out of school from October through Christmas when he was 12. Because of polio scares, Steelman wasn’t allowed to visit his grandfather in the hospital during the day.
And guess what I did?
I went to the [movie theaters] in downtown Worcester. … I saw for the first time Rebel Without a Cause. And being 12 years old and in the throes of being disenfranchised a little bit. … When I saw this movie with James Dean, I said wow, I can relate to this. …
Steelman worked at Cinema 93, a one-screen theater, from the late 1960s until it closed decades later.
How did the economics of the cinema work over the years? Especially with one screen.
There were numerous attempts of design on how to break that up into two screens. Because it would have made an incredible amount of difference in my economic welfare. One screen, you’re sunk, if it doesn’t do any business. And you’re sunk if it does.
You had a customer base that … would see the movie sometimes on day one or day two. And if you played it for six weeks, they would get angry because there was no change in the program. … I played Dances with Wolves for six months and it was the biggest thing that I played there. … It was incredibly busy to begin with. At the end of January, Oscar nominations came out and it got a shot in the arm. … A month or six weeks after that, it won best picture, best director … back the business went again for another month or so. Towards the last couple of months of the engagement I was sneaking [other] things in, showing matinees … I didn’t want to give it up because on weekends it would come to life again.
former NH governor
Walter Peterson was governor of New Hampshire from 1969 through 1973. He was and is part of a traditional style of New England Republican — small government, balanced budget and hands off people’s personal lives. “Walter Peterson Republicans” might be a smaller group these days, but the former governor, who lives with his wife in Peterborough, still holds that Yankee viewpoint. Peterson, 87, still lives in Peterborough and remains active on a number of boards and with a number of organizations, though he recently said he is trying to cut back some. John Andrews talked with Peterson for the Feb. 1, 2007, issue.
Peterson talked about his time in the legislature.
The legislature in those days on most things was non-partisan. People would work together. You’d get to know people, you’d make common cause, you found out that there were some people in the Democratic Party [who] were, surprise surprise, very smart, very wonderful people, good people. I made a lot of friends across the aisle, as well as in the Republican Party. Later on, when I was Majority Leader and then Speaker, sure, I carried the ball for the leadership, what they wanted, but by getting on the inside, I could also argue for what made sense and what didn’t. That was awfully good training — not just for politics, for anything, for life, how to get along with people, how to make people come together, how to find common ground.
You don’t want one side to win.
You want everybody to be happy. You want a win-win.
While you were in the legislature, what prepared you, what did you learn there, that helped you as governor?
To appeal to the best in people. Everybody has a good side and a less good side, and the ordinary politicians, they appeal to the worst in people. If you, every time you get up, instead of running other people down you appeal to the highest aspirations and values — it’s not a new idea, it’s as current as today. You got several politicians out there doing it right now: Barack Obama, Deval Patrick.
Is there something about politics that makes it more tempting to appeal to the worse side of people?
It’s an easy shortcut to win short-term, and a way to build animosities that last a long time. Look at the world around you, look at what’s happening in the world. You begin to see what we’re seeing in Iraq, for one thing, is the result of ancient enmities, a civil war going on, death squads and everything else, and we were party to that. [Under] the guise of bringing something good, we didn’t.
Shane Brady and Arthur Sullivan, real estate gurus
Brady Sullivan — you see the name everywhere in Manchester. In the April 5, 2007, issue of the Hippo, Lisa Brown set out to answer the question “Who is Brady Sullivan?” Well, for starters, they’re two people: Shane Brady and Arthur Sullivan, both raised in Manchester. The duo rehabbed old buildings throughout the area, turned apartments into condos and have their name on several high-profile buildings in downtown Manchester.
What was your first deal?
SB: We wanted to buy the 156 units at Bass Island Estates. We teamed up and decided we would buy it together. It was a fun, interesting story. It was an FDIC property.
AS: We needed about $500,000 to buy it.
SB: No, we had the $500,000 for the deposit. We were having a hard time getting financing and we almost lost our deposit.
You almost lost a half a million dollars?
SB: Yes. This was in 1992 when the market was crashing and no one wanted to loan us money.
