Editorial: Larsen is truly a tough act to follow

Last modified: Friday, June 06, 2014
There isn’t much to state Sen. Sylvia Larsen’s Wikipedia page. In fact, the entry is only two sentences long. It reads: “Sylvia Larsen is a Democratic member of the New Hampshire Senate, representing the 15th District since 1994. From 2006 through 2010, when Democrats regained control of the chamber, Larsen served as Senate President.”

Wikipedia is good for a lot of things, but it doesn’t do a very good job of putting Larsen’s 20 years of service to her district – which includes Concord, Hopkinton, Henniker and Warner – and the state of New Hampshire in perspective.

A better place to start is the list of accomplishments included in Larsen’s announcement of her decision not to seek re-election. The highlights include:

∎ Universal access to public kindergarten is now statewide

∎ A woman’s right to privacy regarding medical decisions has been protected

∎ The state’s domestic violence laws are among the strongest in the nation

∎ A new women’s prison that will offer life skills training will finally be built

∎ Affordable health care has been made available to low- and middle-income families in New Hampshire

Larsen also was a strong supporter of a day honoring Martin Luther King Jr., marriage equality and several other pieces of legislation that sought to strengthen the social fabric of the state. Her time in the Senate was marked by hard work and a level-headed approach regardless of the atmosphere in which she served.

Her decency and composure did not go unnoticed by her colleagues, including Donna Soucy, a Manchester Democrat, who said: “No matter how difficult the situation, no matter how dark the day, no one is ever more even-tempered, no one is more graceful than Sylvia Larsen.”

The word grace, when used to describe a legislator, means a refusal to allow oneself to be pulled down into the muck of partisan sniping – which is an apt description of the way Larsen approached her two decades of service. Voters in Senate District 15 would be wise to hold up Larsen as the standard by which all the candidates seeking to replace her are judged.

As much as we hate to see Larsen leave the Senate, she has more than earned time to travel and enjoy her family after giving so much of herself to her constituents. No matter what role she plays in the Democratic Party moving forward, her legacy is secure.

New Hampshire has become synonymous with strong, competent women leaders – such as Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, Reps. Ann Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, Gov. Maggie Hassan, House Speaker Terie Norelli and former House speaker Donna Sytek – and Larsen holds a prominent place among them.