Peter Bragdon, Milford’s longest serving school board member, will not run in March

MILFORD – In the mid-1990s, all was not well with the Milford school system. Costs were up, test scores were down, state fire officials were threatening to close one of the schools, and there were contract disputes with three unions.

Around that time, Peter Bragdon was looking for a way to give back to the community and thought the Milford School Board might be a good place to start.

“Reading The Cabinet, I saw the infighting on the board and with the superintendent. I was more curious than anything else.” So Bragdon went to a board meeting and didn’t like what he saw.

“These people were directing a $20 million operation,” he said during an interview in The Cabinet offices last week. The board “didn’t seem like it was functioning as well as it should.”

Bragdon was raised in Amherst, part of the fourth generation to farm the Bragdon Farm, and graduated from Milford High School, where he has said he obtained the foundation for later success.

After acquiring a degree in computer science, Bragdon went on to develop, and then sell, a successful software company.

Then he ran for a seat on the Milford School Board and has been there ever since,

In 2000 he began a 14-year stint in New Hampshire politics, as a Republican, winning a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Then in 2004 he was elected to the state Senate, where he served as president in recent years. This year he retired from the District 11 Senate seat, which includes the towns of Milford, Merrimack, Amherst and Wilton, and Gary Daniels was elected to the position.

For the past three years Bragdon has been leading New Hampshire HealthTrust, formerly the Local Government Center, the state’s chief manager of medical insurance for town and city employees.

And now Milford’s longest serving school board member and school board chairman has decided not to run for another term on the board and announced his retirement Monday night.

“The biggest issue is time,” he said. “The last three years I have been able to shoehorn” the work on the state and local level with work for HealthTrust, where he is executive director and which requires a commute to Concord.

School board duties will become more demanding, he said, when Superintendent of Schools Robert Suprenant retires and a new superintendent is hired next year.

He believes he is leaving behind substantial achievements in Milford, with “significant improvements in test scores,” along with sensitivity “to taxpayers needs,” Bragdon said. “I like to see an organization run well … My thing was to try to work together to find solutions.”

Serving on a school board is a lot of work, but one thing Bragdon enjoyed was having an up close view of what is going on in the schools.

“It is easy to get bogged down” in administrative and policy details, he said, but when students and staff bring their presentations to the board, it is gratifying and enlightening and he will miss it.

But now, “it’s time to bow out quietly … The board is in capable hands, and I have other challenges.”

Milford Superintendent of Schools Robert Suprenant called Bragdon “an outstanding school board member,” whose tenure was characterized by “good judgement, common sense, leadership and a good sense of humor.”

Bragdon, he said, “always tried to develop a budget that advanced learning, but always with the taxpayers in mind.

“From my perspective as a superintendent, he really understood the role of the school board and as the chairman” he made sure the other board members understood their job was budget development and policy-making, he said.

Suprenant, who will retire next June after 11 years with the district, remembers an early discussion he had with Bragdon that gave him “a real understanding of the community.

“I always had very good support from Peter. I will miss him a great deal.”

Paul Dargie, the current school board chairman, said Bragdon has “obviously contributed quite a bit to the board.

“Things can get complicated,” Dargie said, “and he can get to the core points that need to be addressed.”

Bragdon also did a lot of behind the scenes work, Dargie said, including contract negotiations, “a lot that people can’t see … and he always did a good job as chairman.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@