Profiles of Effective LawmakersNew Hampshire

Trust, Truth, and Treating Everyone Equally: A New Hampshire Playbook

April 8, 2024

The Profiles of Effective Lawmakers series tells the stories of young lawmakers, their pathway to public service, and their impact in their community.

By: Grayson Lewis

Representative Rebecca McWilliams is a Democrat serving New Hampshire’s District Merrimack 30, a district including the city of Concord. An architect by training, McWilliams became involved in New Hampshire politics to make a difference on the topic of climate change. Knowing how buildings work and utilize energy, she has a firm grasp on sustainable development and energy. This goal was only amplified once she became a mother, desiring to create a better future for her children.

When first elected in 2019, McWilliams was a new mother of twins, experiencing struggles in juggling finding childcare amidst her responsibilities. She shared these issues with her colleagues across the aisle who were in similar situations, leading to her partnership with Representative Dennis Acton (R). They decided to work together on the issues with childcare in New Hampshire. Through a study bill, they were able to gather data and testimony from childcare centers and administrators in order to discern how to better support the business of childcare in New Hampshire. These issues were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the creation of the bipartisan Special Committee on Childcare. 

“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences because we are all working together collaboratively to come up with out-of-the-box, innovative legislation,” McWilliams said about the committee. “[It’s] really been a great experience for me… we can come together to discuss meaningful childcare solutions.”

McWilliams has also worked across the aisle on issues regarding housing and zoning laws. 

“Another hot issue in New Hampshire is housing, and I’m sure we’re not the only state dealing with this. We have complex zoning at the local level which makes it difficult to develop additional units in existing zoning codes,” McWilliams asserted.

With these difficulties, McWilliams and Republican Representative Josh Yokela worked together to create NH HB341, named “A Four-Plex is a House.” This bill would allow additional units to be built on single family residential zone areas if they have public water and sewer systems. This would greatly streamline the process to provide more housing, especially with the common Victorian homes found in New Hampshire that are often prime candidates for conversion to duplexes. While this bill did not pass this session, McWilliams plans to continue this effort in the future to make housing fairer and more accessible for all. 

When asked about rising political polarization, McWilliams says that it is often the media we consume that impacts our beliefs and behaviors.

“The inputs we receive turn into the actions we take.”

She noted that since 2016, there has been a major shift in the national political scene, trickling down to the state level and even to how people discuss politics at the grocery store.

On the topic of good leadership and combatting polarization, McWilliams noted the importance of trust and fairness.

“You’ve got to be a truth teller, and you’ve got to be treating people as equals, not talking down to them,” she explained.

In the next twenty years, McWilliams hopes to see change in the compensation of New Hampshire legislators. New Hampshire house legislators only receive $100 per year in compensation.

“We want to have people who otherwise would not be able to serve get paid to serve. We want to have a diversity of perspectives,” McWilliams stated. “[People are] giving up other things in order to serve and should be compensated for giving up other things.”

McWilliams acknowledges that her work is far from over, and topics like childcare, climate change, housing, and more warrant the attention of her and others. She is committed to fighting for the next generations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Grayson Lewis is a student at The George Washington University majoring in History and minoring in Law & Society. She was a 2024 Democracy Writer intern for the Young Lawmakers’ Storybank.

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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