The Rural We: Lisa Lansing Simont
Lisa Lansing Simont is one of those people whose careers you look at and say “whoa.” Following graduation at Mount Holyoke, she was a reporter at the Berkshire Eagle, after which she moved to Washington, D.C. There she took a position at the Congressional Quarterly, then worked for Pierre Salinger. She lived in Paris for a year and a half (where she took a course at Cordon Bleu), and earned an MBA from Boston University. There’s more: she worked at Action for Childrens’ Television, then as Joan Kennedy’s press secretary, and she held several museum jobs. But for our purposes, we asked her to tell us about her connection to Connecticut. Spoiler alert: She’s a force in Cornwall.
I came to Cornwall as a baby during the war, when my mother moved in with my grandmother since my dad was in the service. From about age 7-13 I came here to be with my grandmother every summer from our home in Providence. After that we moved to Southport, Conn., and I started sailing on the Sound, so we stopped coming. I didn’t come back until I was an adult. By then my mother had moved into my grandmother’s house. I was able to pick up my childhood friendships — we’re still around!
Really settling in Cornwall didn’t happen until 1989, after my first marriage broke up, when I came to help my parents after the devastating 1989 tornado. I had been commuting from Boston, and encountered an old friend here, Mark D. Simont. We fell in love, got married, and have been here 27 years.
I retired in 2007, and had free time to serve on nonprofit boards. One of the first ones I joined was a regional board, the NW Connecticut Arts Council. The arts are just booming, even though everything else seems to be struggling. Look at what’s happening in Torrington: the arts have moved into the empty buildings. Five Points Gallery is an absolutely terrific place, and the Warner Theatre has exploded for the whole region.
I’m on the board of the Cornwall Chronicle because of my background as a reporter. I was elected to the town’s board of finance and Cornwall Historical Society. I have a pitch to people who want to move here: The benefit of joining a nonprofit board is more than doing something for your town; it’s doing something for you, too. You can learn how to run an organization, develop a budget, do publicity. Being part of a place is joining, helping out, giving back. You have a responsibility to be part of the community. And I’ve found that the happier people are the ones who get involved.