I'm Sue Prentiss. I am a Paramedic, a Lebanon City Councilor, a former Mayor, and the former Chief of EMS for NH’s Department of Safety. We are in the midst of multiple crises including public health, climate change, and racial and economic justice. COVID-19 was my tipping point and why I decided to run. I am worried about our families and our communities. I know that my 30 years of experience in protecting the public and managing crises has prepared me uniquely to be a leader in the Senate at this time.
I grew up one of 6 children in a middle class working family. My mom stayed at home with us as long as she could, but by the time I was in high school, my mother went to work. My first job was bagging groceries at a local supermarket. I began as an EMT in college and have continued holding one and sometimes two jobs throughout my 30-year career as a Paramedic, public safety, and healthcare official. My husband, Chris, just retired after working 30-years as a firefighter. I understand the pressures on working families - struggling to pay for my daughter Phoebe's college tuition while paying off my own student loans and helping an aging parent navigate her day-to-day challenges.
I attended college at St. Mike’s, just next door to the University of Vermont. I understand the dynamics of college towns and the challenges that students face feeling welcomed in a community. Having grown up in a Republican family, it was natural for me to work for two Republicans straight out of college. I worked for US Senator Bob Stafford who was a tireless advocate for access to higher education as well as the environment. I also worked for Congressman Peter Smith who ultimately lost his seat when he took a position supporting a ban on one type of semi-automatic weapon against the wishes of the NRA. As I moved across the river and entered public service in New Hampshire, the “R” remained attached to my voter registration, but I operated outside of partisan politics throughout my career. Over the years, I have bonded with local leaders and doers in this District, in healthcare and across the state in order to deliver results for the people I have served. My admiration of Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his inclusive, common-sense plans for our nation, is what turned me into a Democratic activist. I voted for Hillary Clinton, and I have supported and been a contributor to Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Annie Kuster.
Protecting vulnerable people is a core value of mine. In fact, it's why I have devoted my career to public safety, emergency medicine, trauma systems development and crisis management. My record tells the story of who I am and what I believe in. I came to the Connecticut River Valley in 1992 as the Director for a rural health outreach project based at Dartmouth Medical School. Shoring up the primary healthcare safety net was our mission, we knew that residents of our rural communities did not have access to healthcare, or transportation. Many times, an ambulance was their only access to any level of care.
I taught EMS courses in Coos, Grafton and Sullivan Counties and worked to elevate the level of care available in some of the most remote areas of our state. Working in state government, I coordinated Trauma System development, working closely with the trauma program leaders at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, NH’s only Level One trauma center.
I was promoted to be the first female chief of EMS in NH, where I was on the front lines of New Hampshire's response to SARS and H1N1. Specifically, with H1N1, I played a role in developing plans for the deployment of vaccine through the state's thirteen public health networks. Even before those public health crises, I knew that rolling out the flu vaccine annually could be done more rapidly if more people were able to administer the vaccine. I went to work – bringing together nurses, labor, and hospital organizations – to develop protocols and training that allowed Paramedics to join the ranks of those who could deliver vaccines. In Lebanon, I stood side by side with firefighters and nurses delivering vaccinations in schools and other clinics. This additional capacity to deliver vaccines proved helpful during H1N1 and will be critical in our response to COVID-19.
When I left state government, I continued to promote progressive approaches to community health as the Manager of Emergency Medical Services at Concord Hospital. In response to the growing mental health crisis and inadequate state funding, I worked with Concord Fire Department and Riverbend Mental Health Services in the development of Mobile Crisis Response Teams that shifted the paradigm from a law enforcement response to people in crisis, particularly with mental health or substance issues, to a community health approach. Ambulances and police officers are now able to take people in crisis to outpatient mental health clinics as appropriate and other locations where they can get the specific help they need versus ending up, at times, unnecessarily in Emergency Department beds for days on end. Today I serve as the Executive Director for the American Trauma Society, supporting the Trauma Centers throughout the nation.
