February 28, 2011

A globetrotter returns to Londonderry, is ready to give back

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- For most of us, running for not one but two elected town positions seems a bit much to fathom.
But having been around the world, and back, Londonderry’s John Velliquette isn’t
 “most of us.”
With over two decades of military service and various long-term employment stints in places such a Egypt, Korea, Iran and the United Arab Emirates under his belt, not to mention surviving a serious illness that left him with various physical challenges, Velliquette, 68, is now pursuing dual seats on the Trustees
 of the Leach Library and the Trustees of the Trust Funds.
Admittedly, it’s an unusual proposition. But then again, Velliquette’s life has been far from ordinary.
The Ohio native, who married his high school sweetheart, Joyce, at age 19, served in the Army for 23 years, ultimately achieving the rank of chief warrant officer 4.
“We moved 11 times over those years,”
 Velliquette recalled, looking back on various long-term technical and defense-related assignments in Korea, Iran and Egypt. The couple’s four children were born in Texas, Ohio, Korea and Colorado, respectively. 

During that time period, the family lived through events most of us only viewed from our television screens, including the 1978 Iranian revolution and the assassination of Egypt’s president in 1981. 
“We piled behind us places where we lived,” Velliquette said. “But all this moving around presented us with a lot of opportunities to see and get ourselves involved in many different communities and school systems.” 
After retiring from the Army, Velliquette embarked on a lengthy career with Raytheon and in 1983, he and his wife moved to Londonderry. Both agreed it would be a lovely place to settle down, with its impressive school system and rural character. 
They wouldn’t stay in town very long. A two-year position in Abu Dhabi ultimately turned into a nearly 19-year stay in the Middle East, where Velliquette oversaw an extensive international program for Raytheon and represented 18 international business groups on an economics development council headed by the nation’s crown prince, making him the first foreigner to serve on a government council there. 
“All through that period, we remained residents of Londonderry. Our home remained open, and my children stayed in our house,” Velliquette recalled. “We watched the town grow from a distance, we paid our taxes and we voted by absentee ballot. I kept thinking to myself, one day we’ll return for good.” 
That day came in late 2007, though things didn’t turn out exactly as Velliquette had planned. 
“At that time, I really wanted to get more involved with the town,” he said. “I was used to being so busy, I knew I just couldn’t sit back and settle in to the slower, New England pace.” 
Several months after returning to New Hampshire, Velliquette woke up one morning completely paralyzed. He soon learned a spinal infection had resulted in the loss of two of his vertebrae. 
From September 2008, through March 2009, Velliquette was hospitalized in Boston, where he underwent extensive rehabilitation and was slowly able to regain some of his mobility. 
Now officially retired from Raytheon, Velliquette uses a wheelchair to get around most days, though he is once again able to walk short distances and drive his car. 
In recent months, a friend alerted him to the number of elected town openings in his adopted hometown. 
“I knew right away I wanted to give back,” Velliquette said. “And the trustee positions seemed a great place to start.” 
On the final afternoon of town filings, Velliquette headed over to Town Hall and was concerned to learn that no one had applied yet for either of the trustee positions. 
“People don’t always get involved. They seem to think someone else will do it,” he said. “But if you’re able to do it, you really should.” 
With that in mind, he put his name on the ballot. And then he did it again. 
Since the grandfather of six filed, a small handful of other residents followed his lead. 
Last week, Town Clerk Meg Seymour said running for two positions at the same time is certainly uncommon, though not unheard of. 
“I do recall at least one other occasion,” Seymour said, noting that state law permits citizens to serve on dual boards, with certain restrictions. 
However, the town’s charter has different stipulations. 
“So if he wins both, he will have to decide which one he wants,” Seymour emphasized. 
And if he wins neither? Velliquette said he won’t be discouraged, noting the town “talent bank” survey available for residents interested in serving their community. 
“If I’m not voted in, I’ll still find a way to serve in one way or another,” he said. “New Hampshire is our home now.” 

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