History

H ISTORY OF THE RYE CIVIC LEAGUE

The League was founded in 1968 by Frances Holway, Joan La France and Marjorie Miller for the

purpose of informing citizens about issues and decisions before town boards. It published a free

monthly “Town News” which was distributed around town in red bags. The News was run off

on a mimeograph machine in the Holway cellar, with Joan’s daughter, Edie, and Frances’

daughter, Jane among the volunteers. Members paid dues and did the work of attending

meetings, researching, writing, editing and distributing the News.  Meetings were lively and

disagreement was not uncommon.  Frances was involved in local politics for years and served

briefly as Selectman. Joan was an expert on state laws as they applied to local government and

she attended many Selectmen’s meetings where she was often the most knowledgeable person

in the room.  Marjorie was the editor of the News during its last decade and she now had the

mimeograph machine.  Although sometimes the Civic League committee engaged in heated

debate through the Town News, for the most part the reporting was fair and presented both

sides. The League disbanded in 1993 and the balance in its treasury of $2000 +was donated to

Rye Senior Serve. For a quarter of a century the League had served the town well by providing

monthly news about town government and a forum for political discussion.

 

In 2009 Alex Herlihy heard Frank Drake ask, at an overflowing ZBA meeting discussing Rye

Harbor development, “Where were all of you at the first meeting?” That very pointed question

was the inspiration for Herlihy to revive the League, but before he did, he visited Marjorie, the

last of the founding troika, to tell her the news.  Although Marjorie was dying of cancer, she

perked up quickly and was very excited. “But I gave the money to Senior Serve,” she said.  She

was glad to know that no money was needed to get started  because the News would be sent

by e-mail.  The Selectmen were informed and the first, very modest Town News was sent from

Herlihy’s  home computer to a handful of people in November 2009.  By 2010 a regular group

was attending monthly RCL meetings at the library and the distribution list was growing as was

the content of the News. 2011 saw an even more active presence at Civic League meetings and

at town board meetings.  Residents began to bring ideas for petitioned warrant articles to

meetings where they were discussed and debated.  Nine out of ten of these articles was passed

in the March 2012 election.  2012 also saw the publication of an RCL created Town Government

Handbook, incorporation of RCL as a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization with an elected Board, a

vibrant web site, a greatly expanded newsletter with a new name (Civic News), a regular

presence at town board meetings, a new brochure and a distribution list which soared over the

1000 mark at the November election.  RCL meetings remain lively and filled with diverse points

of view and these monthly gatherings serve as an opportunity to learn from each other and do

the necessary homework to be able to engage intelligently at town board meetings.

 

RCL will become a membership organization in 2013 which will connect people to a

variety of tasks and a stronger engagement in town government. Today the mission of the

Civic League remains the same – to educate and motivate Rye residents to be informed citizens.

 

Rye Civic League, PO Box 971, Rye, NH 03870     www.ryecivicleague.org

Civic News editors:  Steven Borne, Peter Crawford, Alex Herlihy

RCL Board

President – Alex Herlihy                            Susan Rizkalla – Asst. Treas.

Vice President – Steven Borne                 Cecilia Azzi – Asst. Sec.

Secretary – Peter Crawford                       Victor Azzi – director

Treasurer – Peter White                            Jane Holway – director

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