Q&A with Mayor Jim Donchess of Nashua, NH

In October 2022, the City of Nashua, New Hampshire became the first city in the state and among the first in the region to become Certified Welcoming. In this Q&A interview, Mayor Jim Donchess shared a look back at the journey and vision for Nashua as a welcoming city.

The City of Nashua was audited in February 2020 to become Certified Welcoming, but put this on hold during the pandemic. Why did you pick it back up and continue to pursue it?

City of Nashua, New Hampshire Mayor Donchess. Photo by Kelli Wholey Lumina Portraits

It’s important to me as Mayor of Nashua that we are visible and vocal about being a welcoming community to all who choose to work, live, and visit our city. 

As is also reflected in our country as a whole, the City of Nashua was founded and built by immigrants. Early settlers from Greece, Canada, Lithuania, Poland and elsewhere helped establish Nashua as a thriving mill industry community. As others came to our city from so many different nations, they brought their heritage, their rich cultural traditions, their cuisine and their passions – all of which helped create the tapestry of diversity we enjoy here in Nashua.

Welcoming America has created a new award honoring staff members who have 10 years of service at the organization. This award includes a fund to help localities complete certification. How did this assist the city in achieving the Certified Welcoming designation? 

We are grateful for the assistance of this grant to further our inclusion goals. A large portion of the monies received is going towards upgrading our Language Line service, enabling translation services on the fly for anyone calling city government departments. We will use this grant to enhance the monthly welcoming meet-and-greets we offer immigrants and refugees, by purchasing food and drink and other items for the get-togethers. We are also brainstorming other outreach ideas that can be facilitated with this grant.

Certified Welcoming places recognize that the work doesn’t end with a certificate and designation. What do you see as the next step in this work for Nashua? 

With so many different cultures enriching our city, we are excited to shine a better spotlight on people, businesses and events that showcase our diverse community members. 

We have established a social media channel that is solely devoted to cultural diversity (City of Nashua, NH: A Welcoming City, on Facebook) and will share more news and happenings here than in the past, and with a concentrated effort. 

We will continue to initiate and attend events that highlight our immigrant neighbors, including our Citizen’s Flagpole at City Hall, where we frequently hold flag-raisings to celebrate the independence days of other countries, or showing support, as we do with our Ukraine flag. 

There is always room for more cultural festivals and events, and we will reach out to the community to find new ones to share with the public. As mayor, I am committed to ensuring everyone feels safe and welcome in our city, and will do what I can to make equality and resources available to all Nashuans.