SNHU's Robert Baines Named Citizen of the Year

Thursday, February 16, 2006
SNHU Communications Office

By MARK HAYWARD
Union Leader Staff

MANCHESTER –

Robert A. Baines, the three-term mayor who oversaw the city's coming of age as a business and cultural hub, was named Citizen of the Year last night by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

The award proved emotionally grueling for Baines, whose sister — Manchester resident Shirley Brulotte — was at Elliot Hospital with cancer, likely hours away from death.

At times, Baines interrupted his speech to gather himself. He took deep breaths and long, slow exhales. When Gov. John Lynch read a proclamation honoring Baines, he motioned for his extended family to come on-stage and embraced several members.

Baines spoke about his love for the city, the responsibility to educate children and investment in the arts. But his most heartfelt words dealt with Brulotte.

"She is the glue, the rock of our family," Baines said. "Over the past week or so, she taught us how to die." Before that, she taught the family how to live, he said.

Baines also noted that last year's mayoral campaign was the first without her guidance, and he lost. She had run his three previous, successful campaigns, he said.

Five people introduced the Citizen of the Year, each telling a story how the yet unnamed recipient provided emergency help for Angie's Place shelter, welcomed refugees to the city, improved education in Manchester, kept the Palace Theatre in operation and established a scholarship on behalf of former music teacher Arthur Mirable.

"This year's recipient cares," said Anne Sanderson, director of the International Institute of New Hampshire.

Baines was a veteran principal at West High School in 1999 when he ran for mayor and knocked off five-term incumbent Raymond Wieczorek. The city was emerging from the economic collapse of the early 1990s, and it took off under Baines.

Downtown's reputation shifted from a white-collar workplace to an after-hours party spot. Businesses plowed millions into rehabilitation of once-neglected Millyard buildings, where the city's technology sector clipped along and the Segway Human Transporter was born.

And houses, storefronts, parks and schools all underwent upgrades and facelifts. Schools especially benefited under Baines, who pushed through a $105 million package to renovate and expand school buildings.

The Chamber also credited Baines for the return of minor league baseball, riverfront development and the pending expansion of the Granite Street entry into the city. Also highlighted were the annual Downtown Jazz and Blues Festival, the city's annual Latino Festival and the Mill City Festival.

The keynote speaker was Kenneth Prewitt, the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs, who said the country faces the challenge of integrating immigrants from all over the world into society.

Differences in race, religion and age will challenge priorities in social spending, Prewitt said. All European countries, which have low birth rates, face the same challenges, he said.

"If we can't do it in this country," he said, "no country can do it."

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