Lorraine Averill Leonard

Former Harvard finance director

Lorraine Leonard. (Courtesy photo)

Lorraine Averill Leonard, age 69, died peacefully at home in Groton on Saturday, August 31, 2019, surrounded by her three children.

Lorraine was born on Martha’s Vineyard in 1949, the youngest daughter of the late Preston Averill Sr. and Eileen (Dubuque) Averill. She grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and loved horses, spending long days at the beach, and spreadsheets.

“Municipal Lorraine,” as her children lovingly referred to her, was very involved in town and local governments and with her church, St. Andrew’s in Ayer. She held various town accounting positions and was Harvard’s finance director for “11 years, seven months, and two days,” as she noted with gleeful precision in a June 2016 retirement interview. After that, she happily became Dunstable’s town accountant as her “retirement job” and came back to Harvard to help out when needed during the transition to new leadership in the town finance department. She was known for her work ethic and willingness to tackle even the most daunting challenge. Apart from her dedication to sound fiscal management, she loved taking her dog Fluffernutter for long walks and spoiling her grandchildren.

She was a dedicated, generous, and selfless person. Lorraine will be greatly missed, and clearly had a huge impact on many, as evidenced by the hundreds of cards she received and overwhelming offers of love and support during her last months.

Lorraine is survived by her children Robert Leonard of Pembroke; Tracy Leonard of Groton; and Kenneth Leonard of Kensington, New Hampshire, as well as her daughters-in-law Nancy Leonard and Jennifer Leonard, and grandchildren Kaitlyn, Kevin, Chloe, and Annabelle. Lorraine is also survived by her brother and sister-in-law Preston and Diana Averill of Oak Bluffs, along with several nephews and a niece.

Family and friends will gather to honor and remember Lorraine for a period of memorial visitation Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Badger Funeral Home, 45 School Street, Groton. A memorial service will follow immediately at St. Andrew’s Church, 7 Faulkner Street, Ayer, at 5 p.m. People of all faiths are welcome, and there will be a reception to follow the service. Interment in the New Westside Cemetery in Edgartown will be announced.

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Lorraine may be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22478, Oklahoma City, OK 73123 or online at www.cancer.org.

‘Municipal Lorraine’: Remembering a dedicated civil servant

Editor’s note: Lorraine Leonard started work as Harvard’s finance director in 2004. She retired nearly 12 years later, in June 2016. More than 50 town volunteers and employees turned out for her retirement party at the Shaker Hills Country Club. The following remembrance is drawn from a profile published in the Harvard Press June 30, 2016.

Lorraine’s years in Harvard overlapped the 2008–2009 financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression, which led to a loss of state aid and cuts in the town budget and staff. But those years also saw the arrival of a new town administrator, the creation of new mechanisms for managing capital projects, and the establishment of a trust fund to cover the health benefits due Harvard’s employees when they retire. During her tenure, the town earned its first AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s for its long-term debt, and working with town boards her department delivered balanced annual budgets with increasing amounts of free cash at the end of each fiscal year and ample reserve funds, without the necessity of a tax override.

In an interview, she recalled that her first task was to gather all of the hard-copy invoices for the Bromfield School science wing project for submittal to the state’s school building assistance program. “I was told that everything here [in Town Hall] was fine and I could just ignore it and help the school out.” But the town hadn’t closed out its part of the project.

Lorraine Leonard chats with COA Director Debbie Thompson at Leonard’s 2016 retirement party. (Photo by Lisa Aciukewicz)

To be reimbursed for the state’s portion of the expense, you had to collect every project invoice and put them all in one box, she recounted. “Not one invoice had been pulled [since the start of the project in 1998] … I was upstairs [in Town Hall], yanking boxes out, pulling invoices. I found every single one of them, put them in one box, and then had all these forms to fill out. After that we had to have an auditor come in and audit the project.”

Leonard attributed the 2016 AAA rating not so much to herself, but to the town’s management of its finances, an assessment that the May 2016 S&P report shared. “We have a very conservative team [that consists of the] capital committee, Finance Committee, Tim [Bragan], and me,” Leonard said. When the budget was assembled, no one pushed the envelope in their forecasts of state and local revenue. The committees weren’t in conflict; they worked well together and they all had what Leonard characterized as “a nice conservative balance to them.” Unlike other towns she’d worked in, there was no pressure to inflate expectations to provide cover for a larger budget.

Town Administrator Tim Bragan told the Press in 2016 that what stood out about Leonard was her dedication. Given the number of meetings she had to attend—night and day as well as weekends—the task was “monumental,” he said. “She was here on the day of the 2008 ice storm,” he recalled, having hazarded a drive to town to make sure the payroll was done on time. “It’s something you don’t see too frequently nowadays. It’s how she was brought up. It’s her work ethic. The town benefited greatly from it.” And, he added, “She makes the best fudge I have ever tasted.”

What former Finance Committee Chair and current Select Board Chair Alice von Loesecke will not forget, she said with a chuckle in a phone interview about the same time, were Leonard’s encounters with Bragan in Finance Committee meetings: “If he ever misstated something or got a piece of information just slightly wrong, you could see it written all over her face. Before she even said anything, Tim would get this look from her, a nonverbal ‘Huh? What are you saying?’ And then she would tell him where he was off.”

—John Osborn

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