Karen Liot Hill ’00, former program coordinator for the Rockefeller Center, was elected Mayor of Lebanon, N.H., by the Lebanon City Council last month. Hill served on the city council for two years.
As mayor, Hill leads the city council, which approves the town budget and establishes town policy, Hill said.
When she served on city council, Hill led the city’s “first strategic planning effort,” she said. The plan addressed the need to improve communication between the town government and citizens of Lebanon, establish a transportation master plan to ameliorate traffic problems and develop an open space plan to help preserve the environment, according to a statement Hill made in her campaign for city council in March.
Hill believes her fellow council members elected her as mayor because they share her desire for comprehensive reform in the way the council does business, she said.
“Wherever I go, I tend to get connected to strategic planning,” Hill said. “In Lebanon we can work on improving our process.”
Hill, a Democrat, identified herself as a Republican before coming to Dartmouth, and changed her party allegiance after campaigning for Democratic Presidential Primary candidate Howard Dean in 2004, she said. Dean motivated Hill to remain involved in politics and run for office, she said.
“He said you get a D for voting, a C for working on a campaign,” Hill said. “And you get an A if you run for office.”
Shortly after Dean’s campaign ended, Hill ran for Lebanon’s city council.
“I had been reading the papers, and I knew that the city council had been stuck in a stalemate,” she said. “I’m a real action-oriented person, and I thought, ‘Here’s where I can make a difference.'”
After defeating the incumbent, Hill discovered the city council was not what she expected, she said.
“In truth, I have been frequently frustrated in council meetings that there hasn’t been that intense deliberation about policy,” Hill said.
The council is so focused on the day-to-day operations of the town that they often overlook how they come to their decisions, she said.
Despite the frustrations she sometimes experiences with the council, Hill said she feels that she is solidifying her political identity although she still struggles with the idea of being a leader.
“People who want to be in politics tend to have egos,” she said. “How do you manage that? Make sure you’re leading with integrity? That your actions and words are aligned and that you’re doing your best?”
Originally from Long Island N.Y., Hill had her first child while in college, and after graduating, decided to stay in the Upper Valley as a program coordinator for the Rockefeller Center. She now lives in her husband’s childhood home in Lebanon with her two daughters.
“I really fell in love with the Upper Valley,” she said. “I think it’s a really special place.”
Sadhana Hall, associate director of student and public programs at the Rockefeller Center, said Hill is the first female Dartmouth alumna to serve as mayor of any city, to the best of her knowledge, although The Dartmouth could not confirm this statement.