Commission Chair Helps Revitalization
John Nyhan is Chairman of the Hampton Beach Area Commission
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 21, 2011
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Rich Beauchesne photo]
HAMPTON -- John Nyhan has had many careers. He was a campaign manger for a mayoral race in Lawrence, Mass., vice president of human resources for a multi-billion-dollar firm and even owned and operated a bed-and-breakfast with his wife in Hampton.
But it's his most recent job volunteering on the Hampton Beach Area Commission that has generated the most notoriety, and for him, has been the most rewarding. The advisory commission set up by the Legislature is charged with executing the Hampton Beach Master Plan and initiating projects that will increase Hampton Beach's desirability and year-round potential.
Under his leadership as chairman, the commission led the successful campaign to secure $14.5 million in state funding to update state facilities at the beach including a new Seashell Complex. Now the commission has its sights on a $17.4 million federal grant to continue the beach's revitalization.
Some have called Nyhan a "mover and shaker" of the ongoing beach revitalization, but he is the first to dispute that, saying he's just one small part of a very big team. For Nyhan, serving on the commission is a way to give back to the community in which he lives.
"I love Hampton Beach and this was something I could do and really make a difference for the beach and for the town," he said.
Born and raised in Lawrence, Mass., Nyhan grew up in an Irish Catholic family of five where politics and community service was always at the forefront. His uncle John Buckley was mayor of Lawrence for 22 years, with Nyhan calling him a "good, old-fashioned politician, but honest."
Nyhan said his father Charlie, who used to drive a Hood's Milk truck and later became city clerk of Lawrence, was one who always gave back.
"If something needed to be done they would go to my father because he would get it done," he said.
It's those two men, he said, who led him as a teenager to volunteer to help the poor in the Appalachia region of Kentucky and later to Ball State University to major in social work and political science.
"I wanted to become a social worker, political advocate and change the world," he said.
Nyhan spent seven years working for the federal government managing social service agencies until he met his wife Pamela and her two young children. Nyhan said he left the public sector to find a job to support his new family, which expanded after the couple had a child together. Nyhan said from there he worked various jobs including campaign manager for his uncle, an employment manager for the Seabrook nuclear power plant and then the national director of staffing for Computer Sciences Corporation.
He then joined a startup company that would grow to a multi-billion business where he became international director of human resources, traveling the world. He ended up in Hampton in 2000 after he and his wife purchased the Victoria Inn on High Street, a bed-and-breakfast the couple ran until 2006. It was there that he was able to get back to his family roots of helping others by joining the Rotary Club.
Joining the Hampton Beach Area Commission, he said, just fell into his lap. Nyhan said he had just returned to work as a human resource consultant when he got the call in April 2008 from his friend Fred Rice, who at the time was chairman of the Hampton Area Beach Commission. Rice asked if he would join their team
"I had no idea what the commission did," joked Nyhan, who downloaded the master plan, going through two ink cartridges in the process. After looking at the comprehensive plan and how much still needed to be done, he thought it would be a good challenge. "I like a good challenge and I don't like to give up," Nyhan said.
Selectmen appointed him to the position and six months later he was appointed chairman. That's when the state's $14.5 million redevelopment project at the beach was first proposed. When funding was eliminated in the state's capital budget, Nyhan and the commission took the campaign to Concord, where they were able to change the minds of many.
"When we won the beach project I think we convinced a lot of people that we were serious about revitalizing Hampton Beach," he said. "We were able to do that with the help of many, both Republicans and Democrats."
The $17 million federal grant application, if approved, he said, will hopefully continue the momentum and spread to the business side of Ocean Boulevard. The grant money would be used to complete infrastructure projects, such as reconstructing Ocean Boulevard and the North Beach sea wall. Money would also be used to update the master plan and for an engineering study for a intermodal parking center in downtown Hampton.
It's the business side, Nyhan said, that will determine the future of the beach.
"I think we have to be realistic," he said. "We are never going to be Bahamas, Virgin Islands, but for the Northeast region of this country we could be one of the premier vacation spots. But in order for that happen, we have to make it look like it a No. 1 location."
Nyhan said it's important for him to see the beach succeed and that's why he puts so many hours into the effort. He remembers coming to Hampton Beach as a kid and teenager. His mom and dad would save all year just to take their five children to the beach for two weeks of the summer.
Those family memories are why he wants the beach to succeed and grow.
"I want my grandchildren to experience the same thing that I did when I was a kid," he said.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]