LACONIA — The state and the city will soon bid farewell to a an exemplary public servant with the retirement of Jeff Pattison after 32 years with Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant (LBA) at the State House, the last six of them at its helm, and 14 years as a member of the Laconia Parks and Recreation Commission, a decade of them as its chairman.
Pattison and his wife Judy, who have lived in Laconia since 1977, intend to move to San Diego, California, where his brother has lived for some time and close to both their sons, A.J. and Tyler.
"Jeff has been a big asset to the community," said Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, "and we're going to miss him." During Pattison's tenure the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, where he donated the dugouts on the baseball diamond in memory of his father, came to fruition. Pattison contributed to bringing the New England Collegiate Baseball League to Laconia and served as a director of the Laconia Muskrats. A number of city parks and playing fields were renovated and improved under his direction. Dunleavy recalled that Pattison would come to commission meetings at 7 p.m., still dressed for work, and return to the State House when the meeting adjourned. "Jeff brought a lot to the table and there was lots of change on his watch," Dunleavy remarked.
Pattison joined the LBA in 1983 after working for seven years at Pike Industries, and in 2009, after serving with three of his four predecessors, became the fifth Legislative Budget Assistant since the position was established in 1947. The LBA consists of two divisions, the budget division, which provides technical assistance to the Legislature on all fiscal issues, and the audit division, which conducts financial, compliance and performance audits of state departments, agencies, commissions and programs.
A non-partisan office, the LBA works for the House and the Senate, the Republicans and the Democrats, the majority and the minority as well as with the many departments, agencies, boards and commissions throughout state government. "We work for them all," Pattison said, "and we walk a fine line." The position is a demanding one, particularly every other year when the Legislature prepares the biennial budget. The LBA staff often works late into the evening — even into the next morning — Pattison routinely went to his office on Sundays.
Recalling that he first stepped into the State House the day he began work 32 years ago, Pattison said "it's been my second home ever since.'" When he began he worked without a computer, only IBM Selectric typewriters and Monroe calculators. "That was our automation," he said.
Pattison said that in three decades there has been significant turnover in the office, but took pride that more than 20 former employees of the LBA are at work in other state agencies today. The experience, he said, "is all about the people I've dealt with. I would say thousands when you think about it over 32 years."
Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem), who has worked closely with Pattison as both Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and President of the Senate, described him as "truly one of the people who really cares about New Hampshire." Stressing his professionalism, he said that "Jeff served both the Senate and the House, Republicans as well as Democrats and treated all of us just the same. " He noted that "he can take a complicated subject and make it work for every member of our legislature. Everybody agrees," he continued, "the level of integrity of the LBA is top notch."
Representative Neal Kurk (R-Weare), whose career on the House Finance Committee, paralleled Pattison's at the LBA prized his "unflappability" and described him as "evenhanded" and "exceptionally competent."
Representative Mary Jane Wallner (D-Conocrd), one of only two Democrats to chair the House Finance Committee in the last century, called Pattison "a great teacher," who tutored lawmakers not only about the budget but also about leadership.
Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, also underlined Pattison's professional approach to his responsibilities. "He could navigate the waters of politics," she said, adding that "anybody can swim about in calm waters, but its the stormy seas that take an exceptional person."
Matt Lahey recalled that he and his wife Chris went to dinner with the Pattisons virtually every Saturday night for years. Pattison's sons were contemporaries, classmates and friends of the Lahey children. "Jeff really took that job very seriously," Lahey said, "but, he was a great father who was always involved with the boys, helping with their academics and coaching their sports. This city will miss them."
"It's really been a great run," Pattison said, characteristically adding that he was confident he was leaving the LBA in position to serve the Legislature in the manner to which it has become accustomed.