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HARRY LaROSILIERE'S STORY

 A Mayors Challenge
                               by J. B. Blocker


Plano City Council
 “When I turned 18, becoming a U.S. Citizen was a long awaited and proud moment. In my mind, heart, and soul, I was already an American. I added the surname of my maternal grandfather for my middle name.  He was known as a great scholar in Haiti and had died before I was born.

  My name is Harry Agnant LaRosiliere, and my whole life’s journey has been preparing me for this moment. I didn’t know this moment would occur in Plano Texas, but I always found fulfillment by serving. I am committed to Plano.”

New York, New York
   At the age of 27, Harry LaRosiliere was excited about the newest initiative of New York’s first African/American mayor David Dinkins who served from 1990 to 1993.   As part of the new mayor’s initiatives, Mayor Dinkins made a public request for local citizens to become active in tutoring students in the New York school systems.  This program helped to give tens of thousands of students the opportunity to get off the streets and complete their high school requirements.

  By now Harry had found success in his own photo shop studio named Apple Studios. He was ready to give back to his community. There was a need for math tutors for high school seniors attending night school in order to graduate. Harry was certain he could relate well with the young students and that he could help them relate to the math they would need in their future.
  There was a level of skepticism from students who assumed that the volunteer tutors in the classroom were there for a paycheck or college credit.  They soon warmed up to Harry when they realized he had no personal gain for offering his time.

  When Harry met with the person who approved school assignments he expressed interest in tutoring at George Washington High School in Washington Heights. “Oh, you don’t want to teach there, replied the administrator. That is not the best part of town and the children there are some of the hardest to teach.”

   “I know, Harry replied, that is MY neighborhood.”
Harry with his sister and cousin in Harlem
  Harry was amused. He grew up in Harlem just a few blocks from Washington Heights. His family had moved near 125th soon after they emigrated from Haiti to capture the American dream of education and upward mobility.  First, his grandmother found a job as a ‘domestic’ and moved to New York’s Haitian community in the upper west side of Manhattan. Soon after, Harry’s father arrived and sent for his wife Gisele and their two children, five-year-old Marthe and an almost four-year-old Harry. America was their land of opportunity.

  Harry’s father Brice often worked two jobs. He worked at a factory and drove taxis on the weekends. His mother cleaned offices for 26 years working from 5pm to 11pm virtually every day of her life. She still lives in the same apartment. That apartment is just a block away from the famous Cotton Club and a 10-minute walk from the Apollo Theater.

  In his boyhood world, street games like Kick the Can, stick ball, and skellies (look it up) were common. Open fire hydrants were the neighborhood swimming pools in the heat of the summer. 

A Catholic School Boy 

First Communion
  The LaRosiliere family clung to their family values and faith in hard work and education. The education of their children was the driving force of the LaRosiliere family. From first grade through eighth grade, their children attended the neighborhood Catholic school, Corpus Christi.  After grade school, Harry continued his education at Cardinal Hayes High School located in the shadows of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  While in school, Harry discovered his love for numbers, a passion that eventually led him to his long time career as a respected and successful financial planner.  His sister, Marthe, is a successful attorney who attended Stanford and lives in the Washington, DC area.


Working for that American Dream 
  While the common dialect in his family was Creole (a blend of French and African languages), Harry and his sister both speak with voices devoid of regionalism. “I don’t have a New York accent but I still have a soft spot for my mom’s Caribbean spiced food and her fried plantains.”

  As a teenager, Harry held various part time and summer jobs including working as a foot courier in midtown Manhattan and as an assistant manager for a Fotomat (a chain of photo development stores).   When he was 18, Harry went to work at Macy’s where he remembers experiencing overt racism for the first time.  The management was surprised by his perfect score on the employee arithmetic test but still would not allow the young man who came to work wearing polished shoes and a necktie to be a cashier or work on the retail floor. Most African/Americans and Hispanics seemed to only work in the stock room or kitchen.

  Watching family members struggle with gambling, Harry never supported nor indulged in any forms of gambling. Ironically, and out of character, Harry bought a $5 lotto ticket while working at Macy’s. Harry had 5 of the 6 numbers. He thought he was rich and wondered what color car he would buy! Unfortunately, that particular drawing had multiple winners and his share was only $550!

  Making the most of this windfall, he bought camera equipment and began to work as a baby photographer at a company called TruColor. He held that position while attending college. He graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science in Geology and one year into his graduate studies he and a friend started their own company Apple Studios. 

  A few years later, Mayor Dinkins’ call for civil service inspired Harry to get involved and give back. 

  Harry recalls, “When I showed up to tutor math, it took a while for these tough inner city kids to warm up to me. They were defensive and untrusting. But I knew I had something to offer them if they were willing to let me help. I believed in the opportunities that education would provide them. I took this very seriously and finally won them over. I knew I could make a difference and it was so rewarding when they accepted me and began to first trust and then begin to learn.”

 “That experience awakened me to the fact that community service was part of my calling in life. The reason I was put on this Earth is to help people. As a result I have chosen that path both professionally and personally.”

