Municipal Advocate Title Fit Russ Marcoux to a ‘T’

Hattie Bernstein

People who knew Russ Marcoux say the longtime public servant was a model municipal advocate. “He was very passionate about his responsibilities and his commitment to the community,” said Crystal Dionne, Finance Director and Acting Town Manager in Bedford. “The title ‘Municipal Legislative Advocate’ fits him to a ’T.’” Last June, the staff at the New Hampshire Municipal Association chose Marcoux as the recipient of its first Municipal Advocate of the Year award. The NHMA planned to make the presentation at the New Hampshire Local Government Center’s annual conference in November 2011.

Marcoux, who had been the Bedford Town Manager, died several days before the conference, and in January, the Municipal Advocacy Committee of the NHMA voted unanimously to rename the award the Russ Marcoux Municipal Advocate of the Year Award. In February, at a regular Bedford Town Council meeting, the award was presented to Marcoux’s widow, Jeanne. “With Russ’s death, we lost a passionate advocate for local government,” Judy Silva, Deputy Director for Legal Services and Government Affairs for the NHMA and LGC, told those attending the meeting.

As Town Manager, Marcoux had been an enthusiastic champion of open government. He invited Bedford residents, and anyone else who was interested, to ask questions and request information which he generously shared. “He was always the first one to jump into a topic,” said Dionne. “I’m not surprised that he was recognized because he played such an important role.”

Marcoux regularly forwarded emails to his state senators and representatives, almost always copying the messages and sending them to the NHMA. “He reported to us on conversations on municipal issues he had with lawmakers,” Silva said. “He testified knowledgeably on important pieces of legislation. And he always asked what else he could do.”

Marcoux chaired the NHMA’s Municipal Administration and Finance Management Legislative Policy Committee, a group that studies and recommends various policies submitted by municipal members. He also stayed current by reading NHMA’s Legislative Bulletin, and making sure that NHMA staff knew he was following the issues and talking to lawmakers. “We know our members are involved with their local delegations, but we don’t always know to what degree.” Silva said. “With Russ, we always knew what was going on with his town’s legislators because of his calls and email replies back to us.”

Marcoux was tenacious and thorough.

“He picked the issues he got deeply involved with carefully, things that were important to his town or his local officials,” Silva said, describing Marcoux as “a great advocate at home.” During legislative discussions about an electronic vehicle registration bill, Marcoux advocated for town clerks who worried that a law that would allow dealerships to handle vehicle registrations would reduce local revenues. “He worked to resolve the issues in a way that worked for local government,” Silva said. “If the bill was going to pass, he wanted to make it the best it could be. If it was going to be done, it had to be done right.”

Marcoux’s interest, and involvement, in local government was long, and deep. After graduating from Southern New Hampshire University with a bachelor’s degree in administration and finance, the 1965 Nashua High School graduate worked in the private sector while serving on the Nashua Board of Aldermen. Marcoux also earned his MBA from Southern New Hampshire University and completed programs in public administration and public finance at Syracuse and George Mason universities. A Nashua alderman and alderman-at-large for seven years, Marcoux resigned to take a job as the city’s director of administration. From Nashua, he went to Framingham, Massachusetts to serve as Town Manager, and later, he filled that same role in Smithfield, R.I., returning to New Hampshire in 2004 to become Town Administrator in Derry.

In 2007, Marcoux became the Town Manager in Bedford where he served until his untimely death. “Russ was a big advocate of information sharing,” said Dionne, Bedford’s Acting Town Manager. “He would provide just about anything to anyone, almost to a fault. He had no problem handing over whatever he had.” Dionne said Marcoux didn’t keep his enthusiasm for his job a secret.” He really did love it,” she said.

Silva agreed. “He was passionate. There was no question about it,” she said. In June, when the NHMA staff gathers to consider candidates for the second Russ Marcoux Municipal Advocate of the Year Award, it’s likely that they will be thinking about Marcoux.

“Russ set the bar very high for future recipients,” Silva said.

Hattie Bernstein is the Communications Specialist for the New Hampshire Local Government Center. You can reach her at 800.852.3358, ext. 214, or hbernstein@nhlgc.org.

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