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Windswept – Trustee Profile: Wayne Presby

By Lala Dinsmore

Trustee Wayne Presby in front of the turn-of-the-century Mount Washinton Hotel

It always seems that the people who accomplish the most are the ones who are the busiest in the first place. Wayne Presby, one of the Observatory's most recently appointed trustees, is a perfect example. A native of the Sugar Hill, New Hampshire area, Presby is Chairman of the Board of the comapny that owns and operates MWH Preservation Limited Partnership. This partnership owns the Mount Washington Hotel & Resort and the Bretton Woods Ski Area, which, according to Presby, is the largest in the state as a result of its recent expansion. He is also President of the Mount Washington Railway Company, which owns and operates the Cog Railway.

You could tell there was excitement in the air when I drove over to Bretton Woods for an interview. The great old hotel is being spruced up to open on January 1, 2000, the first time the facility has been open for business in the winter in its history of almost a hundred years. Presby says he doesn't expect the hotel to be 100% occupied this winter, but reservations are coming in strong, and he believes that it will have a great first winter season.

He says that he and his two other operating directors, Bob Clement and Joel Bedor, are very optimistic about the future of the hotel, the Cog Railway and the popular Bretton Woods Ski area. The recent history of these important North Country entities begins with the aquisition in 1983 of the Cog Railway by Presby and Bedor. The present partnership, which included Clement, was formed in 1991. It purchased the Mount Washington Hotel and other hospitality properties at that time, acquired the golf courses in 1994, a large tract of undeveloped land in the spring of 1997, and the ski area in the fall of 1997. All of the property purchased by the partnership since 1991 had been part of a large resort subdivided by a developer in 1987. "Since the acquisition of the hotel," says Presby, "The thrust has been to put the whole resort back together."

Wayne Presby's family are true native New Hampshire people, in more ways than one. Presby says he has Indian blood on both sides of his family -- on his father's side, Abenaki, and on his mother's, Iroquois. The family ancestors settled in the Lisbon, Lyman, Littleton and Sugar Hill areas. Wayne, his wife Susan, and four-year-old Abbey reside in Littleton. Wayne's grandparents, Lester and Mary Presby, live on Klay Knoll farm in Bath. His grandfather has lived on the farm since he was fourteen. He is now 91, and he and his wife celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary this past September.

Wayne graduated from Franklin Pierce College in 1979, and from Franklin Pierce Law School in 1982. While there, he met his wife Susan, also a law student.

Presby is most interested in helping improve the physical plant of the Observatory to make life on the summit easier. He would like to see basic electrical and sewer services reengineered to lower the cost of operation and to lessen potential environmental impact.

"I'd like to get involved with the practical aspects of the Observatory", he says. Wayne indicated that he and Joel Bedor had recently been to Switzerland where they investigated cog railways. "Joel and I are seriously pursuing a conversion of the Cog Railway from coal firing to oil firing through the use of highly efficient steam locomotives fueled by heating oil. Such locomotives would be extremely friendly to the environment. They produce less pollution than diesel trucks, and much less than cars. The use of somewhat heavier locomotives would require significant improvements to the present track system. While the track work proceeded, it would be efficient and economical to install both electrical and sewer lines to supply the summit from the base area."

This new Trustee feels that the Observatory provides an important service to the local communities and the nation as a whole, with its research, scientific testing, weather reporting and predicting, and made special note of the long relationship that has existed between the Observatory and the Cog Railway. He looks forward to serving as best he can as an Observatory Trustee.

One couldn't discuss the Observatory with Wayne Presby without hearing a comment on the many hiking accidents that occur there. Presby says he feels that a lot of the people who climb, "...don't have the proper reverence or awe in connection with the mountain. The wind alone should be enough to make people very wary." He feels that many of the experienced hikers who have climbed mountains all over the world sometimes underestimate the power and the danger of Mount Washington's quickly changeable weather. They think the mountain is "only a little over 6,000 feet," but human frailty and rapid climate changes really add up to several thousand more feet. Presby is one who feels that people should pay to be rescued on the mountain, since the rescuers often risk their own lives as well as expending many hours in the process.


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