We finally got a loan out of Ohio. The Teacher’s Pension Fund out of Ohio. I was probably 24 years old. We were borrowing a million dollars.
I bet every bank around here wishes they had given you that first loan.
SB: We went to every bank around here and they denied us. That’s the way it went. Everybody else was in trouble. If you owned any real estate, you were in trouble. Everybody was in trouble those days.
After you bought Bass Island Estates, then what?
AS: Then we went through and turned the property around like we do today. We emptied the property out, renovated it and re-tenanted it and had a cash flow.
According to Sullivan in a follow-up interview, the apartment complex was an FDIC property, which meant that the Federal Deposit Insurance Company owned it and hired a management company to run it. At the time, the FDIC had so many properties, there was little oversight of the management companies, and as a result, Sullivan said, Bass Island Estates was run down, mismanaged and half empty, with all but a handful of tenants behind in rent. Sullivan said he and Brady wanted everyone out, so they could clean the place up.
AS: The first month Shane and I had it, we had to get a police detail to be there at night. We emptied the whole property, renovated it, re-tenanted it and just repositioned the property from a class C to a good B or B-plus property.
So, once that was done, you rented it again as apartments?
AS: Yes. We developed a positive cash flow, which propelled us to do more deals.
May Gruber, Manchester institution
When May Gruber spoke with John Andrews for the June, 21, 2007, issue of the Hippo, she was photographed wearing a “01.20.09” shirt and an Al Gore for president button. With her husband Sol Sidore, Gruber stared the Pandora factory in the 1950s. She also helped to start a weekly newspaper in Manchester (the long-defunct Manchester Free Press), the Manchester Community Music School, the New Hampshire Symphony and the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire.
You do spend a lot of time between New York and Goffstown. What keeps you coming back?
When I became president of Pandora ... the manufacturing was here and the showroom was in New York. And so I shuttled back and forth to be in each place because, one, you had to be aware of what the customers were saying, and two, you had to be aware of what we were manufacturing. After I sold it, I was so accustomed to going back and forth, I couldn’t give up either, because I love my home in Goffstown, and I have a very nice place in New York. It’s really a studio apartment, but it’s right near my alma mater, NYU. It’s a neighborhood familiar to me. …
Are politics different in New York than they are here?
I don’t get involved in politics in New York. I live in New Hampshire. I pay taxes in New Hampshire. I vote in New Hampshire. I founded the Goffstown Democratic Club. I think I can make more of an imprint here where it counts.
Do you consider New York more of a, New York is your second home, this is your first home?
New York is my fun place. I go to museums and I go to shows and I see art movies that you never see here. I shop in stores ... it’s just for fun. And doctors — my internist is in New York ... [He] has a specialty in geriatrics, and since I’m very old, I think that’s the right thing to do.
Do you still get over to the mills in Manchester?
My office is in the mill building because we still have quite a bit of interest in it. We sold Pandora, but we did not sell the buildings they were in. We now have the building that used to be our distribution center, and I think it’s the longest building in the Millyard ... and we also own the former locomotive works. We just bought it back from Dunn Furniture. And then we also own the little mall across the street, which we had bought to protect the Pandora factory store so that we would have more parking.
Michael Buckley, chef
Area foodies know Michael Buckley. In this age in which chefs have fans and followers, Buckley has given his devotees three places to try his food: Surf in Nashua, Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack and his original claim to local foodie fame, Michael Timothy’s Urban Bistro in Nashua. You can find Buckley and/or his food at many of the local foodie events and he’s one of the chefs slated to participate in the Have Knives, Will Travel chef-exchange event at Richard’s Bistro. Susan Ware talked to Buckley for the Sept. 20, 2007, issue of the Hippo.
Why New Hampshire?
I’m a local guy. I grew up in Brookline. Sarah [Buckley’s wife] is from Hollis; we knew each other in high school but didn’t date until later on. We live in Hollis now with our three kids. It’s not where you are but what you do that counts.
Did you always want to own your own restaurant?
Yes, my goal was to own one. I’d say most chefs like the idea of having their own place. It’s lots of hard work, and it isn’t for everyone. Some are happy just cooking, and when they punch out they can go golfing. When you’re an owner, it is very different, it is 24/7. It is hard to leave the job when you go home.
