Remembering John B. Andrews
Editor's Note: John B. Andrews, former Executive Director of the New Hampshire Municipal Association and the former Local Government Center, passed away on September 2, 2021 in Rochester, New Hampshire surround by those he loved. John retired from public service on September 4, 2009. He shared his reflections and thoughts for the future in the September 2009 edition of New Hampshire Town and City magazine. These were his final written words (excerpted) to the municipal members he loved so much and dedicated his life to serving and his words resonate as strongly today as they did over 12 years ago.
One of the hardest things for anyone to do is write their own “Swan Song." You have to be careful not to blow your horn too loudly or take false credit; work hard not to sound too much like an obituary; and, yet, recall important highlights of your career. Upon reflection of the past 34-plus years, the most notable achievements that the organization has made on behalf of local governments fall into the general areas of legal services, legislative advocacy and risk management programs.
The institution of legal advisory services through toll-free WATS lines (Wide Area Telephone Service, for those that may be too young to recall) was a milestone because it represented the first major “hands-on", daily presence of the New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) through services to local officials and employees. A service that began in 1976 with attorney availability at three days per week (five days in 1977) is now four full-time attorneys handling thousands of inquiries per year. The legal inquiries service is used by officials in municipalities of all sizes, but primarily in smaller communities. However, our legal staff’s reputation for knowledge of municipal law makes them a valuable resource to elected officials and staff in larger communities too. The knowledgeable legal staff is responsible for our comprehensive training program and our first-class handbooks and guides for local officials.
In the legislative arena, there are dozens of “highlights," many of which have changed the fundamental State-local relationship and structure of governance in New Hampshire. The “Top 10" include:
- Article 28-a (1984) prohibiting mandated costs and our legal defense of it in a challenge by the House Speaker and Senate President
•NH Municipal Bond Bank and Public Deposit Investment Pool
•RSA 53-A, Interlocal Agreements
•RSA 49, Home Rule Process
•State-Municipal Revenue Sharing
•Liability Limits and Tort Immunity Laws for weather, street and highway defects and airport runways and taxiways
•Municipal Registration of Motor Vehicles
•Tax Increment Financing
•Public Sector Collective Bargaining
•Penalty Assessment Law and New Hampshire Police Academy
Finally, in the arena of risk management, NHMA and its successor, the Local Government Center (LGC), has been an innovator and national leader. We began the first pooled risk management program in New Hampshire for workers’ and unemployment compensation in 1979. While that first program later separated from NHMA, we followed that success in 1984 with the HealthTrust and, in 1986, with the Property-Liability Trust. In 2000, we established another workers’ compensation program in response to our members’ needs for a high-quality, member-focused program and to provide all their needs in one location. By 2009, these risk management programs are nationally-recognized as leaders in pooled risk management, with the HealthTrust being the largest in the country with over 70,000 lives covered and annual revenues in excess of $350 million. The Property-Liability Trust covers $4.9 billion of property value and 5,270 vehicles. The amount of payroll covered by the workers’ compensation program is over $675 million.
The professional success of a person is usually not because of their personality, knowledge or skills alone. Most successful people are successful because they know enough to hire the right folks to work for them, give them general instructions, supply them with staff and other resources they need, provide some occasional guidance, run interference for them, and then step aside and let them run with it. I have been very fortunate to have been successful in doing that for 34¾ years here in New Hampshire and 3½ years before that in Maine. On the anniversary of each and every staff person, I write personal notes of congratulation, and a common theme is to thank them for what they do to make us a success in serving our members. When a person who works for LGC does a good job, it makes us all look good, especially me who was smart enough to hire them or to hire the person who hired them or to hire the person who hired the person who hired them … you get what I mean. No one succeeds alone.
Finally, no one succeeds professionally unless they have the support of their family and I’ve certainly been blessed with that for 40 years from my wife, Sharon … truly “my better half." She has been the shoulder I sometimes cried upon, the patient listener I often unloaded on and the clear head who always gave me wise advice. But most of all, she loved me and supported me 110 percent as we put down roots in New Hampshire and raised our family. I truly wouldn’t be here today if not for her.
I hope you’ll look back on the last 34 years and agree that we’ve been able to fulfill the mission of the New Hampshire Local Government Center to provide programs and services that strengthen the quality of its member governments and the ability of their officials and employees to serve the public by being:
- A catalyst for dialogue and action;
•An advocate on issues;
•An advisor on problems;
•A provider of benefits and risk-management services;
•An educator/trainer in skills; and,
•A resource for information.
I hope you’ll keep foremost in your hearts and minds:
- The value of public service
•The role of local government as the cornerstone of government in the United States
•The virtue of participatory democracy
•Civility and mutual respect
•A commitment to the highest ethical standards
•The importance of joint action and services
•An unwavering conviction that local government makes a difference in people’s lives.
John B. Andrews