DERRY, NH – The Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce have named longtime commercial and home Realtor Ralph Valentine as the 2021 Citizen of the Year.
Chamber president Ashley Haseltine and 2020 Citizen of the Year Steve Dente lured Valentine under the false auspices of a holiday parade committee meeting and sprung the award on him, according to Valentine.
“Derry has been extremely good to me since 1986, I’ve been working this market,” Valentine said.
Haseltine said the Citizen of the Year award is “among the highest honors bestowed in our region.”
The chamber also named Londonderry-based payroll and bookkeeping provider Business Cents as the Business of the Year, and community mental health provider Center for Life Management in Derry the Nonprofit of the Year.
“Business of the Year and Nonprofit of the Year recognize a company and an organization who contribute to the community’s development and ongoing success,” Haseltine said.
The awards were presented during the Chamber’s Annual Dinner & Awards Ceremony at LaBelle Winery in Derry on Oct. 7.
Valentine started his real estate business 42 years ago when he got his broker’s license in Massachusetts, after his uncle encouraged him to get into real estate. He was licensed in New Hampshire 37 years ago.
Today he brokers residential and commercial property deals up to over $5 million through his business The Valentine Group, which he founded in 1986, across New Hampshire and parts of Northern Massachusetts. He primarily operates around Rockingham County.
He caught the real estate bug early.
“My dad was a land surveyor. So I was actually out surveying land when I was nine years old, and I worked for his surveying firm until I graduated college,” Valentine said.
Three years before he got his broker’s license, he also got a degree in accounting as a hedge. His interest in work that got him out from behind a desk and surveying properties combined with his know-how in local ordinances, contracts, deeds and planning files allowed him to dig deeper on potential deals to discover development opportunities and challenges, he said.
Over the years, he said he gained traction with customer service and responding to the needs of buyers and sellers. He still doesn’t rely on the internet too much to generate leads.
“I still do things the old-fashioned way, which is either picking up the phone or visiting people face-to-face,” Valentine.
After the banking crash in the 1990s, Valentine started originating mortgages from 1991 to 1997. Then in 1997 he opened a mortgage lending company that he closed in 2006, after reading the tea leaves of the soon-to-collapse housing market and discussing it with his staff.
While writing mortgages in the early 90s, he had a car phone (a rarity at the time) and he was involved in the financing for approximately 20 percent of all the houses sold in the Salem and Windham market.
Valentine said he pivoted to focus more on commercial real estate in 2000.
Aside from his business, Valentine has been an active member of his community, co-chairing (and soon to chair) the Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry, serving on the Derry Zoning Board years ago and assisting the Community Caregivers of Greater Derry as an advisor.
He also previously served as the Derry Londonderry Chamber president at one time, and served on its board. Valentine is currently the chairman of the New Hampshire Commercial Investment Board of Realtors and chairs the group’s public policy committee.
“When you work in a community that’s small like this… it’s important to give back and it feels great to give back. And you don’t do it for any award,” Valentine said.