In government, competence is rare enough to be remarkable. So it is notable that New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is leaving office after eight years with the approval of two out of every three Granite Staters.
It’s also a rare governor who’s a familiar face to most of the state’s fourth-grade population.
Lynch has, indeed, been a rare governor.
In a recent editorial board meeting, Lynch said he always leaves meetings, no matter how important, to greet fourth-graders who visit the Statehouse as part of their year-long study of the state.
He’s also a familiar face to many other Granite Staters. He’s probably attended more veterans’ events, business ribbon-cuttings and expansions, Old Home Day cookouts and parades than any other leader in recent memory.
Since the popular Democrat defeated one-term Republican Gov. Craig Benson in 2004, Lynch has presided over a state undergoing what could be described as a kind of political schizophrenia.
In 2006, Granite Staters swept Democrats into control of both houses of the Legislature for the first time since 1911. Democrats also won the state’s two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2010, New Hampshire voters reversed themselves and gave Republicans majorities in the Legislature and control of the state’s congressional seats.
In the 2012 election just completed, power shifted again, with Democrats recapturing the House as well as the congressional seats. Republicans barely held a majority in the state Senate.
Through all the “throw the bums out” turmoil, Lynch remained in the governor’s office until he chose not to seek re-election in 2012. He will be succeeded by Democrat Maggie Hassan.
Lynch sees the wild swings in power as a desire among New Hampshire voters for the centrist political philosophy he has embodied. That desire may have been misinterpreted by legislators who have offered voters one extreme or the other.
“Most people in New Hampshire have a tendency to be centrist, which is where I am,” Lynch said in the editorial board meeting. “The Legislature tends to swing from left to right.”
Lynch’s leadership style was to treat the governor’s office not as a “bully pulpit,” but as office of a chief executive, clearly a continuation of his successful career in the private world as a business consultant and CEO of a furniture manufacturer.
One wouldn’t expect Lynch to lead a Teddy Roosevelt-like charge up San Juan Hill. But one could count on Lynch to have all the pieces in place so that the charge would be a success.
That steady hand was just what New Hampshire needed as the nation tipped over into the worst recession since the Great Depression. New Hampshire weathered the storm better than most, and Lynch’s even-keel leadership was no small part of it.
Lynch said he’s optimistic about the future of New Hampshire, saying its core philosophies of low spending and low taxation make the state appealing to businesses and individuals.
“It’s a great state. It’s a special state,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us to keep New Hampshire the special state it is.”
“I really appreciate the trust the people of New Hampshire have placed in me,” Lynch added in closing. “It’s been a real honor to be governor. I loved being governor. The people of New Hampshire have been so supportive as I get out and about, I just thank them for the opportunity.”
Lynch can leave office with the satisfaction of knowing he has done his job well. We wish him the best.