COOK ON CONCORD: N.H. is losing a significant leader
Leadership courses often note the ironic contrast between people with leadership qualities and those occupying leadership positions, whether elected or otherwise. Such courses ask for people to think about why many people who are leaders are not in leadership positions and whether those occupying leadership positions are truly leaders. When true leaders occupy leadership positions, special things happen.
One such happy coincidence of a leader occupying a leadership position is J. Michael Hickey as president of Verizon New Hampshire. Mike Hickey has been a leader since his days at the University of New Hampshire, from which he graduated in the early 1970s, to his work in chamber of commerce positions in the Mount Washington Valley, to his service to the state of New Hampshire to his longstanding service to Verizon and its predecessors in the telephone and communications business.
As head of Verizon New Hampshire, Mike Hickey has occupied a position which, by its nature, allows him to participate in the life of the state in many ways. In fact, some observers have noted that being in that position has many of the same opportunities as being governor without the necessity of having to be elected by the voters.
Hickey has served on the boards of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Public Radio, Citizens Bank, the Bishop’s Charitable Assistance Fund and many, many other organizations. He has served the state by chairing the Governor’s Efficiency Commission of late and until recently was the chair of the committee seeking a new president for the Business and Industry Association.
Hickey left his position with Verizon New Hampshire and the state to take a new vice president’s position in Washington, D.C., coordinating the homeland security tasks of Verizon. That he will do this well is beyond question, Hickey being a consummate communicator, negotiator, facilitator and advocate with governmental leaders for the policies he believes should be adopted.
However, Hickey’s loss to New Hampshire is significant for many reasons. Not only are his personal talents leaving New Hampshire (one would hope only temporarily, as Hickey hopes to retain a home here), but also because the position he occupies is not being preserved in its present form. Hickey is the last of a string of significant leaders who have occupied the top job at Verizon and its predecessors, Nynex and New England Telephone. Recent occupants of that position include Donald Reed, who later when on to major positions with the telephone company and other industries, Alan Pattee, Patrick Duffy, later commissioner of administration services for the state, chairman of the Manchester Airport Authority and noted philanthropist, and Michael McClusky, now administrator at the McLane law firm and a continuing participant in New Hampshire business and culture.
As with many other companies in this age of changing technology and consolidation, however, Verizon is changing the nature of the job, combining New Hampshire with other territories and assigning the position to an executive who will have responsibility for more than New Hampshire.
A similar fate has befallen the head of Fleet Bank New Hampshire with the merger with Bank of America. As these positions change, there is less time for the head businessperson in such a company to serve on boards, contribute to the state, be aware of its charitable needs and focus solely on this state.
New Hampshire should pause and thank J. Michael Hickey, and his able wife Marilyn as well, for their contributions, note their leaving with pride in their accomplishments, but also consider the effect on our civic and corporate lives as the position Mike has occupied is changed.
A true leader is leaving. Let us hope we get him back soon.
In another passing, state Sen. Clifton Below, expected to seek and win another term, announced his retirement near the end of the filing period. His seat, one of the few sure seats for a Democratic incumbent, suddenly became more interesting to the Republicans.
Recently retired House Minority Leader Peter Burling came out of a brief retirement to announce for the seat, giving the Democrats a good chance to retain it. Below’s surprise announcement means another change in the Senate, which will be a very different place next year both because of the identity of the members and the expected Democratic gains that are expected to reduce the lopsided Republican majority.
Governor Benson has discouraged many observers with his request that department heads prepare for extensive cuts in next year’s budget.
Many Republicans and Democrats wonder if the governor is trying to single-handedly dismantle state government with his insistence on no new revenue. The effect of these cuts on human services as well as county and local tax rates are predicted to be extensive. This is sure to be a major issue in the fall election.
The report on former Attorney General Peter Heed exonerated him, continued the curious story of what led to his resignation since no one filed a complaint, and he apparently did little if anything wrong. The final conclusion is that someone overstated the nature of the alleged actions, perhaps in an effort to get him to resign before the facts were known. Heed clearly jumped the gun by resigning. nhbr
Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.