Sylvia Larsen is a New Hampshire politician who was a Democratic member of the New Hampshire Senate and its longest serving Democratic female leader. She represented New Hampshire's 15th State Senate District for 20 years, from 1994 through 2014. From 2006 through 2010, during the period when Democrats had regained control of the chamber, Larsen served as Senate President. Between 2008-2010, Larsen made history as she led the nation's first female majority legislative body with 13 women and 11 men. Legislative accomplishments include sponsoring the nation' s first tax-free college savings 529 plan, the Unique Plan, and NH's first paycheck fairness plan safeguarding equal pay for equal work.
Sen. Sylvia B. Larsen served ten terms, 20 years, representing District 15 which includes the state's capital City of Concord, along with Henniker, Hopkinton and Warner. Prior to retiring in 2014, she was the Vice Chair of the Capital Budget Committee and also a long-term member of the Senate Finance and Joint Fiscal Committees.
Larsen was Senate Democratic Leader for over a decade, becoming Senate President Pro Tem and later was New Hampshire's longest serving female Senate President from 2006-2010. For two of those years, 2008-2010, she led the nation's first legislative body to include a majority of women with 13 female senators elected to the 24 member body.
In the course of her 20 years in the Senate, Larsen was the prime sponsor of a first-in-the-nation tax-free college tuition savings plan, the $10 billion Unique Plan. She sponsored laws establishing the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), Healthy Kids and workforce housing opportunities. Through her career, she co-sponsored legislation to raise the high school dropout age, to create the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to establish a research and development tax credit for business, establish a state code of ethics and to reinstate the state's job training fund, including a Pathway to Work program for unemployed persons establishing self-employment. Through bipartisan leadership, Larsen guided the passage of the NH Health Protection Program which recently expanded affordable health insurance to 48,000 working NH residents.
Her legislative priorities included funding education-kindergarten through higher education; promoting job growth; expanding workforce housing; establishing affordable health care; safeguarding our environment; and advancing property-tax relief.
Larsen served as the Senate's representative for 10 years to the New Hampshire Children's Trust Fund and the Healthy Kids Corporation. In addition, she was chairwoman of the New Hampshire College Tuition Savings Plan Commission for many years, a member of the Land and Community Heritage Commission and the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium Commission. She also served on the New Hampshire Workforce Opportunity Council, and the New Hampshire Youth Council.
In 2007, Larsen was named Outstanding Legislator of the Year by the New Hampshire Association of Counties. In 2008, she was one of three senators recognized as Legislators of the Year by the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of New Hampshire. She also received the New Hampshire Award to End Homelessness in 2008. Her successful efforts 10 years ago to establish the Unique college savings program led the New Hampshire College & University Council to recognize her with a New Hampshire Higher Education Partnership Award in 2007. She also was named Democratic Legislator of the Year in 2007 by the New Hampshire Social Workers Association. Other honors include the Woman of Achievement Award by the Business and Professional Women's Association of Concord, as well as the Dunfey-Kanteres Award for exemplary service to the people of New Hampshire and the 2007 Woman of Distinction Award for New Hampshire Remarkable Women.
Larsen served the City of Concord as a councilor-at-large from 1989 to 1998. In that capacity, she was a member of the Economic Development, the Solid Waste and the Fiscal Goals committees, and was chairwoman of the Community Development Advisory Committee.
In addition to her responsibilities in the Senate, Larsen was co-chairwoman of the Capitol Center for the Arts capital campaign drive and the Concord Boys and Girls Club Teen Center drive. She served on the Concord Regional Development Corporation, and is an incorporator of the Merrimack County Savings Bank. Larsen is past-chair of Families in Transition-Concord Advisory Board. Past participation on boards also include service as a trustee of Concord Hospital and as president of Bancroft Products Inc. She currently serves on the board of the Circle Program for at-risk girls, the NHCharitable Fund Regional board and as an incorporator at Canterbury Shaker Village.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Larsen worked for seven years in the Wisconsin state Senate. In New Hampshire, she served as the legislative liaison for Gov. Hugh Gallen. Past professional experience includes positions with the New Hampshire Historical Society, the New Hampshire Disability Council and the New Hampshire Council on World Affairs.
Larsen and her husband, Robert, live in Concord. They have two adult children.
In 2014, Larsen announced that she would not seek re-election.