Celebrating 75 Years of Service to Your Hometown

NHMA Staff

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

In 2016, the New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) will celebrate its 75th anniversary throughout the year with the theme of “Celebrating 75 Years of Service to Your Hometown.”

NHMA traces its history to February 27, 1941, the date that marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Association; an important milestone for both the Association and New Hampshire municipal government. Since then, NHMA has established a rich history of strengthening municipal governments through information, advocacy, legal services, training assistance and other services to New Hampshire municipal officials, enabling them to serve their municipalities more effectively.

In recognizing this important date in our history, we are pleased to share the special commendation from Governor Maggie Hassan, which can be found on this page. This commendation acknowledges the commitment and dedication this organization has demonstrated over the years to New Hampshire cities and towns and the lasting contributions of our members to State and local governments since 1941.

To help us celebrate this event with the entire membership throughout 2016, a 75th Anniversary Committee has been formed and consists of the following board members; Dave Caron, Jaffrey town manager; Steve Fournier, Newmarket town administrator; Butch Burbank, Lincoln town manager; Ben Bynum, Canterbury clerk/tax collector and Brent Lemire, Litchfield selectman. This committee will likely meet monthly right up to the dates of our 2016 Annual Conference on November 16 & 17, 2016. If you would like to volunteer your time on this committee, please send us an email at nhmainfo@nhmuncipal.org.

Our year-long celebration will take many forms. In addition to what you see in our bi-monthly installments in the Association magazine, New Hampshire Town and City, we will also be sharing bits of historical information in our bi-weekly electronic newsletter, NewsLink. And lastly, we also hope you will save the dates of Wednesday, November 16 and Thursday, November 17 and join us at our 2016 annual conference as we celebrate 75 years of service to your hometown with a special gala celebration to be held on Thursday night. You won’t want to miss this celebration.

Today, NHMA continues its strong legacy and remains a vibrant, dynamic organization because of the strong support of its members. We thank you and look forward to the next 75 years supporting local government.

The Early Years of the New Hampshire Municipal Association (1934-1962)


American Municipal Association representatives meet with New Hampshire officials in 1934 where interest had been expressed in organizing a state municipal league. AMA reported earmarking a field agent grant to New Hampshire if further interest should develop.


On November 8, 1936, Maine became the first state in New England to organize a league of municipalities and the Maine league office was in Hallowell City Hall during the first year.


In 1938, Lashley G. Harvey, a graduate student at Harvard, was invited by the new president at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Fred Englehardt, to set up a Bureau of Government Research in Durham which was to make its services available to local and state officials.  At Harvard’s Graduate School of Public Administration, Mr. Harvey was mentored by Professor Morris Lambie, who was previously a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota and also head of the Minnesota Municipal League. In connecting the dots, UNH President Englehardt had been Professor of Education at Minnesota before he became UNH president.

Mr. Harvey pushed for a municipal association in New Hampshire. Dr. Englehardt suggested Mr. Harvey sound out the possibilities of a league of municipalities but was surprised when town and city officials did not respond readily.


That the subject of a municipal association was by no means new is indicated by the following report in the Concord Monitor in the summer of 1939:

Durham, July 7: Foundation was laid here yesterday for a much more useful organization of public officials for study of mutual and particular problems when the New Hampshire Mayors Club turned away its traditional practice of electing one of its members as a corresponding secretary and instead chose Professor Lashley G. Harvey, director of the newly established bureau of government research at the University of New Hampshire. Harvey succeeded Mayor Kenneth Goldsmith of Portsmouth, who was unable to attend yesterday’s meeting and asked that he be relieved of the duties of the post. The new president is Mayor Robinson W. Smith of Laconia, who was elected to succeed Mayor Edward J. Gallagher who voluntarily withdrew from the presidency. Election of the new officers took place in connection with the University’s second institute on public affairs which drew a substantial attendance of town, city, county and state officials for a program of discussion. At the formal meetings suggestion was made that New Hampshire could profit from the organization of a municipal league which would provide an organized forum for the exchange of information and ideas.


Twelve months later, the bulletin of the American Municipal Association (since 1964, the National League of Cities) for July, 1940, said:

Formation of a State League Urged in New Hampshire

High spot for city officials of the Third Annual Institute of Public affairs held on July 8-9 (1940) at the University of New Hampshire was a vigorous plea by former Mayor Edward J. Gallagher of Laconia for the formation of a state league of municipalities. In his endorsement of a municipal league former Mayor Gallagher cited the co-operative advantages growing out of organizations of public officials relating to a single interest as illustrative of greater advantages which could come from an “over-all” organization. A municipal association, he said, would not destroy the individual organizations such as those for the mayors, city overseers of the poor, police officials, sheriffs, school officials, and teachers, fire chiefs and wardens, welfare workers, county commissioners, highway builders, town clerks, selectmen and assessors. Instead, he contended, such an association would provide a means for mutual assistance and survey of problems.

Groundwork for the February action was laid three months before at a meeting in Concord City Hall. The Manchester Union of November 26, 1940 carried the following report:

Concord, November 25: First steps toward formation of a Municipal League for New Hampshire were taken by 17 municipal officers of the state at a meeting Monday afternoon in the City Hall council chamber. The group, after spending two hours discussing the functions and benefits of a league, voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling upon the governing bodies of the cities of New Hampshire to nominate representatives to attend another meeting to be held sometime in the future. Lashley G. Harvey, executive secretary of the Bureau of Government Research of the University of New Hampshire, occupied the chair at the meeting in the absence of Edward J. Gallagher of Laconia. Mr. Gallagher, principal sponsor of the meeting, was called unexpectedly to Boston. Mr. Harvey pointed out that New Hampshire is one of only six states in the union which have not yet organized municipal leagues. As an argument for the creation of such an organization, he pointed out that the National Defense Council in Washington has adopted a policy of dealing with state municipal leagues in all matters pertaining to defense problems in individual towns and cities.

