Ex-AG looks at a career of ‘twists’


“My life has more twists than a pretzel,” says former New Hampshire Attorney General Peter Heed, whose fate has, indeed, taken some unexpected turns. For instance, Heed had no idea that Ed Burke, the incumbent he ousted when he won election as Cheshire County attorney in 2000, would be a partner in the same Keene law firm (Bragdon & Berkson) where Heed is practicing today. Fortunately, it was an amicable campaign. (“You never heard such a friendly debate,” Heed says.) Nor would he have been able to predict his tenure as AG would end so abruptly and under such circumstances. In 2004, he resigned under pressure from the job over allegations of misconduct, including inappropriate touching on the dance floor, during a party that followed a conference at the Mt. Washington hotel. A state-authorized investigation by Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway later cleared Heed of criminal misconduct. “This was a job at the pinnacle of his career and it was taken away from him on the basis of allegations,” says N.H. Sen. Tom Eaton, a fellow Keene Republican. “Everyone who knew him knew that the allegations were wrong.” Heed’s stewardship of the state’s Department of Justice, lasting barely a year and a half, was nonetheless notable, Eaton says. “People were so energized by Peter from within his office that it went filtering right out to the police departments. I heard, so many times, people say they were so grateful to have someone who really knew what they had to deal with.” “He probably has more energy than any 10 persons I’ve ever met,” says Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who was deputy AG during Heed’s tenure. “In terms of motivating people, I think that enthusiasm was great. Peter has tremendous inner strength, and I think that has always carried him and served him well in every position he has had in his life.” ‘Old-fashioned’ A native of Pennsylvania, Heed grew up in what he describes as “Amish country,” in a town called Chad’s Ford. Childhood memories include horseback riding and working on a dairy farm. He does not volunteer, but will confirm if asked, that he was born with a club foot that kept him in braces, on crutches and in wheelchairs until corrective surgery allowed him to walk unaided at age 13. His left leg remains an inch and a half shorter than his right, however, and he still has to buy two pairs of shoes or boots for every one he wears — one size 7 1/2 and the other size 10. “My father was a track man. He was a runner and I always wished I could have been a better runner, a better athlete,” he recalls. He learned to ski, “basically on one leg,” as an undergraduate at Dartmouth and took up rugby there as well. “I was the hooker,” he says. “That’s usually a small guy and you don’t have to be fast. They said they needed somebody who doesn’t mind getting hurt and I said, ‘That’s me!’” He continued to play while at Cornell Law School and later with the Concord (now Amoskeag) Rugby Club, until a back injury left him looking for another sport. “I took up kayaking when I got hurt playing rugby,” he says. He was part of the U.S. Marathon Canoe Team in 1982 and just this summer, he and rowing partner John Edwards of Tampa, Fla., took first place in what Heed calls the “old man division” (40 and over) at the National Canoe Championships in Warren, Pa. Still youthful and trim at 55, Heed cheerfully admits to being “a dinosaur” at the office. He can get by on the computer, but he would rather talk. “I do a lot of dictation,” he says. “I think better by talking.” That suggests he is thinking constantly and at high speed. (“Peter talks on his back swing,” says Eaton, who has seen and heard him golf.) He misses the days when letters arrived in real envelopes, allowing more time to reply. “I know I’m old-fashioned when I get back from court and find 85 e-mails that people want you to respond to immediately,” he says. “They all wonder why they don’t get an answer in half an hour.” But if he sometimes feels overwhelmed by it, he manages somehow to live with the new technology. Old dinosaurs never die. “As long as we’re going to have trials and we’re going to have jurors who are real people, not computers, and it’s going to require a lawyer who can think on his feet and is comfortable relating to people—as long as we have that,” he says confidently, “maybe we’re going to need to have people like me.”
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