How do you juggle the demands of the restaurant business and family?
I am extremely fortunate to have a wife who completely understands this business. She puts in a lot of hours at the restaurants and gets what it takes to be successful in this business. My kids are fantastic. When I get home there is never all this drama about dad not being home; they all understand and support our goals.
Tell me about the menu.
At Michael Timothy’s we change the menu every month. There are house specialties, but not because we say they are, but because people tell us they are. Sometimes we’ll take something off of the menu and believe me I’ll hear about it. I can’t imagine taking off the Mediterranean salad, tournedos of beef, seared duck, white chocolate crème brulée or warm, soft chocolate cake. People would have fits. We took the field salad off once — a simple dish with scallion sour cream dressing and ham croutons — and we got a lot of feedback about it, so we put it back on. …
What advice would you give someone considering opening a restaurant?
I have to be careful not to offend anyone here. First, if you do not have solid restaurant experience, front and back, you end up relying on a few key employees, which you become hostage to. If they aren’t good, or they leave you, you are in big trouble. It is a very risky way to do business. The restaurant business is extremely tough. Margins are very small and getting smaller all the time as labor, food and energy costs keep going up. It isn’t just a job.
John H. Sununu,
NH Republican Party head
For New Hampshire Republicans, there was a bright spot to the losses for November 2008 — they got John H. Sununu, former governor and chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush, fired up. He took over as head of the state party organization in early 2009 and has spent the months since then laying the groundwork for the 2010 elections. He spoke with Jeff Mucciarone for the March 12, 2009, issue of the Hippo.
Why did you decide to reenter the ring?
Well, New Hampshire is really such a great state, and I saw it changing dramatically for the worse. I have kids and grandkids that I want to be able to enjoy the state and all the benefits of the state the same way I did. And I felt that if I didn’t get involved, it might never get restored to where it should be. I really do believe that over the last 10 to 12 years — now with the new administration coming in, it’ll be 12 out of 14 years of Democratic rule in the state — that the state really has lost a great deal. We’ve lost a lot of the quality of life. We’ve lost a lot of the aspects of local control which kept our citizens involved and self-governing. We’ve shifted power from cities and towns to Concord. And we have lost the fiscal discipline and the management discipline that made this a very well-run state that people really loved living in. It’s still a good state, but not as good as it used to be. It used to be a great state. And we have to try and help restore it. I saw that one of the biggest problems was that Democrats campaign well and govern terribly. But I also recognized that the problem was a problem within the Republican Party where we have not defined the difference between ourselves and the Democrats in a way that registered with the voters, and in a way that explained why the Republican traditional way of doing things really was done for the benefit of the state over the last half century.
Now that you’re back into it, do you feel energized or reinvigorated?
I’ve started to get back into the details of issues, like budgets, like the integrity of the public employee retirement system, like the policies on helping cities and towns govern themselves, on issues like the school funding issues, the school control issue. And as I get back into the details, I am a bit energized, but I, unfortunately, get more and more disappointed because I’m finding out things were even worse than I thought when I agreed to accept the responsibility of coming back.
Was there sort of a specific moment that you look back to, maybe in the last year, where you said, “I have to get back involved”?
Yeah, it was a family intervention. My sons, my wife, kids came in one day and said, “We have to talk to you.” I said, “What’s it about?” And they said, “Well, everybody’s been asking you to consider being chairman of the party — we think you have to take it.” And I had the funny feeling that I couldn’t get out of the room if I didn’t say yes. So I said yes.
Now that you’re back in, what are you hoping to accomplish?
What I have to do is help define the difference between the two parties in a way that can be communicated, not just by me, but by the Republicans involved [in] the political process across the state. Secondly, I have to raise some resources, because, frankly, money and people are the tools you use to get messages out. I’ve had to make sure what was a little bit of a, what was a few splinters inside the party, came together and I think we’ve succeeded on that. And by doing all three of the above, I hope to get the most important result, and that is to excite good candidates to run for political offices in the 2010 election.
Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo
CEO of Stonyfield Farm and a supporter of local environmental efforts, Gary Hirshberg got yet another boost in fame last summer with the film Food, Inc., a documentary about the way food is produced now and how it could be done better. Hirshberg is particularly about the how it could be done better part — at one point in the film, he brings Wal-Mart representatives to an organic farm. Stonyfield Farm is now offering two new organic yogurts, B-Well and B-Healthy, and this fall Hirshberg will speak at an international scientific conference in Ancient Olympia, Greece, on “Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People” organized by the World Council on Genetics, Nutrition and Fitness for Health.
If you could change the country’s food policy, what would be on your wish list?
I’d eliminate corn subsidy. I would eliminate the subsidies of corn, but also of bad practices. Right now we subsidize volume, and the problem is when you do that, you’re endorsing a lot of practices that really aren’t ecological. I’m not arguing for more subsidies for organic ... I just think there should be less subsidies of doing it the wrong way. Unfortunately, that’s politically going to be very challenging, but it’s exactly what’s going to have to happen.
Now here’s the little secret. It’s not all going to happen through policy. It’s going to happen through consumers demanding these kinds of foods, and then the market conditions will actually favor, you know, farmers are going to move in these directions with or without the subsidies...
What’s most on your mind right now when it comes to food?
I would say the national obesity, diabetes and cancer epidemics. I’ve lost three friends in the last nine months to pancreatic cancer. And I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have someone in their lives suffer from cancer. …
You spoke at the UNH commencement this year, I believe. And it’s a tough economy, and new grads frequently are looking for advice. So what do you think they need to do to see … personal success, and help build a stronger economy and healthier environment?
The short version, is ... everything starts somewhere, every car they drive, every drink that they drink, every piece of clothing they wear, was created by somebody asking my two favorite words, which are “Why not?”
This is the time ... that the sort of conventional economy is broken, and yet we see signs everywhere of incredible opportunity if we’re willing to think a little out of box. ... I went on to tell them about some of the incredible odds that we’ve had to overcome over the years to build Stonyfield. And I’m actually optimistic in these times because I see the companies that are surviving ... and beginning to prosper because they are reinventing themselves. They’re getting rid of inefficiency and they’re thinking about new ways of doing things.
And I’ll just give you one example. Stonyfield was investing in conservation, energy reduction, obviously 20 years ago. Those savings — we did a calculation this morning of ... — this is ballpark — just the current financial savings that we are receiving for current environmental investments that we’re making, and they total about four and a half million a year.
To summarize ... the idea that the environment and economy is in conflict is a dinosaur. It’s dead. It’s over. And young people who recognize that this is how money’s going to be made in future, this is how we’re going to do commerce, by reducing our carbon footprint and using resources of the Earth more wisely — they’re the ones who are going to win.
Ted Gatsas is trying things. Even before he took the oath of office this January, he had some ideas for new ways to organize Manchester schools. In the few months he’s been in office, he’s done more reorganization. A life-long Manchester resident, Gatsas, a Republican, was an alderman for Manchester’s Ward 2 from 1999 until he became mayor, and was a state senator from 2000 until 2009. Before getting into politics, he owned a staffing business with his brother. Gatsas, whose heritage is a mix of Greek and Lebanese, may be the city’s first mayor of Greek ancestry. Jeff Mucciarone talked to him for the Dec. 3, 2009, issue.
Why was Manchester a good spot for you to base your business?
It was a business that offered services to small businesses. It’s the place I grew up, along with my brother. It was an opportunity to go in and take some of the pressure, things like doing the payroll, off small businesses.
Were there things about the city that were helpful to you as a business owner?
I think just being a native of the community, people hold out their hands to natives to try to help them out. ... It’s always been that way and it always will be that way.
Are there things the city could do differently to help new business owners with the process of opening up in the city?
Well, streamlining the way they get permits — that’s got to be taken a look at. We must make it as easy as possible to get into it.
[What about the role of business in Manchester in the region?]
There’s no question, rather than just looking at Manchester as a segment, we must start looking globally. How can we interact with the communities around us so that we’re going to enhance the region and the state? Obviously, we have the airport, which is a huge economic engine to the city and the state. We must do everything in our power to keep it going.