D’Allesandro continues to build on his legacy

Longtime senator will receive BIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award
Lou D'Allesandro

Lou D’Allesandro

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro has served in elected office in New Hampshire for more than 45 years including 13 consecutive terms in the state Senate.

Known for his booming voice on roll call votes, the dean of the Senate is not done, saying, “As long as I’m producing positive results, I’ll keep it going.”

Sen. D’Allesandro, whose district includes six Manchester wards, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Business & Industry Association’s 110th Annual Dinner and Awards Celebration, presented by Eversource, Oct. 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester.

Former NH Housing executive director and CEO Dean Christon and attorney Sherilyn Burnett Young of Rath, Young and Pignatelli, will also receive Lifetime Achievement Awards, sponsored by Whelen Engineering Company. Friends of Aine will receive the New Hampshire Advantage Award, sponsored by Bank of America. (To see past winners, visit https://bit.ly/BIAhonorees.)

The Manchester Democrat was motivated to enter public service by his experiences in the 1960s, marked like many of his generation, by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“I was a civics teacher in a local high school, and I wanted to promote interest in government,” he said. “Civil rights and voting rights were very much part of my teaching.”

Education is close to heart for D’Allesandro. He served as president of Daniel Webster College and Nasson College, and vice president of Franklin Pierce University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1961 from the University of New Hampshire, a master’s degree from Rivier University in 1971, and attended Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government programs in 2002.

“I want more people to know how important public education is, the accessibility and affordability of public education,” he said. D’Allesandro recently completed nearly two decades as an appointee to the New England Board of Higher Education, which promotes greater opportunities for New England students.

His political resume includes serving in the House from 1973-1974 and 1997-1999, the Executive Council from 1974-1980 and 10 years on his local school board. He didn’t think he’d serve during six different decades. I thought I’d stay in it for a while. I ran for governor a couple times and thought that would be the end, but it was just a partial stay.”

At 85, the senator does ponder his legacy. He’s exceptionally proud of the 2004 passage of a bill he sponsored that allowed adults adopted as children in New Hampshire to access their original birth certificates, including the names of their birth parents. It took years to pass.

“I was on floor of the Senate and the debate was live streamed,” D’Allesandro recalled. “A woman from New York called me after. She was crying and said she had waited her whole life. It’s very rewarding to help other people.”

D’Allesandro said several states followed New Hampshire’s lead and passed similar bills.

Serving in the Senate is a grind paying $100 a year. He’s quick to say he couldn’t continue to serve without the support of his family and friends.

“I know the significant role family plays in your life and your passage through life,” he said. “So many people have helped me along the way and I’m so grateful.”

When he considers another campaign and term, he always comes back to helping others.

“There are just so many needs that need to be addressed,” said D’Allesandro, who serves on the Board of Directors of Southern New Hampshire Services, a community action program. “I feel a responsibility of being part of making a difference. It’s something I got from my family. People feel shut out, like they don’t have a place to turn. Hopefully, in my own way, I have provided that opportunity.”

His biggest legislative regret? Casino gaming. For 20 years he championed legislation to create a single, full-scale casino at the site of Rockingham Park in Salem, touting its ability to preserve historic horse racing in New Hampshire. The closest he came was in 2014 when his bill died in the House by one vote.

“Now you have the advent of 16 ‘quote-unquote’ charitable gaming casinos in New Hampshire,” he said. “I think it’s a 100% difference. One facility would have brought lots of revenue for New Hampshire, lots of jobs for New Hampshire. All those factors play into strong economic development.”

As he embarks on his next legislative session, he rattles off priorities, including continuing the state’s economic growth and focusing on mental health services. Closure of the troubled Sununu Youth Services Center will lead to a new treatment center for children in need, “not a warehouse situation,” he said.

Filling state job vacancies is a priority, especially 60 state trooper openings. “That’s a problem. I’d like to see that taken care of.” He also wants to further address lead testing and water quality issues, adding “water quality and availability is critical. We need to continue with the environmental work.”

D’Allesandro circles back to a bill signed into law last session that embodies his tenaciousness. While it took several attempts, New Hampshire now requires civics education from elementary through high school.

“I’d like to see more people get involved and understand how government can be a positive influence, and change people’s perceptions of politicians. Make it seen as more of a noble profession,” he said. “I’d like to think that’s part of my legacy, that I had a hand in making government better and more accessible to people.”

To purchase tickets for BIA’s Annual Dinner and to see a list of sponsors, visit https://bit.ly/BIAAnnualDinner2023. For sponsorship opportunities, email Lora McMahon.

Rick Fabrizio is director of communications and public policy for the BIA.

Categories: Government, Politics