My desire to serve my community led me to run for City Council, where I have served for the past 11 years, championing and voting for a progressive agenda as a non-partisan City Councilor and Mayor. I led the vote on anti-discrimination protections for transgender employees, spearheaded the City’s first Inclusiveness Resolution in 2017 in response to racist hate speech, and I have fought consistently against climate change by adopting the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, denouncing the natural gas pipeline that was recently defeated at the PUC, and supporting investments in alternative energy. My 11 years in local government matter, giving me broad experience working on numerous issues such as infrastructure and downtown revitalization, fighting for social justice, responding to climate change, mobilizing the cultural economy, conserving land, adopting effective land-control policies, and advocating for property taxpayers. I have worked closely with our Lebanon delegation on issues such as securing funding to address an infrastructure issue that impacts the economic vitality in downtown West Lebanon. I am proud to have the support of all four of Lebanon’s State Representatives and the other eight members of the Lebanon City Council.
New Hampshire is made up of 234 cities and towns, and our senate district -District 5 - is made up of 9 of them. The seven District 5 towns include Canaan, Charlestown, Cornish, Enfield, Hanover, Lyme, and Plainfield. Two of New Hampshire’s 13 cities are located in our senate district – Claremont and Lebanon. We are lucky to live in a beautiful part of the state - along the Connecticut, Mascoma, and Sugar Rivers. The towns and cities of District 5 are important and unique in their own right. As a local official, I understand first-hand how downshifting from the state affects our communities. My 11 years of experience on the city council coordinating with neighboring communities on public safety, public transportation, Infrastructure and more have given me in-depth knowledge about how state legislation affects us at the local level. Because of my extensive local experience, I will be a stronger advocate for all of us in Concord.
I am also not a stranger to the NH legislature and the legislative process. When I worked as the Chief of EMS, part of my role was to represent Department of EMS issues before the legislature. I helped draft legislation, identify sponsors, and testified before committees. From 2016 to 2018 my work on EMS licensing policies took me to different states to build coalitions, get a specific piece of legislation introduced, address technical issues, testify before legislative committees and shepherd the bills through the process. Nine of the bills passed in that time, meaning I was able to get on the ground and up to speed with multiple state legislatures.
Fully re-opening our economy, our schools, and our communities will depend on rapid and comprehensive deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. In fact, we can use the coming flu season as a dry run to test our systems and prepare ourselves for what comes next. My deep experience in public safety, emergency medicine, and crisis management have prepared me uniquely to serve in the state senate at this time.
Most important to me is the opportunity we have now to right the wrongs and to address the inequalities that face us head on, while at the same time managing the state’s largest response to a public health emergency in as long as I can remember. I will fight for the long overdue fair funding solutions for public education and a meaningful response to the climate crisis that builds on local efforts. I will fight for racial, social and economic justice. I am that crisis manager ready to work for you and for all of us at this critical time to help build a more inclusive, prosperous New Hampshire.
North Country Public Safety Foundation President’s Award – October 2010
Meritorious Service Medal, NH Fire and EMS Committee of Merit - October 2010
David J. Connor, MD, EMS Memorial Appreciation Award for EMS & Trauma System Achievement – October 2008
Selected for the “Dedication” of the 2011 NH Statewide Patient Care Protocols
NH Fire “Academy Award”, NH Fire Standards and Training Commission – November 2012
Meritorious Service Award, City of Concord Fire Department – March 2013
Chief Medical Officer – Designated by the Center for Public Safety Excellence - July 2008 (one of the first eleven in country to receive as well as first female)
Nominated and admitted to Leadership NH Program – Class of 2014
Appointed to PEGASUS Steering Committee, building evidence based guidelines for EMS, Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine – November 2013 (current)
Named Hoffman-Hass Fellow, NH Center for Not-for-Profits – January 2016