From Rochester to New Hampshire a Journey into a Culture


CONCORD, N.H. (Jan. 9, 2012) — When Greece-Arcardia ’82 high school sweethearts Bill and Jennifer Kretovic moved to New Hampshire in 1988, they made several engagements — and not just of the romantic kind.

They got married. They moved into a new home. They got new jobs. They became part of New Hampshire’s political culture — so much so that Jennifer is now city councilor-elect in Concord.

She took that leap, she said, because of her work with Concord 2020, a civic project trying to revitalize the city’s Main Street. “It’s painful,” she said. “We are hurting. Our infrastructure is failing everywhere. Our communities cannot afford to rebuild our roads on our own. And it doesn’t have to be Concord. It can be Rochester. We’ve all had our struggles.”

The Kretovics are among a clan of former Rochester residents who are now deeply rooted in New Hampshire. In the season of the primary, they see connections between their old lives and their new.

“Everybody is no more than two degrees of separation,” as Deborah Watrous, a friend of the Kretovics and another Rochester transplant, puts it.
Connections among New Hampshire residents run deep, Watrous said. “It’s all so wonderful because we interact with one another on many different levels all at the same time,” Watrous said. “Politically, you can be totally opposite from somebody yet you sing with them in the chorus, or you’re doing a project with them, or your kids go to school together,” she said.

Watrous is the director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council. Health care reform, she said, is the key problem that she hopes the government can resolve. “If we could get health insurance costs and access to health care that’s more reasonable, I could hire one, maybe two, more full-time people,” Watrous said. “We could have more people working for us and we have way more work to do that we have staff to do it,” she said.

Jim Faux, a former Rochester area mathematics teacher, said he’s enchanted by the intensity of New Hampshire politics. This year, he’s been counting the number of times campaigns have contact him.  solicitations. So far, he said, most candidates have sent him just a pamphlet or two. But Mitt Romney has sent nine and Ron Paul has sent 12. One of those is a Ron Paul “family cookbook” with a recipe for dinner rolls. And on Saturday alone, he had seven phone calls.

Faux moved to Keene, N.H. in May 2005 after living in Brockport and working at Spencerport High School. “It’s a lot different up here,” Faux said. “The ability to shake hands and ask a question from a foot away — you can’t do that back in Western New York.”

Of the candidates he’s looked in the eye this year, he said, he is drawn to former Utah Gov. Huntsman after attending an event on Jan. 8. “You felt comfortable with the guy,” Faux said. “I was extremely impressed with Huntsman’s style as leader and as someone who can bring this country together.”

The Greece-Arcadia sweethearts, Bill and Jennifer Kretovic, moved to Concord, N.H., in 1988 when Bill was offered at a job at automotive lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania. Since their move, Bill has become familiar with the importance of manufacturing jobs to New Hampshire and the country. “Being in the automotive industry, we have to ride their waves,” he said. His employer has reduced 500 jobs in the 23 years he’s been there, he said.

He thought the challenge New Hampshire faces for creating jobs, he said, was attracting young people to the rural area. “But as you get a little older,” he said, “your needs change. Your priorities all change.” A safe neighborhood and good schools for their two boys, 13 and 20, the Kretovics said, were priorities when they moved to New Hampshire.

An environment of political engagement is important, too, said Jennifer, whose father took her to the polls in Rochester from a very young age. She’s glad, she said, to give her kids even more of a connection to democracy. “Kids at Concord High,” she said, “have the opportunity for a life-changing experience — to meet, speak to, shake hands, and get pictures taken with the next president of the United States.”

(Julie McMahon, a graduate student in the magazine, newspaper and online journalism program at Syracuse University, is covering the New Hampshire primary for The Democrat & Chronicle.)

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