Bar News - November 19, 2014
Practicitioner Profile: New Hillsborough County Attorney Credits Bike Campaign for the Win
By: Carol Robidoux
Newly elected County Attorney Dennis Hogan still rides his 1979 Schwinn around the city, including trips to the Hillsborough County Courthouse in his hometown of Nashua.
Left to right, Dennis Hogan, with two of his seven brothers, Peter and Thomas, posing with their matching 1979 Schwinn Spitfires.
When the weather’s right, and his schedule doesn’t include a court hearing, Hillsborough County Attorney-elect Dennis Hogan opts to take the scenic route to work on his 1978 Schwinn Spitfire, a one-speed purchased in 1979 as an eighth-grade graduation present to himself.
It’s about a five-mile round trip, unless he makes some pit stops along the way.
“It cost me $186.50. I paid extra for hubs that were heavier, and added gum handle grips and padding on the handlebar, which made it better for riding people on the handlebars,” says Hogan.
“I waxed it the day I got it,” he says of a fastidious maintenance routine that has persisted over the ensuing 35 years. It’s that attention to the underlying detail of things that runs through most everything in Hogan’s life, from his appreciation for sturdy bikes, politics and American history, to his private law practice and now, his return to the County Attorney’s office.
Having defeated his opponent, incumbent Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance, in the November election, Hogan will be returning with a three-word mantra as his guide: Focused, fair and frugal.
He believes he was given another chance at the job, which he held from 2011-2012 before being unseated by LaFrance in the 2012 election, because voters appreciate the “outsider’s view” he brings to an office that he says can be entrenched in office politics.
“Everyone needs to be treated as equals. That’s something I want to bring back. Also, I bring an outsider’s point of view to the job, to break up the established way of doing things. I will actually ask the questions that should be asked, about whether we need to do this or that, or can we be doing something better,” Hogan said.
He believes his bicycle campaigning was pivotal, for one thing, because his penchant for thrift went over well with voters.
“I used my bicycle to campaign in Manchester and Nashua neighborhoods. Not only is it efficient, but people think I am smart to use such an effective form of transportation,” said Hogan, following his election victory.
As efficiency goes, one of his goals over the next two years will be to move toward a paperless operation, in alignment with the court’s progress toward that goal.
“During my previous term, I rang the bell on that issue quite a bit with the county commissioners to get them involved in that, but it took money and resources, both of which were scarce. Having budget experience now, I think that’s something we can work on moving forward,” Hogan said. “One thing I’ll do immediately is talk to the state legislators involved with the county budget, so we can be ready when the court finally goes paperless.”
Efficiency in all things is something in which Hogan takes great pride.
“If I can get exercise riding my bike while getting to work, that’s efficient,” Hogan says. “Certainly I’m economical, but I like to look at is as a matter of time economy, too. But the savings on gas or wear and tear on my car don’t add up to as much as the health benefits of bicycling,” says Hogan.
His go-to transportation is still his old Schwinn, which helped transport him through his Nashua High School years, and went with him to the University of New Hampshire in 1982, where it continued to serve as an efficient trans-campus man-powered vehicle.
Once time he actually rode it from Durham to Nashua.
“That was my longest trip on the bike, back in 1985. I only did it out of necessity. I couldn’t start my car and I needed to be in Nashua. Nobody I called for a ride answered the phone,” says Hogan. “It took me hours, but at least I didn’t get lost,” he says.
Hogan is one of 11 siblings – seven brothers and three sisters. He graduated from UNH in 1986 with a degree in political science, and then worked in the insurance industry for several years before returning to UNH School of Law in Concord, graduating in 2002. Over the years he has served Nashua as a youth basketball coach, school board member, state legislator, state senator and as chair of the Nashua Republican City Committee.
Hogan, 50, says the decision to remain in his hometown and set up a law practice there, post-law school, was one of practicality and logic as much as sentimentality.
“I remember debating with people about staying in Nashua. At that time, according to Money Magazine, Nashua was the best place to live, so I figured why go searching for someplace better?” he says. “And every time I head down Main Street, it just feels like home.”
His dad, James Hogan, served as city engineer for Nashua and worked on plans for the Broad Street Parkway, the largest municipally managed project in state history. The two-lane, two-mile stretch, which will redirect east-to-west traffic and provide an alternate river-crossing, is finally under way, after 50 years on the drawing board.
“I am very interested in the Broad Street Parkway, not only because my father was part of it, but because of what it means to the city’s future,” says Hogan, who – no surprise – happens to own an original well-preserved blueprint of the project.
“It’s a good idea if Nashua grows and needs that transportation infrastructure. If it doesn’t start growing, it will be a waste of money. Back then we thought it was needed because Nashua would continue to grow as it had been. But if you look at places like Detroit, they now have these huge highways that are empty.”
Hogan says the city – and the state in general – must work at lowering the tax structure for businesses if it wants to see the kind of economic development everyone’s been waiting for.
Whether the parkway turns out to be a boon or a bust, Hogan says he will keep waxing the Spitfire and biking the city’s back roads to get around. Leading by example in the name of frugal efficiency from the seat of his trusty bicycle is what Hogan is all about.
“Sure, there’s a conflict between the need to show success as an attorney to attract clients, and riding my bike to work. Sometimes I hide my bike when new people come into the office,” says Hogan. “But once I know a client, I don’t mind that they know that I do what I do, and prefer my bike. That’s who I am.”