A Giving Heart

  Marthe speaks of her little brother with the same joyful voice and spirit you see and hear when you are with Harry. “Harry has always been helpful and optimistic. He was a favorite of our grandmothers, aunts, and everyone else in the neighborhood. He never seemed to see people by race or social position but instead he has a way of finding common ground. And he always had that happy, honest smile unless he was thinking. He has a very serious look that means he is contemplating something. He is a deep thinker who has always been interested in how he can help others. Community service is instinctive to my brother.” 

 Dressed for Success
 

Harry at 4, Dressed for Success
  “I’ve always been very conscientious about first impressions and looking like a professional. While other kids at Catholic school would complain about having to wear a coat and tie, I rather enjoyed it. I have been wearing a tie since 3rd grade.  As I grew up and applied for jobs, I could see how looking clean and put together gave me an edge. I would not say that clothes necessarily make the man, but there is a certain confidence level that appropriate dress and a tidy appearance gives. You have to earn respect, but it sure helps if you can get in the door first.”

  When you meet Harry, the first thing you will notice is a warm and joyful smile. It’s an honest smile and he follows it up with sincere interest. As his sister recalls, “Harry actually listens to people. He respects opinions and is interested in how people think and why. That’s a terrific trait.”

  You’ll also find that Harry is genuine, courteous, and respectful. As you get to know him, you will see Harry has a deep drive to be successful at his endeavors.


Three years in Texas

  Tracy Clark became Harry’s best friend. When she moved to Michigan where she earned an MBA in Marketing, they stayed connected. In 1992, Tracy moved to DFW to work in the marketing department at Frito Lay where she would eventually become a Vice President. In 1994, Harry drove to Texas to join her. “I drove 8 hours to North Carolina then I drove the last 18 hours to Texas straight through. My plan was to get our family started and then bring us back to New York in three years.”

   Plans change! Harry laid out his parachute to life.  “I wrote down my plan. I wanted a career that would help others, to be paid for my abilities and effort, to be in a professional environment, and to have the flexibility to work the hours I chose. My mother had cleaned Prudential’s offices many years of her life and ironically I began my financial career with Prudential Securities in Dallas in 1994.”

   “Advising families on how to preserve and grow their wealth is very satisfying. I have direct impact on the quality of life of my clients. My career as a financial advisor allows me to work every day towards the best interest of people who put their faith and trust in me. It is an honor and privilege I do not ever take lightly.”

   “From 1996 to 2004, I worked for A.G. Edwards.  I started at A.G. Edwards on a Friday. That same day, we closed on our first home and bought a car! Earlier that year, I had joined the Plano Chamber of Commerce and by working with the chamber, the chamber worked for me! My practice took off. Plano became our family home and we knew that we would never leave!”
The LaRosiliere Family: Tracy, Maya, Brianna, and Harry
  My first child Brianna was born in '97 and my youngest Maya was born in '99.

   After 5 more years with Morgan Stanley, Harry and Tracy had a family, a home, and were deeply rooted in a community they were actively in love with. In 2009, Harry joined UBS where he is 1st Vice President in the Wealth Management Division. The three years in Texas is now approaching twenty years.



Becoming a Mayor
  You don’t just put up a sign and expect to be a good mayor. Especially when dealing with the complexities of a dynamic city like Plano. Plano doesn’t deserve a good mayor. It deserves a great one. There have been many great mayors in Plano’s recent past. The current mayor and many who have preceded Phil Dyer have elevated the city to growing heights of respectability.

  Florence Shapiro went on to become a State Senator. Phil Dyer, Pat Evans, and James Muns, have been recognized as ‘Citizen of the Year.’ Others like John Longstreet remain respected and involved.

  It is a strong legacy of leadership that is calling for a proven civic leader.

  I invite you to visit harry4mayor.com for a list of the civic service of Harry LaRosiliere. 
  Harry welcomes you to friend his Facebook page facebook.com/harryformayor
  As Plano residents, you owe it to yourself to meet the man who has been active in Leadership Plano and has also served as the Chairman of the Board for CASA of Collin County where he is credited in helping CASA of Collin County turn things around during one of their most trying times. 
  This servant leader has also served 6 years on the Plano city council.

  The former Mayor Pro Tem is ready for the next step. 
  
  The call from a New York City mayor in 1990 to serve his community has come full circle in 2013 in Plano, Texas.



- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County in North Texas.

5 comments:

  1. I am so happy for a Haitian like me to be there, congratulations, may God bless you and keep you safe

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  2. Bon Courage Mr. Le Mayor Harry LaRosiliere!

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  3. Proud and fullfilled fo Haitian Fellows, Way to go! a great and positive side of Haitians

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  4. Chez les Freres de l'Instruction Chretienne aux Cayes, Haiti, j'avais a un moment donné dans ma classe (vers 1950) Harry Larosiliere, originaire de Cavaillon. Le nouveau maire de Plano est-il le fils de mon camarade de classe ?.

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