UNH business professor begins campaign for governor

The New Hampshire’s Kerry Feltner interviews former senator and former WSBE professor Jackie Cilley

By Kerry Feltner
On February 16, 2012

Former Democratic state senator Jackie Cilley has begun her campaign to replace John Lynch as governor of New Hampshire. Cilley is challenged by former Sen. Maggie Hassan for the Democratic Party's nomination.

Cilley, who was a faculty member of the Whittemore School of Business and Economics for 20 years, is interested in taking a harder look at what the state of New Hampshire stands for. Cilley is particularly interested in championing the rights of gays, women and workers. UNH is one of Cilley's main concerns.

KF: Why have you chosen to run? Why now?

JC: I've chosen to run for governor of New Hampshire because this is a critical time for our state. Never in the history of our state have we seen such coordinated attacks on our students, consumers, our public employees, the workers of this state, on women and on our precious natural environment.

The current legislature stripped my alma mater, UNH, of 48 percent of state funding. UNH was already dead last for state funding and now half of that has been taken away. This is one of the most anti-education legislatures we've seen.

The O'Brien legislature's attacks on workers are becoming legendary and the fodder of late night comedy shows. This week they've entertained a bill to take lunch breaks away from workers in our state. For the first time since it was passed more than 75 years ago by two well-esteemed Republican governors, New Hampshire no longer has its own minimum wage law.  This legislature repealed it last year. In fact, there is a bill just passed by the House Judiciary Committee last week that will allow convicted felons to carry weapons. Protections for abused women are being stripped away as are their healthcare choices by one of the most anti-woman legislatures our state has ever seen.

From the moment they took office, this group of legislators has tried to strip students of their right to vote in this state. This will affect UNH students. We ought to be encouraging young people to be involved in the political process, not discouraging them by setting up barriers to that participation.

I believe these times call for bold leadership, a willingness to be candid with our citizens and to move beyond partisan politics to look for real solutions to the challenges we face in positioning New Hampshire for the 21st century. I believe I'm the candidate to offer that leadership.

KF: What is one thing you'd change as governor and why?

JC: The first thing I would do is return our state to its common sense Yankee values, one that believes in a high-quality education to allow our students to compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime, that re-establishes respect for our fine teachers, firefighters, police, and public and private employees, and cherishes our natural resources that attract tourists to our state as our number one industry. Just as any successful business brings those on the front lines to a discussion of the direction of that organization, I would bring core stakeholders to the table to help move our state forward. For example, our state employees offered suggestions to save New Hampshire $50 million in this biennium.  I would do this through a commitment to a dialogue with our citizens and move beyond pledge politics and partisan posturing.

KF: Has your experience at UNH shaped your run for governor?

JC:  The simple fact that I was the first in my family to be able to achieve a college education has given me an abiding appreciation for the value of education and the opportunities it opens to someone with a background such as mine. My Masters in Business Administration has served me well in the private sector as it will when shaping policy to build a robust economy through engaging both workers and Main Street businesses. My 20 years of teaching at the Whittemore School has also made me sensitive to the needs of our students and their families. As a land-grant university, the University of New Hampshire is part of our economic engine and deserves our commitment to its success, which is ultimately our success in New Hampshire.

KF: What do you want voters to know about you?

JC: I want voters to know that I am the daughter of millworkers, a wife, mother and grandmother who has had to make the same decisions at the kitchen table that they've made. I've worked hard to achieve a happy, successful life for myself and for my family. I've never forgotten my roots or where I came from.  I've run a successful business and I've taught some 2,500 students over my 20 years at the Whittemore School.  Those experiences give me a unique perspective not offered by any other announced candidate in this race.

KF: Do you think your experience as a state senator has prepared you well for the position?

JC: All of my life experiences have positioned me well for this campaign. Being raised in a third floor walk-up tenement in Berlin, N.H., by a mill-working family has given me a deep appreciation of challenges facing working families in the Granite State.  As the first member of my extended family to achieve a college education, new opportunities were available to me that those before me didn't have. I never forget where I came from and how folks such as my grandfather, Elwood Currier, shaped my childhood and my core values.

Serving as Senator for District 6 (Rochester, Somersworth, Barrington, Nottingham, and Madbury) gave me a deep appreciation of how insightful policy debate and careful development of policy positions can move our state forward and enhance the lives of our citizens. That was a sharp contrast to the out-of-touch Free Stater/Tea Partier/John Birch driven legislature currently occupying our Statehouse.  This is not the proud Republican Party with whom I worked successfully across the aisle on many bills during my tenure in the legislature.

Laws being passed today are clearly destroying some of the finest traditions of our state. The dismantlement of our public education system through attempts to eliminate kindergarten, roll back the drop-out age to 16, eliminate core standards as well as compulsory education and defunding our public schools will indisputably lower the quality of the education we can provide to our students. Just as I was able to move out of poverty through education, our students will require a sound education to allow them to compete with workers from around the rest of our country and the world for the jobs of tomorrow. In fact, the number one reason employers come to New Hampshire with their businesses and their jobs is for the highly educated workforce available in our state.

KF: Final comments?

JC: Our state faces some of the most serious challenges ahead that we have ever seen. These have been, in large part, created and exacerbated by an extremist legislature intent on dismantling both public schools and government in general.  My conversations with citizens over this past year have made it clear that they are as appalled by the actions of the current legislature as I am. We must move beyond extreme ideology and toward bipartisan approaches to meeting the needs of our citizens.

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