Small Towns on the Move!
Jay and Karen are joined by Newport Police Chief Brent Wilmot and Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg, at this months’ meeting of the Newport Sunshine Initiative, discussing innovative ideas and positive approaches that are creating momentum for the small town of Newport
As many of you know, I believe in small towns – like my hometown of Newport, NH. Small towns truly are the ‘backbone’ of America. Where people come together to form a community and a real sense of togetherness. With this in mind, we celebrate small towns in this edition of The Sunshine Report.
As I look back, I owe much of who I am and what I’ve been able to do in life thanks to the experiences and opportunities I was afforded having grown up in Newport. While only 20 percent of Americans live in towns of 25,000 or less, these communities provide us with over 60 percent of the food, fuel, and fiber we enjoy on a daily basis. They make up the foundation of what keeps us running as a nation.
Unfortunately, however, as our economy has shifted over the last twenty-plus years, many of these communities have had to reach deep to make ends meet. Yet, the good news is that so very many small towns are on the path of comeback. Thanks to the development of high-speed broadband internet infrastructure in more rural regions, the geographic barriers that once limited small town access to ‘big city’ resources are becoming a thing of the past. This will continue to help build and provide exciting new remote work opportunities.
Innovation, too. We’re seeing small towns become incubators of opportunity for companies like Google, Amazon, and right here in New Hampshire, DEKA Research and Development Corp, one of the global leaders in robotics. And, the really neat thing is how these companies can bring science, math and technology skills to the next generation living in small towns. For instance, just this week, DEKA announced an initiative to launch their science and technology-focused mentor program FIRST right in my hometown of Newport.
Lastly, in what is perhaps one of the silver linings of this recent pandemic, I’ve observed that many people in cities are starting to rediscover, or even discovering for the first time, a need for a better work-life balance – and are exiting the cities - moving to a more family friendly and supportive ‘town’ environment. We are seeing an unmistakable flow of people, resources, talent, energy and capital moving toward small towns. And, with this flow, a positive energy that will inevitably lead to stronger communities as well as a stronger America. With deep gratitude, we celebrate small towns and the communities they create.
Back to School – How Newport is Adapting and Growing in Uncertain Times
Dr. Brendan Minnihan, Newport School Superintendent, shares details of the successful ‘full opening’ of Newport Schools with attendees of Newport Sunshine Initiative meeting
It’s been one of the most challenging ‘back to school’ periods in recent memory, but under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Brendan Minnihan, the Newport School District has been able to adapt almost instantly to the ever-changing social and health climate of 2020. The underlying philosophy during these uncertain times is to view every day of ‘in-person class’ as a win. Dr. Minnihan’s daily email updates to staff are a consistent reminder of this. Each individual day is recognized in the subject of the email updates. Today for instance is FD16, or the 16th full day of school. They have taken a whole-community approach to maintaining learning during shutdowns by striving to meet the needs of employers, families and staff. Today, school staff, students, and families are hard at work fighting the challenges from FD16 and beyond.
Newport is giving families two options – come back full time with social distancing guidelines or go fully remote. This gives families the freedom to choose what works best for their individual household. But this is not without its difficulties as the constant search for personal protective equipment is a monumental challenge.
Even in the face of adversity, the school district is focused on quality extracurricular activities and programming. The Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center, home to Newport’s vocational programs, has even introduced a new EMT program will help grow the next generation of new professionals into the medical field. This will give another unique option for students looking to enter the workforce. They are also working towards a renovation of the technical center in order to meet the needs of area employers and prepare the community for growth in the years ahead. The community wide effort to persist and find positivity in uncertain times is remarkable. From bringing in new business, to making personal protective equipment, and making sure that students still have opportunity is a true testament to leadership, team effort and camaraderie – in a very difficult environment. Great job!
The new EMT program is a great success story for Newport and I encourage you all to check it out - https://www.eagletimes.com/news/new-program-gives-students-guidance-toward-careers-as-emts/article_181d4c79-081e-58c9-a538-f30b9e1fcfbe.html
Supporting Law Enforcement in a Small Town
I’d like to strike a positive note in support of our police. As a young boy I remember getting to know local law enforcement in my hometown. Walking to school at the age of 6, I remember seeing friendly Police Chief Alexander Lewko, actually acting as crossing guard at our elementary school. Carefully and gently shepherding us all across the busy street.
Today, in Newport, we are blessed to have Police Chief Brent Wilmot. Brent took the helm as Chief just over six months ago and is providing leadership of the highest caliber. Creating an ‘esprit de corps,’ and professionalism. Also taking innovative and proactive measures such as providing his entire team with ‘De-escalation Training’ in the wake of the recent social unrest across the country.
While there are a number of interesting ideas for improvement that have percolated around the nation, let’s come together in a positive way to recognize and appreciate the difficult job that our law enforcement officers sign up for and consistently do on a daily basis. Working long hard hours, protecting us, keeping law and order and so much more. Literally putting their lives on the line for our safety.
Our family has experienced this first-hand, as my wife’s father, Dan Ballou, was a police officer and as young child, Karen lived with the constant thought in the back of her head each time he left, not knowing if he would safely return. There is an extraordinary burden we place on families as well as the officers themselves.
Going forward, let’s find ways to support this difficult profession and create a positive environment. Let’s give encouragement for the ‘best and brightest’ of the next generation to pursue careers in law enforcement. And, let’s give ‘thanks’ right now to those who put on the badge, each and every day.
Positive Profile of the Week: Carl Capano, Manchester Police Chief
I am honored to recognize a true leader in our New Hampshire community and thank him for his nearly 25 years of service. This week’s profile recognizes retiring Police Chief Carlo Capano.
Chief Capano has been a steadfast leader for safer communities while also ensuring the safety of his officers. When Carlo assumed the role of Chief in New Hampshire’s largest city in 2018, he didn't change his approach or style. He stayed out of the limelight and did what he does best, advocate and lead by example. He advocated for more local policing and got it. He advocated for every officer to be issued a body cam, he got it. His track record of standing up for what is right is why the next chief will have big shoes to fill.
I first met Chief Capano when I toured the Manchester Police Station back in 2017, and Chief Capano was actually Assistant Chief Capano back then. We talked about the need for accountability, technology, and community involvement. You could see the passion in his eyes and knew when he said he was going to do things, that action would take place and change would occur.
As Karen and I do on regular basis, we attend many events for children’s causes, including the Battle of Badges Hockey Game for CHaD. Almost, every time I would see Capano there not only commending his officers for their involvement in helping children’s charities but also rolling up his sleeves and getting to work to make a child’s life a little better. He truly is and will forever be a ‘chief of chiefs.’
A 25-year career fighting to the keep the streets of the Queen City safe. Karen and I thank Chief Capano for his years of service and his steadfast leadership.
Quotes of the Week: The Power of Community
“The spirit of America has nurtured responsibility and community unlike any other country.”
“What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and its grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.”
“The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.”
“We need to understand that we as citizens and as a government in any community throughout this country have no more important obligation than to educate those who are going to replace us.”
“Adopt responsibility for your own well-being, try to put your family together, try to serve your community, try to seek for eternal truth... That's the sort of thing that can ground you in your life, enough so that you can withstand the difficulty of life.”