When Kelly Clark was tapped to take an interim leadership role at AARP’s national office in the fall, we looked to our AARP neighbors to the south and invited Mike Olender of AARP New York to step in to lend a hand. As his experience the last six months was very positive, we thought you’d like to hear directly from him -- what he thinks of New Hampshire and how he and his family fared. Here goes:
In January 2012, I accepted an invitation to help AARP New Hampshire with its voter engagement efforts, during the final days of the first-in-the-nation primary. What an experience! I got a very pleasant whiff of New Hampshire’s renowned and proud political culture, fiercely independent constituency and the mildest January weather in years.
So when asked to move my family to New Hampshire to serve as Interim State Director, there was little holding me back. What could be better than six months in this beautiful state, sampling lobster rolls, dumping a dreadful 90-minute commute, engaging lively and dedicated volunteers and staff, and enjoying a white Christmas?
New Hampshire has every reason to be proud. (I think I mentioned that before.) Here are just a few of the highlights that are written into the history of the Olender family:
- Elections 2012 resulted in an all-female Congressional delegation and female Governor. New Hampshire went pink!
- Pumpkins, pumpkins and pumpkins were everywhere – stacked stories high – at the Keene Pumpkin Festival. Awesome.
- Airlines give frequent flyer miles but how about the Children’s Museum in Dover and Manchester YMCA where my two toddlers were frequent visitors and savored each and every visit?
- Lobster rolls are the perfect food, even if my first experience at the Beach Plum put me back $16.
- Oh do you love your New England Patriots! I often took life in my own hands and wore my favorite New York Jets football jersey to the supermarket. (Nobody tried to run me over in the parking lot.)
- First Night in Portsmouth was chilly but the frequent stops for hot chocolate excited the kids!
- And what you’re most known for: gorgeous foliage that took my breath away. It’s the most beautiful color combination this New Jersey boy has EVER experienced.
- One last thing on this list: a 12-minute commute (hardly a taxi in sight.)
Aside from these experiences, perhaps the most valuable is the volunteers I’ve worked with at AARP New Hampshire. Their commitment to serving aging Granite Staters is second to none. I feel the same way about AARP New York volunteers and now see the pattern. AARP volunteers are the most committed and talented group around and we are very fortunate to work side-by-side on so many issues.
I recently accepted a new position at AARP North Carolina and my family and I will now embark on a new journey. While I won’t miss the frigid temperatures (and the nights I crawled out of a warm bed to warm the cars), I will miss this great state, its people, its beauty and its culture. Not to mention the lobster rolls!
Thank you, New Hampshire. The Olender family will forever remember this experience.
P.S. I’ll be happy to forward my new address if anybody wants to send me lobster!