Manchester political powerhouse Judy Reardon passes away at 64

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Judy Reardon in Africa. Photo Courtesy of Patty Cornell

MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester resident Judy Reardon passed away Friday at the age of 64 after a long period of illness. She was best known for her lifelong contributions to Manchester and New Hampshire politics, most notably her tenure as political strategist and Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

But to State Representative Patty Cornell (D-Manchester), Reardon was a little sister, horror film buff, and adventurer.

“We weren’t really political together. We did a lot of traveling,” said Cornell. The pair traveled the world, visiting places such as Africa, Iceland, and Italy, and visiting state parks in Utah. “We did a lot of fun things together. We were sisters, you know?”

Reardon was born on Feb. 12, 1958, to Patrick and Viola (née Vergas), a couple who married as young adults while working at the R.G. Sullivan Cigar Factory on Pleasant Street. The family settled into a modest house at the corner of Summer and Dearborn Streets on the East Side.

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Judy Reardon, left with sister Patty Cornell (middle) and Hillary Clinton. Photo Courtesy of Patty Cornell

The sisters’ inevitable futures in community work were cemented early—their mother served on the Manchester Board of School Committee for over two decades, representing Ward 5. Their father served in the military during World War II, afterward working for B&M Railroad as an engineer.

Reardon’s first job was at Mr. Steak, located at the corner of Auburn and Elm, where she worked as a hostess. After graduating from Central High School in 1976, Reardon attended Dartmouth College where she was the managing editor of the student newspaper, eventually earning a B.A. in economics. She later enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she earned a J.D.

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Reardon at the Grand Canyon. Courtesy/Patty Cornell

In 1983, Reardon joined the prominent Manchester law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, which was founded by the grandfather of U.S. Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH-02). It was there that Reardon practiced law for five years while simultaneously serving two terms as a State Representative, appointed Democratic Whip in her second term. In 1988, Reardon held a senior position on Paul McEachern’s campaign for governor, and later went on to work on the 2004 campaigns of John Lynch for Governor and John Kerry for President.

“Judy Reardon was a trailblazer and paved the way for women in NH politics and government,” Kuster wrote on Twitter following the news of Reardon’s passing. “Judy has been a dear friend for almost 40 years since we started our first jobs at the McLane Law Firm.”

Reardon at Fenway. Facebook photo

Reardon moved on to work as a public defender in 1989, and three years later, she was recruited to the position of Public Affairs Director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. This was only the beginning of what would become a lifetime of advocacy work, both on and off the clock.

When Shaheen took the oath of office as New Hampshire’s first female governor in 1997, she hired Reardon as her legal counsel. And when Shaheen became New Hampshire’s first female U.S. Senator in 2009, Reardon followed along to Washington, D.C. In recognition of her achievements, Reardon was later inducted into the Central High Hall of Fame.

Judy Reardon with Joyce Craig prior to Craig’s election as mayor. Photo Courtesy of Joyce Craig

“Few people have had an impact on my life, personally and professionally, as much as Judy Reardon,” wrote Senator Shaheen on Twitter. “From the NH State Senate, to the Governor’s office and to the U.S. Senate, Judy filled numerous roles on my staff. But most importantly, she was my confidante & dear friend.”

Portsmouth Police Commission Chair Stefany Shaheen, daughter of Senator Shaheen, wrote on Facebook that Reardon “protected and cared for my mom,” showing immense strength under the pressure of public life. “She was as tough as they come,” she added.

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Judy Reardon was a Patriots fan. Facebook photo

U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)  shared on social media that Reardon was “funny, brutally honest, and pushed those with political power to deliver real results,” adding that Reardon, “left an indelible mark not just on New Hampshire politics, but on the State of New Hampshire.” Hassan elaborated that Reardon was a passionate advocate for legislative policies that “expanded kindergarten to communities across the state, increased state funding to education, protected access to abortion, and expanded the rights of LGBTQ individuals, just to name a few.”

On Twitter, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley described Reardon as “brilliant, fearless, [and] compassionate, with the biggest heart ever.”

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig recalled on Facebook the guidance that Reardon provided during her first run for mayor.

“It’s difficult to put Judy’s spirit into words,” said Craig. “She was one of the smartest, funniest and most talented people I’ve ever met. This is a huge loss for our city and our state.

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Reardon with eventual Vice President Kamala Harris. Twitter photo

“The women of New Hampshire have lost one of their greatest champions,” wrote State Representative David Cote (D-Nashua) in a statement issued by the New Hampshire House Democratic Caucus. “She never abandoned a cause or a friend.”

“[She] was a force to be reckoned with,” wrote State Representative Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester). “She was a courageous advocate for Granite Staters and a brilliant political mind.”

Michael Biundo, New Hampshire GOP strategist and former Senior Advisor to President Donald Trump, wrote on Twitter, “Judy and I often disagreed, but you would have to have been blind to miss her passion and care for what she believed in.”

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Judy Reardon, left, and sister Patty Cornell in Africa, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Patty Griffin

Former New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald offered his condolences on Twitter, stating that Reardon “had a good reputation as a hard worker and a dedicated and effective leader.”

During the decades that the New Hampshire political sphere began to rely on her input and participation, Reardon was often featured in major media outlets such as The Washington Post, Politico, NBC News, and The Boston Globe, a common resource for commentary on New Hampshire’s role in the presidential primaries.

In her spare time, Reardon was ever-present at political rallies and party meetings, participated passionately in efforts to block the ill-fated Northern Pass project, and was a reliable volunteer in local political campaigns. Later in life, Reardon started a blog, ReardonReports, where she shared her insights and opinions related to New Hampshire politics and the First in the Nation Primary.

Reardon is survived by her sister Patty and brother-in-law Rik Cornell, as well as Huey the cat.


About this Author

Amanda Bouldin

Amanda Bouldin lives in Manchester and represents Hillsborough District 12 as a NH State Rep. She is founder and president of Shire Sharing, a nonprofit organization that provides Thanksgiving meals to needy families in the Granite State.