Three mayors were among the nucleus committees which met here. Other cities were represented by delegates appointed by their chief executives. Those present were Mayor John W. Storrs of Concord; Mayor Robinson W. Smith of Laconia; Mayor Henry R. Proulx of Franklin; City Clerk Arthur E. Roby of Concord; Louis H. Douphinett, of Franklin; Philip M. Trafton, Portsmouth; L.H. Wilkinson of Laconia; Policy Chief George N. Hubbard of Laconia; Arnold Perreton, assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire; Charles A. Blessing, representing State Planning Director Frederick P. Clark; James P. Keenan, ex-mayor of Dover; H.H. Hart of Wolfeboro, executive secretary of the Lake Region Associaton; Leonard C. Hardwick city solicitor of Rochester; J. Levi Meader, ex-mayor of Rochester; Sidney S. Frissell of Keene, executive secretary of the Manchester Taxpayer’s Association; P.P. Charland of Franklin and Frederick E. Small of Rochester.


After several years of exploration and considerable discussion by the New Hampshire Mayor’s Club during the late 1930’s, incorporation papers (see inset) for the New Hampshire Municipal League were signed in Concord on February 27, 1941. Signers included Mayor Robinson W. Smith of Laconia, president of the Mayors’ Club; Mayor John W. Storrs and City Clerk Arthur E. Roby of Concord; Professor Lashley G. Harvey, of the Department of Government Research at UNH. This action was preceded by a conference of representatives of New Hampshire cities and towns in Representatives’ Hall at the State House to consider formation of a state-wide municipal league.

Thus it came about that a New Hampshire Municipal Association was launched and incorporation papers signed. The New Hampshire Municipal Association was incorporated “to promote good municipal government and thereby promote the growth and prosperity of cities, towns, and villages.”

Before the association could proceed far, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, and the project of the association became sidetracked.  The World War II years slowed league organizing activity in the 1940s, but in the late 1950s, the municipal league movement picked up again and spread to the remaining eleven states, including most of New England and New Hampshire.


For New Hampshire, the movement from a part-time league to a full-time league began in 1957, accomplished with help from a $24,000 Spaulding Trust Fund grant to set up independent offices. This was the culmination of a fifteen-year effort dating back to the early 1940s. But the new full-time league quickly ran into difficulty. When it was discovered that cities had statutory authority to spend funds for membership but towns did not, the association had legislation introduced to remedy the situation. The bill was vetoed by the governor, however, who was angry with the executive director for accusing the governor of not being interested in municipal issues because he did not respond to a candidates’ questionnaire during the previous election campaign. The executive director resigned and all activities were discontinued except for the magazine, which was financially self-supporting.


By December 31, 1959, the NHMA had closed its doors in Concord. The association’s magazine, Town and City, continued to be published monthly, however, until such time as proper legislation could be introduced, passed by the Legislature, and signed by the executive to legally permit towns to remit service charges to the Association. An enabling act to legalize this practice was passed by the 1959 legislature, but was unexpectedly vetoed by Governor Powell. At the time of the veto there were 90 member towns. In January 1960, NHMA President, James C. Chamberlin, wrote: The Association believed it unfair to ask cities to continue paying service charges in support of the organization when towns could not do so. And even with all cities paying dues, it appeared virtually impossible to maintain the office with full-time secretary and part-time executive director. Accordingly, the Concord operation has been given up, along with the necessary overhead expenses, which we could no longer afford. We are asking all former members, individuals and advertisers to support our magazine, Town and City. Only in this way can we continue to provide some of the many services we have felt so worthwhile to New Hampshire communities. By February 1960, 60 cities and towns had subscribed to the magazine, in addition to more than 100 individual subscriptions.


In May 1960, the battle over establishing NHMA as a volunteer organization deepened when Governor Powell convened a meeting of over 100 municipal officials in Concord to consider formation of a department of Local Government in New Hampshire patterned after a similar program being pioneered in New York. This issue drew derision from the Association who posed this question: Should towns and cities in New Hampshire be permitted to organize and join, voluntarily, a Municipal Association, or should there be a new state department created to assist municipal government with new and increase problems of administration?”  If Governor Powell says the towns and cities have no right to set up their own association voluntarily, with taxpayers money, he has no business, nor should the legislature approve, his proposal to set up a new and unwanted bureau at Concord, also financed—under compulsion—by the taxpayer.” 


After lengthy discussions of the financial aspects of reactivation of the Association, NHMA’s executive committee voted in November, 1961 to proceed with the rapid reactivation of the Association, the hiring of an executive director and the opening of an office. The Spaulding-Potter Charitable Trusts provided NHMA with a grant of $20,000 up to April 1, 1964, to help rebuild this voluntary association of New Hampshire cities and towns. A dinner meeting of the Association was organized for January 25, 1962, at the former New Hampshire Highway Hotel, and several months later, in March 1962, NHMA had been reopened with a new executive director, David L. Mann, with offices at 64 South Main Street, Concord.

STAY TUNED. Look for the next installment retracing our history in the upcoming issue of New Hampshire Town & City magazine.