Young Leadership graduates urge Sununu to form millennials advisory group/Governor salutes grads at ceremonies in Jackson


6-7-17 Biz guv yps key-2Gov. Chris Sununu (left) was presented a “Key to Mount Washington Valley” by Austen Bernier and Jessica Wright at the 2017 Leadership Mount Washington Valley Community Connections graduation ceremonies at the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson Monday afternoon. Sununu (R-N.H.) was the keynote speaker at the event, attended by approximately 100 and honoring 17 graduates. (TOM EASTMAN PHOTO)

JACKSON — In an effort to address the concerns of young professionals in the state, graduates of the Class of 2017 Leadership Mount Washington Valley Community Connections on Monday urged Gov. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) to form a Millennial Advisory Council for the state of New Hampshire.

At a well-attended graduation ceremony held at the Carriage House of the Eagle Mountain House, Leadership MWV Class of 2017 graduate Austen Bernier and 2016 graduate Jessica Wright of the offshoot organization, STAY MWV (Supporting The Active Young professionals of the Mount Washington Valley) read a letter to Sununu, who was the day's keynote speaker.

Bernier and Wright urged Sununu — the nation's youngest governor at age 42 and now in his first term — to focus on the challenge of student debt and other key issues facing millennials such as affordable housing and good paying jobs.

"Here in the Granite State," read Bernier, "which is ranked first in the nation for highest student debt, 76 percent of New Hampshire's class of 2015 had to borrow money and graduated with an average debt of $36,101. This number is particularly troubling when juxtaposed with similar figures showing New Hampshire to have one of the costliest housing markets in the state and expensive childcare services. In New Hampshire, these burdensome costs translate to negative consequences down the road."

Almost 37 percent of millennials, Bernier said, still live at home with their parents in New Hampshire, and only 43 percent currently live independently. Furthermore, he said that in a survey conducted by the Wharton School of Business, more than half of undergraduate millennials do not plan to have children.

"The downstream consequences of this trend in a state with an aging population cannot be overstated," said Bernier.

It's important, he said, that millennials be invited to the table, encouraging them to take leadership roles across the state and ease the generational transition of state leadership.

"As a young governor yourself," said Bernier to Sununu, "you understand it will be imperative in the coming years that New Hampshire takes the steps to ameliorate the plight facing our millennial professionals for the sake of the economic and social well-being of New Hampshire's future. This is why we, on behalf of Leadership MWV and STAY MWV, implore you Governor Sununu, to help New Hampshire take the lead in the new era by establishing a Millennial Advisory Council."

Spearheaded by STAY MWV, they said the committee would offer "innovative and personal perspectives on the multifaceted concerns facing the Granite State today," and provide a platform "for the young professionals, future legislators and impending community leaders of the millennial generation to contribute solutions for the prosperous future of New Hampshire."

 The remarks were well-received by Sununu, who, in an earlier interview with The Conway Daily Sun had acknowledged the need to address issues of concern to young families such as housing, education and good-paying jobs as part of an effort to continue to grow the state's economy.

In his remarks Monday at the Eagle, he saluted the drive and energy of the young graduates and their desire to be part of the solutions to problems facing the Granite State.

"We're such a community-driven system of government, so how government works is not just something you learn in school — it's meaningful to see how our volunteer system works and how people give of themselves and how there are many advocates in this state, not because they want a paycheck but because they really believe n their communities," said Sununu in his congratulatory remarks before the audience of approximately 100.

Sununu personally saluted each of the 17 graduates.

A former executive councilor, past Waterville Valley Ski Resort operator and past environmental engineer, Sununu is the son of former Gov John H. and Nancy Sununu, and brother of former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu.

Sununu, of Newfields, was presented a "Key to Mount Washington Valley" by Wright and Bernier.

Last year, the Leadership MWV Class of 2016 raised $3,000 to be awarded in a scholarship to reduce student debt. This year, the Class of 2017 continued that effort, and doubled the amount raised to $6,500, with $2,500 earmarked for the group's endowment fund.

As part of the day's proceedings, each of the graduates read a statement about what the program, with many saying it had enriched their lives and made them want to get involved. After each talk, Sununu posed for a photograph with each of the graduates.

Joining them for the photographs were Janice Crawford, executive director of the MWV Chamber of Commerce and Jac Cuddy, executive director of the MWV Economic Council, both of whom were co-founders of the program. Joining them were program facilitators Erin Wright and Howard Stanten, former owners of The Met Coffeehouse of North Conway, and now personal and professional development coaches of Vanguard Coaching and Training.

Among the officials present were Comm. George N. Copadis of the state Office of Employment Security; Executive Councilor Joe Kenney (R-District 1), local state Representatives Jerry Knirk, Ed Butler, Karen Umberger and Frank McCarthy and Conway Town Manager Earl Sires. Chuck Henderson, northern New Hampshire representative, read a letter from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), congratulating the graduates.

Class of 2017 members receiving their certificates of graduation were: Tammy Bates of Northway Bank; Austen Bernier of National Forest Foundation; Anna Burbank of World Fellowship Center; 
Chase Ciechon of White Mountain National Forest; Heather Clement of Chalmers Insurance Group; Kevin Flynn of Red Jacket Mountain View Resort; Clay Groves of Project Succeed and Fish Nerds Guide Service; Alison Harris of HEB Engineers, Inc.; 
Rose Heggeman of White Mountain Waldorf School; James Love of Memorial Hospital; Alisha Martin of Rapid Insight; Danielle Nutting of John Fuller Elementary School; Holly Skalberg of Journey Church; Trevor Skalberg of Journey Church; Trevor Sullivan of White Mountain Hotel & Resort Jennifer Tate of Northway Bank; and Brendan Williams of Kennett Middle School

Scholarship recipients were: Granite State College Scholarship of $1,000 to Megan Thompson; Mountain Garden Scholarship of $1,000 to Austen Bernier; Conway Area Lions Club Scholarship of $1,000, Rotary Club Scholarship of $1,000 and Leadership Scholarship of $1,000 to Mary Ross; Leadership MWV Scholarship of $3,000 presented by the Kiwanis Club of Mt. Washington Valley to Sarah Frankel; both Mary Ross and Ryan Hill received a scholarship to Leadership MWV Class of 2018.

Founded in 2008, Leadership MWV....Community Connections is a network for developing professionals, providing opportunities for mentorship for community involvement and support for civic leadership. The program runs weekly from January to June and enables participants to meet with local and state leaders to learn more about how government and nonprofit organizations work, according to Crawford, adding that the program emphasizes service, collaboration and existence of synergistic opportunities to enhance the quality of life in the community.

Sponsors are Northway Bank, the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council, Conway Family Dental Care, STAY MWV, and the North Conway Water Precinct, with Aroma Joe's serving as the coffee sponsor.

For further information, call the chamber at (603) 356-5701 or visit

NOTE" Scholarship recipients information has been corrected from the print version. — TE


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