A Person Who Makes Things Happen
Harry Brown, President of the NH OHRV Coalition

June 18, 2013
By Sen. Jeff Woodburn

The Berlin Reporter

I came to the State Senate from the newsroom and the classroom – where I taught civics and government. There I learned a change comes hard (or not at all) and most ideas fail. The weight to change must be substantially better than the status quo. It is the wisdom of our complicated civic system.

Our founding fathers’ knew that government must ultimately negotiate the generational tug-of-war between the past and the future; culture and progress; and individual rights and majority rule. They built a conservative government that permits change – but usually incrementally; and in line with our best values, not our temporary whims.

Rural areas are notoriously slow to change and comfortable with the way things have always been or conditioned to be suspicious of big ideas. This philosophy is played out at nearly every town meeting or gathering of any sort.

But, this past weekend something big happened – the “Ride the Wilds” ATV-OHRV trail system was opened in grand style with Governor Maggie Hassan’s presence. It is 1,000-miles of interconnected trails throughout Coos County anchored by two state parks -- Jericho in Berlin and Coleman in Stewartstown. It sets Coos County apart from other off-road motorized recreation activity in the Eastern U.S. At the center of this celebration was a man whose steel will made this project happen -- Harry Brown, of Colebrook.

Now, something of this magnitude takes many, many people and the right conditions to make it happen and only a few to stop or slow it. There are many stake-holders -- the legislature, bureaucracy, interests groups, local and county government, law enforcement and of course landowners. From my vantage point, I have been very proud of our elected officials in Coos County. Everyone works in non-partisan fashion and rallies around important regional priorities.

As Harry described the long process and introduced various dignitaries at the grand opening, my mind wondered back to my first encounter with Harry.

Actually, I was warned of him long before I met him. I was told, he was hard to shake – bold, persistent, stubborn and at times down-right rude. I finally met him at the Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital during a tour with several of our newly elected Senators. Our group was nearly two hours behind schedule, but Harry came to tell us about “Ride the Wilds” and he did. A month later, I was with him again in the same place, this time he was keeping the governor from exiting and going on about ATVs.

As I was put on the Senate Committee that dealt with issues essential to his plans, our contact became more frequent.

When I didn’t respond quickly enough, he let me know (as if his next call wasn't enough) and my colleague, Sen. Andy Sanborn, of Bedford (himself a champion of this project) would press me for action. In this business, all we have is our time – and there are far more demands, than time.

I quickly learned that there are a few people – who by the force of their personalities can get things done. Why? They are working for a good, realistic project with a firm end point.

They are persistent, practical, authentic, cheerful, hardworking and highly efficient. They don’t waste my time or ask me do something that I can’t or won’t do. They have very specific requests. Saying yes to them becomes a habit. Or as Executive Councilor Ray Burton once advised me how to deal with one such person: “When she asks you to do something,” he said, “Just do it. It’s easier.” With Harry it was always easier.

Most often his request was for me to simply contact someone to encourage them -- not so much to support the project -- but simply act. It’s easy, as Hemingway said, to confuse movement for action.

It seems to take a lot of movement for a little bit of action. But because of Harry’s actions and his attributes, something big happened last Saturday.

(North Country Sen. Jeff Woodburn can be reached at 603-259-6878 or jeff@jeffwoodburn.com.)

Harry Brown at the grand opening of Ride the Wilds

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