By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Old home day came early this summer as members of former Gov. John Lynch’s administration, his family and friends, state workers and associates gathered to watch the unveiling of his official portrait Friday.
Lynch, one of the longest serving governors in state history, also was the first gubernatorial candidate in 78 years to unseat a first-term governor running for reelection when he defeated former Gov. Craig Benson in the 2004 election, a race that was not decided until early the next morning.
Whitefield artist Ralph “Stoney” Jacobs painted the portrait showing a relaxed Lynch at his Hopkinton home with his hands in his pocket.
Jacobs, who also painted former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen’s portrait, said Lynch told him there was one requirement that the painting showed him smiling.
“The other thing was the gray hair,” Jacobs said, but Lynch quickly quipped he had “touched up the hair myself.”
Much like his administration, the unveiling drew a bipartisan crowd including former and current commissioners as well as people who worked on his campaigns, his former staff and some Republican stalwarts like former U.S. Rep. and Supreme Court justice Chuck Douglas, the widow of the late Gov. Walter Peterson, Dorothy, former Manchester Mayor and Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek and former House Speaker Shawn Jasper, but also plenty of Democrats like former state party chairs Kathy Sullivan and Ned Helms, current chair Raymond Buckley, former Governor and current U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, and Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
His daughter, Julia, introduced the former governor touting his accomplishments over his eight years in the corner office, including raising the drop-out age to 18 years old and lowering the drop-out rate to 1 percent.
Julia noted her father was the first governor in the nation to sign marriage equality legislation, something she said she takes credit for swaying her father.
She noted he cares about the people of New Hampshire and he “never enjoyed a job like he enjoyed the job of governor.”
When Lynch decided not to seek a fifth term in 2012, he often told people he was going to be a Walmart greeter so he could shake hands and talk to people all day.
As governor he often stopped whatever meeting he was in, particularly Executive Council meetings, so he could greet fourth grade students touring the State House.
After the unveiling, Lynch said he really misses walking down the streets of Concord or Manchester shaking hands and talking to people.
He noted it allowed him to connect with the people of the state.
Lynch said at the ceremony many people told him he shouldn’t run for governor against Benson because no one had defeated a first-term governor running for reelection in more than 70 years and he noted Benson had hundreds of millions of dollars he could spend.
“But you all believed I could win,” Lynch told the crowd of about 100 people, “you believed I could govern the State of New Hampshire.”
Lynch was CEO of Knoll, an international furniture manufacturer, and president of the Lynch Group before becoming governor.
Lynch is a Clinical Professor with the Tuck Center for Global Business and Government at Dartmouth College, where his research and teaching focuses on the similarities and differences of being CEO in the private versus public sectors.
He was joined at the unveiling by his wife Dr. Susan Lynch, their son Hayden Lynch, and daughter Julia. Their other daughter Jacqueline Lynch was unable to attend the ceremony in Representatives Hall and the reception the Executive Council Chamber in the State House.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org