PORTSMOUTH — Pointing to the demands of his business, Portsmouth School Committee Vice Chairman Jonathan H. Harris submitted his resignation Wednesday, the day after the election.
“Effective today, I am resigning my seat,” the Republican wrote in a letter to the town council and school committee.
“The decision is one I made several months ago but I committed to serving a full two-year term before departing. The demands of my business have increased over the last few years and spending more time with my family is where my time and focus must be spent.
“It has been an honor to serve the town of Portsmouth and I hope that I have given you sufficient time to find a replacement for me that will align with the appointment of new members of the school committee within the next few weeks.”
Asked about his decision, he replied by email that the election results were not a factor in the timing. He had made the decision already and timed it in a way to make it easier to arrange his replacement.
“Doing so after the election allows for an easy transition of another candidate to be appointed rather than be elected. Had I resigned prior to the election, I was advised that a special (costly) election would be required,” he wrote. “The timing of my resignation also allows a new person to come in at the same time with newly elected people so they have time to work together.
Mr. Harris was elected in 2010 and, among other things, played a key role in contract talks with Council 94, which represents non-professional employees of the School Department. The eventual agreement brought a shift from a pension to more of a 401K type plan for the union’s new employees, a step that proponents say will help ease the town’s unfunded pension liability situation in the future.
“We were successful in our negotiation efforts and on the eve of what was likely an unfavorable arbitration decision for the union they agreed to a contract that included significant and necessary pension reform.”
“I have no regrets, it was tough work,” he wrote in his e-mail. “The school system’s financial situation has dramatically improved over the last two years. Having chaired negotiations and finance for the last two years we have taken a school department from a $1 million dollar structural deficit (in the red) to a $2M surplus (in the black). I wish the newly elected candidates well and I have offered to sit down with them and share what I know with them.”
Mr. Harris is managing principal and president of Black Point Wealth Management, an asset management firm that specializes in pension and retirement consulting and employee benefits work.
Had he stayed, Mr. Harris would have been working with a much different school committee. In Tuesday’s election, Democrats won all four available school seats and took a committee majority. Those winners were Emily Copeland, Terri-Denise Cortvriend, Andrew Kelly, and John Wojichowski.