Sen. Lou D’Allesandro Retiring After Bringing Us So Many Great American Days

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Paula Tracy photo

State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, with his wife Pat at his side says he is retiring.

Friends and colleagues gather for the news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord to hear from state Sen.Lou D’Allesandro. Paula Tracy photo

By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org

CONCORD – After 50 years in service to others at the State House, Democratic State Senator Lou D’Allesandro, 85, of Manchester announced he is retiring at the end of his term.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, in a packed lobby of the Legislative Office Building, with his wife, Patricia, and their three children present at the podium, he thanked all who were present for helping him to “make life better for the people we represent” and to his family for their sacrifice.

He said there is still work to be done, particularly for the state’s most vulnerable individuals, pointing out the need to close the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester and transition to more therapeutic care for youngsters and to end the state’s emergency room boarding crisis where those in mental health crisis wait for state placement and care.

“That’s a black mark on the state of New Hampshire,” he said of the former Youth Development Center, “and we have got to wake up to the fact that we have got to start funding things properly. You know, mental health. Think of the mental health crisis,” he said. “There are things on our plate that we have to deal with…for the betterment of society. We can’t have people languishing in emergency rooms.”

He said he would likely endorse the Democratic nominee for the District 20 State Senate seat, which covers Manchester’s Wards 2, 3, 4, 10, 11 and 12 whoever that may be and would continue to be active politically until his dying breath. 

D’Allesandro is currently the longest-serving member of the 24-member State Senate.

Once a moderate Republican who became a Democrat he said he began by winning his first election in 1972 to the House of Representatives. He also was a member of the state’s Executive Council and has been in the Senate since 1998. He serves on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the Capital Budget and Finance Committees.

He said the journey for him in Concord began and ends in what is now the Legislative Office Building. At the time it was a “dump,” a former courthouse where pigeons roosted. In the old days legislative committees met “around the town” in various locations but it was former House Speaker George Roberts, he said, pointing to his portrait who had the vision for the beautiful building it would become where the public and lawmakers consider and enact laws.

“To see what it is today,” he said, “We’ve come a long way.” 

In his 2018 biography “Lion of the Senate, New Hampshire, Thoughts for Presidential Hopefuls” by Mark C. Bodanza, D’Allesandro writes “we are a nation that has the will and the means to lead. The people must demand leadership and that presents the best we can do. We must do our part. This is what makes our nation work.”

D’Allesandro grew up in Boston and at age 3 escaped a fire on the third floor of tenement thanks to the work of Boston firefighters.

His mother, he said, brought in the less fortunate for meals and taught him the importance of being in service to others.

He went on to the University of New Hampshire where he became a football player and captain, and also played lacrosse and baseball and began a life of work with young people as a coach and mentor.

He has served as a director of Southern New Hampshire Services, past director of the New Hampshire Hockey Hall of Fame, and a member of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

In addition to his career in public service, the Senator has enjoyed professional success in the field of education. 

He holds honorary doctorates from Franklin Pierce University, Daniel Webster College and the New Hampshire Institute of Art as well as degrees from the University of New Hampshire, Rivier University, New England College and the New Hampshire Institute of Art. 

He was selected for the Caroline Gross Fellowship to attend the program for Senior Executives in State and Local Governments at Harvard University.

In 1963, D’Allesandro became the first athletic director and men’s basketball coach at Southern New Hampshire University, known then as New Hampshire College.

As head coach, the men’s basketball team won three consecutive conference titles from 1964–65 to 1966–67. 

The announcement was attended by most members of the State Senate, including Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who himself has announced plans to retire at the end of his term.

He said the biggest success in his career was changing a vote that led to the passage of the birth records bill, noting that he took a call from a tearful mother from New York who expressed her hope she could finally find her child.

“It was an amazing, amazing situation that really, it made me feel like we were really doing something right. That is the only time I ever turned a vote on the floor of the Senate and I needed that vote…and we got it done.”

“I’ve spent more than half of my life here, over half of my life. I spent 26 years in the Senate. That is a quarter of my life,” he said, including 11 Senate presidents.

“So it’s really been a journey, created some wonderful relationships,” he said. And there comes a time in a journey where there is an end. Nobody lives forever and you can’t stay beyond the time when you can make a difference, he said.

 “I believe that my service in the Senate has made a difference in the lives of people,” D’Allesandro said to sustained applause. “I gave it my all.”

Following the announcement, Senate President Bradley  issued a statement:

“Senator Lou D’Allesandro has dedicated decades of his life to public service. As the Dean of the Senate said himself, he worked tirelessly to ensure that things were better under his tenure. My colleagues and I had the esteemed privilege of serving with him. While some served with him longer than others, he’s left his mark on everyone that he meets.

“While we will be waiting to see ‘more D’Allesandro’, the entire Senate thanks him for his service to the Granite State. Everyone will miss the passion he has always held for public service. Captain Lou will be missed, and we wish him and Pat a happy and healthy retirement.”

Farewell Lou. Paula Tracy photo

Today, New Hampshire AFL-CIO President, Glenn Brackett, released the following statement regarding the retirement of the Dean of the New Hampshire State Senate, Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester.

“New Hampshire has never had a public servant like Senator Lou D’Allesandro. New Hampshire working families have never had a greater ally in the Senate than Senator D’Allesandro. Lou has stood in Solidarity with New Hampshire working families for decades and has always fought for the betterment of workers throughout his long and storied career as a teacher, coach, author, and legislator. The New Hampshire organized labor community has been fortunate enough to have a strong and unbreakable bond with the Dean, which is why he was awarded the New Hampshire AFL-CIO’s inaugural Solidarity Award for Lifetime Achievement at our 2023 Labor Day Breakfast. He has been tireless in his efforts to stand up to big corporations and never forgets about the struggles of the American worker.

“We have been lucky to call him a friend and wish him, his wonderful wife Patricia (IBEW member), and the whole D’Allesandro family a relaxing, enjoyable, and well-deserved retirement. It is always a Great American Day when you are with Senator D’Allesandro.”

 In response to State Senator Lou D’Allesandro’s announcement that he is not running for re-election, NHDP Chair Ray Buckley released the following statement:

“Over the course of 52 years, Lou D’Allesandro always stayed true to his core value of putting people first. Lou never hesitated to reach out to help make the lives of people better. NH has never had a more dedicated public servant.

“I have known Lou for 48 years, and I can honestly say that nobody has served the people of New Hampshire better. All N.H. Democrats thank Lou for his 52 years of outstanding service and wish him many years ahead with his beloved wife Pat and his whole family.”

Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, stated, “Our Dean, the
Lion of the Senate, Senator Lou D’Allesandro is an incomparable pillar and
institution of public service in the state of New Hampshire. Having known him since
the 1980s, I can say unequivocally no one has been as dedicated to serving Granite
Staters as he has.

“From his time on the Executive Council, the Manchester School Board, Manchester
Water Works, and Dean of the New Hampshire State Senate, Lou has always been
there as a source of wisdom and integrity for us all. His door has always been open to
constituents, legislators, activists, and all who approach his door, willing to do
whatever he can to help. As a teacher and a coach he has touched the lives of
thousands and served as a mentor to many.

“His shoes are ones that can never be filled, and his announcement today truly rings
bittersweet. As Lou and his family set off on this next chapter, I know that public
service will still remain his North Star and that we will see him continue to serve our
great state. And so, as this is not goodbye, I will simply express my incalculable
gratitude for his kindness, guidance, and service over the years, and wish him and his
family A Great American Day,” Soucy said.

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