In the last decade, Eric Spear has gone from a citizen leader, to a new councilor, to a mayor, and then back to the council. Nobody running this year for City Council understands the job better, and shown more willingness to lead with clarity, focus, common sense, and a refreshing “matter-of-factness” than Eric.
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas recently said, “One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are.” Indeed, part of Eric’s appeal may come from the fact that he is decidedly not a politician. His background is in technology – undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science, followed by years of working in information technology for Maryland’s university system, and then a recent decision to form his own company in the higher ed IT field. There are few vocations that prioritize logic, detail, and analytical skills more than his chosen field – skills which have contributed to Eric consistently being able to cut through rhetoric, and focus on outcomes that matter most to the community of Portsmouth.
The willingness to lead – defined as listening, learning, deciding, and then leading – predates his first election victory in 2007. In 2005, as a private citizen, Eric was one of the community’s leading voices urging the city to keep Portsmouth Middle School in its current downtown location, at a time when that was not the majority view of decision-makers. The next year, he became a founding member of the Mayor’s Committee on Sustainable Practices, helping Portsmouth become the first Eco-Municipality on the east coast of the U.S.
But it’s been Eric’s leadership on the Council, starting in 2008, that makes him invaluable to the community. He came in at a time when the economy was in free fall – the tax base was not growing quickly, the pressure to downshift costs from the state and county level to the local level was immense, and residents’ ability to pay their taxes was under duress. However, while many other cities in New Hampshire felt compelled to both slash staffing levels and increase taxes beyond inflation, Eric was one of those on the Council who worked closely with excellent city staff to manage our way through the crisis. Fiscal responsibility remains a priority for Eric, and his track record of prioritizing the delivery of value for taxpayer dollars is outstanding.
On infrastructure, responsible growth, land use, and parking policy, Eric has also been unafraid to lead. His time as a member of the Historic District Commission (HDC) strengthened his commitment to balancing growth with preserving the history that helps make us who we are. As mayor, he understood the relationship between growing our commercial tax base, holding residential tax increases in check, and delivering highly-regarded education, public safety, and infrastructure for our residents. At a time when a vocal, active combination of residents and non-residents expressed disapproval with a downtown plan that included a new parking garage, Eric stuck with what the data showed to be the optimal proposal. As he has said before, leadership is more than pointing out a problem, and then focusing on what you are against. Leadership is about proposing long-term solutions, even in the face of short-term elections. Even when it has not been easy, Eric has proposed thoughtful solutions. He has been a leader.
With that spirit, Eric was returned by the voters to the Council in 2013, though back to the role in which he began – a city councilor. Undeterred, he has embraced his role as a veteran of the process – candid, focused, pragmatic, and wise. Now seeking a 5th term, he has worked with Councils that have been collaborative, and others that have been combative. He’s worked under two mayors, and been a mayor himself. He’s been the newcomer, and he’s been in the bullseye. The political environments have changed in his time, but Eric has not. Having seen him in action in public and private life over the past decade, there is no doubt that the pursuit of truth, rather than power, drives Eric Spear to serve. That is exactly why we need him back on the Council in 2016.