Claira Monier: Ready for the next challenge
GOFFSTOWN — Claira Monier believes that if you've been given a good life, you should do your best to give back. That philosophy has served Monier well throughout her long career in New Hampshire politics, work life and service to her community.
Monier is one of five named this year for a Granite State Legacy Award, presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader and sponsored by Centrix Bank.
A Bedford native who has lived in Goffstown for much of her adult life, former geography professor Monier is a familiar name in state politics. A former aide to Republican Gov. Meldrim Thomson and the widow of Senate President Robert Monier, she also served as regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Reagan administration. She spent 20 years as the executive director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, retiring in 2007 at the age of 67.
Shortly after her husband died in 1986, she lost her job, and a friend mentioned the opening at NHHFA.
"For the first time in my life, I could do what I wanted to do," she said. "I said, 'What do I know about housing?' I had just learned how to make a mortgage payment."
But she landed the job and learned the ropes, leading an organization that has helped to secure housing for countless New Hampshire residents.
"Our function was to provide affordable housing for people in New Hampshire in any way we could," she said, which included the Section 8 program, rent subsidies and low-interest rates for single-family mortgages.
"Prices were really way out of line," Monier said of the end of her tenure, "and working people could not afford to own a home; that was sad."
Monier believes that home ownership fosters buy-in to a community, and said she enjoyed seeing the results of the organization's efforts.
"The best part was making a difference, seeing neighborhoods flourish," she said.
Monier has stayed busy in her retirement, active in the Rotary Club of Manchester, volunteering for AARP, and serving on the boards of The Way Home, Neighborhood Works, Plymouth State University's Alumni Board and Manchester High School West's Endowment Fund, among others.
"I meet the nicest people, and that's a real plus," she said. "I need the intellectual challenge."
In 2011, she was named chairman of Rick Santorum's campaign in New Hampshire. The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania was a Republican presidential candidate.
"The most important decisions in our lives are political," she said. "Do you want to be a part of it, or do you want to let it happen to you?"
Monier intends to keep learning, whether it's through a course she's taking in the history of architecture to prepare for an upcoming trip to Vienna, or mastering her computer and her iPhone.
"Life is a challenge, especially for us older folks who come from a simpler time," she said. "We have a lot more choices, and that means we have to learn more."
"Eighty percent of what you do doesn't matter," she added. "But you never know which of that other 20 percent will pay off."