Bound for Senate run, Kevin Smith leaves Pease Development Authority. Neil Levesque to be acting chair.

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Pease Development Authority Executive Director Paul Brean, right, presents a parting gift to Kevin Smith, left, who resigned as chairman of the PDA board of directors in order to run for the U.S. Senate at the PDA meeting on Thursday, Jan. 20.
Pease Development Authority Executive Director Paul Brean, right, presents a parting gift to Kevin Smith, left, who resigned as chairman of the PDA board of directors in order to run for the U.S. Senate at the PDA meeting on Thursday, Jan. 20.

PORTSMOUTH — Kevin Smith bid adieu Thursday morning to Pease Development Authority staff and board of directors, a body he has chaired since 2017, as he prepares a campaign for the U.S. Senate.

He resigned the chairmanship effective at the conclusion of Thursday's monthly meeting.

Until the governor appoints a new PDA board chair, the acting chairman will be vice chair Neil Levesque, who is executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.

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Smith is the Londonderry town manager, a post he will give up March 11. He is in what is currently a three-person primary race among Republicans to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan in the 2022 general election.

At Thursday’s PDA board meeting, he read the letter of resignation that he sent Jan. 12 to Gov. Chris Sununu, who, by statute appoints the board chair and appointed Smith to the post five years ago.

“It goes without saying that the Pease Tradeport is largely seen as the most successful base closure redevelopment project in the country, and I am happy to have played a small role in its storied history,” Smith said in reading his letter. “It is a crown jewel not only on the Seacoast, but is also an economic development success story that should be heralded throughout the state.”

In remarks that followed, Smith credited the work of the PDA staffers — calling them “top notch” — and his fellow members.

“The Tradeport is in good hands going forward, and I can’t wait to see what future successes it will have years into the future,” said Smith. “Thank you for your assistance and your help along the way. It’s truly been an honor to serve in this capacity.”

He received a standing ovation from his fellow directors and from many staff who had filed into the meeting room.

PDA Executive Director Paul Brean thanked Smith both for himself and on behalf of the staff.

“I cannot thank you enough for your support and willingness to take a call at any time of the day, any time of the night,” said Brean.

Among the parting gifts was an airport runway lantern.

“This is a navigational aid,” said Brean. “It serves two purposes: It guides you where you’re going, but it always welcomes you home.”

Smith's status in the race for Senate

Joining Smith so far in the Senate primary race is retired U.S. Army general Dan Bolduc and New Hampshire state Senate President Chuck Morse.

A Jan. 19 poll from the Saint Anselm College Survey Center in Manchester shows incumbent Hassan beating each of the three Republican contenders in a hypothetical matchup, but with a high level of voter uncertainty.

Against Bolduc, Hassan leads 43% to 36%. Against Morse, Hassan leads 41% to 27%. Against Smith, Hassan leads 42% to 24%. Levesque, the PDA board’s now acting chair, in his capacity at Saint Anselm College commented that Hassan being in the 40% range shows some vulnerability.

“Any of the three potential challengers to Sen. Maggie Hassan will have to become much better known to voters if they are to mount a credible and competitive challenge,” Levesque said.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Kevin Smith leaves Pease board. Neil Levesque to be acing PDA chair.

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