You’ll read profiles of eight candidates running for City Council this year at One Portsmouth’s website, all of whom will deliver, in their own unique ways, outstanding leadership for Portsmouth. Some have experience on the Council. Some have had to manage staff and budgets in their careers. Some understand education policy (it is more than half the city’s operating budget, after all). Some have experience in land use policy. From this, you can say at least two things:
1) They have all demonstrated a real commitment to service in our community, in a spirit that seeks collaboration, rather than polarization.
2) Chris Dwyer has every one of the attributes listed above, and is an invaluable member of the Council, and our community.
Chris is the longest-serving member of the City Council, and her level of civic engagement in Portsmouth (and beyond) is remarkable. During her first term (she was first elected in 2005), Chris was not only a proponent of keeping Portsmouth Middle School in its downtown location – she was a key leader from day one. Ten years later, Chris (along with outgoing School Board member Dexter Legg, another outstanding public servant) completed her role as the co-chair of the Joint Building Committee for the middle school. Simply put, without Chris’ leadership, our children would not enjoy this beautiful, best-in-class, downtown facility today.
She also was an early leader, over a decade ago, in the planning, development, and completion of the African Burying Ground. This project, one of only two such memorials in the United States, required a decade of work – and, once again, Chris helped drive that project from start to finish. She worked on the technical, aesthetic, and historic elements of the project, while also raising significant funds during an economically challenging time for philanthropy.
And on the Council, where Councilors are asked to serve on one or more committees outside of the regularly-scheduled meetings, few have accepted more of the most time-consuming, impactful assignments than Chris. She is never afraid to roll up her sleeves on the issues that matter most in local government. Land use? She served on the Planning Board, an immensely time-consuming role. The economy? She served on the Workforce Housing Committee, and the Economic Development Commission. Public Safety? She has served on committees that studied both the Police and Fire Departments, including their staffing and structure. Quality of life? She was part of the Safe Routes to School Committee, as well as the Sagamore-Jones Development Committee. It would be difficult to write a history of the last decade-plus of Portsmouth’s successes without Chris being prominently featured.
Of course, this doesn’t even mention her leadership in the arts community in Portsmouth, and throughout New Hampshire. Portsmouth was the first community in the state to institute a “Percent for the Arts” ordinance – an effort led by Chris. She was an early leader of Art-Speak, and an active participant in Portsmouth’s Cultural Plan way back in 2002. In terms of philanthropy and strategic planning, many of Portsmouth’s key cultural pillars – including The Music Hall, 3S, Strawberry Banke, PMAC, and the Pontine Theater – have been touched by Chris’ leadership, knowledge, and commitment.
The depth and length of her service is plenty enough reason to support Chris – but it also would be justification for why one would not want to seek re-election after ten years. Chris did decide to run again, obviously, and her commitment to be a part of returning our civic discourse from one of divide-and-conquer back to collaboration and the common good is both laudable…and unsurprising.
If you haven’t read her essay explaining her reason for running again, published in the Portsmouth Herald on September 14th, 2015, please take a moment to do so. A recent blog post on this site highlighting the piece included this:
She has seen it more directly than most, having served on the Council since January of 2006. I served with her as mayor during her first term, and much of the negativity she describes [in her essay] simply did not exist less than a decade ago…the negativity Chris describes acts to depress turnout, and depress candidacies.
Unless. Unless it is confronted with an attitude that educates, celebrates, and motivates the best and brightest of our community to aim higher. Chris has been that sort of example for 10 years in elected office, and for much longer in other parts of civic life. There are some fantastic candidates on the ballot this fall, who have demonstrated in their lives the power of positive, collaborative civic engagement. This site will be highlighting them in the days to come, and doing everything possible to match the passion Chris Dwyer is bringing to this election season.
Portsmouth is one of the best small cities in America in which to live, work, play, and visit. Chris Dwyer, has been a central figure in making that so. A vote for Chris is a positive statement about who we are as a community. Her commitment to collaboration and service, common sense, and the willingness to work makes her the conscience of our community.