Harry’s Vision

Harry Forsdick

By Heather Aveson  |  Do you subscribe to the Lexington List? That’s Harry. How about ordering on Video on Demand from LexMedia. Harry, again. The new First Shot homepage and website for The Lexington Historical Society. You got it, Harry.

Harry Forsdick has offered his enthusiasm and vast technical expertise to organizations in town for most of the thirty-four years he and his family have lived in Lexington. He’s really stepped up his involvement recently. “Since I’ve retired I’ve focused on doing things for friends and neighbors,” he says. “The response is so much more immediate when you do something as a volunteer. I’d rather get a thank you than a paycheck with strings attached.”

It’s hard to imagine that Harry considers himself retired. He chats excitedly about all the ideas he’s already brought to fruition and really ramps it up when he gets talking about projects that lay ahead. He knows his strengths and is figuring out how to use them to help the community.

This month Harry will step down as Chairman of the Board of LexMedia after being a moving force behind the growth and expansion of the once struggling community access station. “Harry got us from the tiny, little Kite’s End studio to here. Harry really saved LexMedia,” credits Executive Director Florence DelSanto, “There was a period of turmoil before I arrived. Harry and the Board kept the place running on their own for about 6 months.”

Even through that rough patch Harry had a bigger vision for Lexmedia. “When I came in Harry showed me this debris filled cavern in a basement at Avalon. I thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ But, four months later we moved into this incredible new studio space without being off the air for more than an hour,” Ms. DelSanto remembers. “He was able to take the vision and produce it technically. He was warm and supportive. He walked us through those early days.”

Harry also created a website for LexMedia that has become a model for other community access groups. He came up with a strategy to incorporate Video On Demand into the Lexmedia site in 2007. It was way ahead of what other groups were capable of at the time. Then at the 2010 Annual Meeting Harry unveiled a completely re-tooled LexMedia website. “We introduced a lot of on-line innovations in 2007 but I was spending too much time on the website. I discovered a system that anyone on the staff could use. I haven’t touched it since. That’s an example of how I step away,” says Harry.

He admits to being an early stage guy who prefers to get things up and running, then ‘step away.’ He likes the upfront planning, imagining the finished product and then seeing it come to fruition. Beyond that, “I’m not a good repeat guy.”

Harry with his wife Marsha Baker

As quickly as Harry gets one project up and running, new projects are in the pipeline. Harry’s wife Marsha Baker is a Guide and board member for the Lexington Historical Society. The society’s website just called out to Harry for reinvention. “People usually get involved with a group through their website. The society’s site was non-functional. So I upgraded it using the First Shot theme.” But again, Harry wanted others to be able to take over. “About a year ago I discovered a new platform that’s very simple to use so I reworked the site. I trained the administrators and Guides and now they’re doing it themselves. I consider that a victory.” Executive Director Susan Bennnet acknowledges his help, “Harry’s technical skills have been really important to the success of the Historical Society’s website. He was also responsible for bringing up all the Civil Rights materials for our program recently. We’re just very grateful to Harry for all that he does.”

Town Clerk Donna Hooper has worked with Harry on several town projects in the last few years. “I originally knew him as Marsha Baker’s husband. They’re each known in their own circles and they let each other shine.” Donna and Harry are now working away on the 300th Anniversary website. She sees something else behind his desire to ‘step away’. “Harry has the keen ability to use his technology knowledge and apply it to local organizations and government without overcomplicating it. He wants to empower other people to use it.”

The Lexington list is a great example of successfully making technology work for the community. Harry started it about 10 years. Members share opinions, news, and form a community on the list. Former selectwoman Jeanne Kreiger is a big fan. “At first people were a little suspicious. How was this going to work? But Harry made it clear that people needed to be respectful and responsible in their postings. And it’s grown from there.”

Harry at LexMedia Board Meeting

Kreiger says the extent of Harry’s impact on the town has really hit her in the last few weeks. “I was sponsoring a talk at the library and LexMedia showed up to cover it, that couldn’t have happened without Harry. Then when the storm hit I had no electricity. Without the Lexington List I wouldn’t had have any way of knowing what was going on in town. He backs up his ideas  and he does it in a way that has the community’s best interests at heart.”

As if all his community projects weren’t enough, Harry keeps coming up with new personal pursuits. He and his son have built a successful photo scanning business. “There are a lot of baby boomers like me who had kids before the digital age. I thought, – why don’t we offer a local photo scanning service where you can drop off your pictures and know they’re safe.” It’s really taken off.” True in the community, true at home, he’s letting his son take the lead – only offering advice and support when needed. By the way all you baby boomers, gather your boxes of old photos and visit www.lexingtonphotoscan.com.

Like a kid with a new toy, Harry practically jumps out of his chair with excitement explaining his latest project. Stick with me here as I attempt a clear explanation. It’s a book of paper cut outs of Lexington’s historic houses. The designs are based on 3D computer models that Harry is creating. They can be cut out and put together as 3D paper models. The project combines his interests in history, computers, modeling and architecture. He plans to offer the book to gift shops in Lexington and the surrounding area. With Harry’s record on follow through, I’d plan on giving his book as Christmas gifts by next year!

With so many interests it would be easy for Harry to step away from LexMedia completely, but he’ll remain on the board after giving up the Chair. “I’m thrilled at what LexMedia has accomplished in the last three years. It’s now a force in Lexington. I’m happy to be associated with the organization, that’s why I’m staying.”

And Florence Delsanto is happy he’ll be around too. “Harry taught me which things to worry about. If we hit black – he’d say, ‘don’t worry about it. But don’t mess up the Trivia Bee.’ ” She adds, “He’s just this big fuzzy guy who says, ‘We’re going to take care of this.’ “

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