Nancy Pearson may well knock on your door this fall as she canvasses neighborhoods around Portsmouth, seeking elected office for the first time. Many candidates will seek to leave you impressed with what they know, and Nancy certainly brings much on that level. However, at a time when many voters are looking for the combination of smarts, experience, and a highly collaborative way of solving problems, there are few candidates who better reflect that combination of skills in both spirit and deed than Nancy Pearson.
A Path to Portsmouth
Nancy’s website includes a quick bit about her own background. After growing up south of Boston, and studying communications and education, she eventually moved to New Hampshire for a teaching position in the Seacoast area. Her skills took her to New Hampshire Public Television, where she created and promoted educational programming, including workshops for K-12 teachers across New Hampshire.
In 2006, her work moved literally down the road to UNH, where she served as the Director of Marketing & Communications for the Department of Theatre & Dance. It was, as she puts it, the “in-house agency for performing arts” at UNH – overseeing the hiring of 60+ seasonal staff, budgets, design and execution of marketing, social media, educational programming, and more.
During her time at UNH, she and her family (she and her husband have a son who recently graduated from college with an engineering degree) moved to Portsmouth. As she says on her website:
Although I lived in Dover for 14 years, my heart always belonged to this city. One day, I looked at my husband and said, “We shop in Portsmouth, we eat in Portsmouth, we spend all our spare time in Portsmouth, and most of our friends are in Portsmouth. Why don’t we live in Portsmouth?” So we moved to town and it was one of the best decisions we ever made.
Our community very quickly became the beneficiary of her civic activism, starting with her work with Art-Speak.
Art Speak – From Volunteer to Executive Director
Art-Speak is a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed early in the 2000s as a result of Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee to understand, measure, and support Portsmouth’s arts, cultural, and historic community. It would be impossible to see the national recognition Portsmouth has received as one of the best small cities in America to live, work, and visit without connecting the central role the arts community is playing in strengthening our community. Art-Speak has been an important voice in promoting Portsmouth in this regard, as well as quantifying the positive impact of the arts on our economy and quality of life.
Nancy has immersed herself in this work, and her sophistication, authenticity, and knowledge on the arts and cultural communities will be invaluable on the City Council. Nancy has served on the Art-Speak board since 2011 in a number of roles: first, as a volunteer member of the board; then, two years as the President of the board; and over the past year-plus, as the Executive Director of the organization, also considered Portsmouth’s Cultural Commission. Consider her comments on the importance of this part of our community for all of us:
I believe the heart and soul of Portsmouth lies in its rich cultural identity. From architecture and visual arts to a robust performing arts scene and maritime history, Portsmouth’s arts and culture are a driving force in its continued growth and success. With an annual economic impact of more than $41.5 million dollars, (Yep, that’s million) the arts are interconnected with every facet of the city; parking, affordable housing, transportation, education, retail, dining, employee recruitment, city planning, economic development, tourism and more. In other words, arts and culture are connected to everything.
In the midst of this work, Nancy completed her master’s degree in public administration, earning her MPA in 2012. As somebody who had the pleasure of working with Nancy while both of us worked at UNH, I know that her experience in managing people, budgets, and projects is matched with a highly collaborative, positive management style.
The City Manager-City Council format of local government, which is the most common in the U.S., requires our nine-member Council to act as a Board of Directors on behalf of the people of Portsmouth. Our mayor does not have veto power, as many other cities’ mayors do; unlike many cities, our Council votes on the municipal, fire, police, and school budgets, meaning working with department heads, city management, and fellow councilors is critically important. This is true in any municipal government structure, but perhaps even more so in Portsmouth, given the unique way we elect councilors and determine budgets.
Having Nancy Pearson as part of Portsmouth’s next City Council will bring the training of an MPA, the experience of an Executive Director, the deep understanding of our cultural economy, the perspective of a former teacher, and a problem-solving style of collaboration that is so important to the future of our community.
Nancy will be great for our community on the Council, and deserves your support. Check out her website, “like” her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter. If you can, put one of her signs in your yard, write a letter to the editor on her behalf, or offer to knock on some doors with her. You can even make a modest financial contribution to her campaign via the website. Nancy is ready to serve our community – let’s help Nancy get that opportunity!