2010-05-13 / Front Page

Leader emerges in LNG battle

By Liza Yorks

Dick Lynn Dick Lynn Furniture designer, television producer, champion swimmer and engineer.

These are just a few of the many titles Jamestown resident Dick Lynn held before settling in Jamestown two years ago with his wife and daughter.

Now, he can add environmental advocate to that list.

After hearing about the proposed LNG terminal at Weaver’s Cove while attending a gathering for the Jamestown Arts Center, Lynn wasted no time becoming involved in the battle against it.

“We were driving home from the party and I said, ‘I really would like to do something. I’d like to get involved,’” he said.

Lynn’s biggest fear is that a lot of people simply aren’t aware that the LNG terminal has “a good chance” of happening.

“I don’t want this to happen because it would change this community drastically,” Lynn said.

To help rally the community, Lynn – along with Dick Adams of Middletown – hosted an event on April 30. He also helped Rep. Deb Ruggiero bring a similar event to Jamestown on April 26.

Others who have assisted Lynn in bringing attention to the fight, in addition to Rep. Ruggiero, include several folks from the attorney general’s office, including Attorney General Patrick Lynch, Save Bristol Harbor volunteers, Jonathan Stone of Save the Bay and Evan Smith of the Newport and Bristol County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I feel like all the debates have been done for several years and people probably know at this point if they’re either okay with it or not okay with it – and I predict that most of the people are not okay with it,” he said. “The approval on this is probably months away, and now it’s time make our positions known. The town councils have taken their stances, and it’s time to stop debating and time to act.”

Lynn isn’t shy about admitting his pet peeve: “People who can’t discuss an issue without making it personal – and people who have trouble discussing it politely.”

Lynn’s involvement in the LNG issue stems from his love of the water, along with his fearlessness in participating in every endeavor – qualities made crystal clear by his colorful and adventurous past.

The DeWitt, Iowa native earned a degree in engineering at Iowa State University. But it was at ISU where Lynn developed an aptitude for the entertainment businesses. Armed with only $600, he and a college buddy, Greg Gantner, started a nightclub in the student union basement.

“Initially, we did film festivals and dinner theatre,” he said. “Then we started bringing in music acts – blues acts from Chicago and folk acts. Then we started doing jazz acts and then we started getting national acts like Dexter Gordon.”

At the time, Lynn didn’t know he would soon face one of the biggest challenges of his life.

“When I was in college, I lost both of my parents, about a year apart – when I was a senior and [during] the year after I graduated,” he said. “That was probably my biggest obstacle.”

Relocating to Davenport, Iowa was next. Lynn worked briefly as an engineer before deciding to return to school. He enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology, earning a master’s degree in photographic science.

Soon after, Lynn moved to Chicago, where he worked for Album Graphics Inc., a company known for its innovative and Grammy-winning LP cover designs, where he served as a liaison to the record labels. He also reunited with long-time friend Gantner and the two soon began promoting concerts.

Lynn managed two musical acts in Chicago: A Grammy-winning jazz trio called Air and Streetdancer.

As the jazz scene began migrating east, Lynn wasted no time hopping on that bandwagon at the invitation of Air’s Fred Hopkins. Once settled in New York, he began booking more jazz acts. That’s when he booked the first national tour for a band called The Waitresses.

“They had a record out that was just starting to chart, called ‘I know What Boys Like.’ So that was my first rock band,” he said.

Lynn’s laid-back attitude, determination and quick wit unquestionably lent support to his success in a business that is sometimes cutthroat.

“Deciding to go into the music business in New York was a big obstacle because I didn’t really know anybody. But I did get started and I was successful,” he said.

In 1986, just prior to the birth of his first child, Lynn added television and video production when he oversaw production of the animation in Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits home video.

After a divorce in 1992, in which he was granted physical custody of his son, Martin – then four years old – Lynn relocated to Pittsburgh, where he was offered the job of director of development for Pittsburgh’s PBS station.

“I wanted him to grow up in a smaller city and I wanted one close enough to New York so that he could see his mom,” Lynn said.

Lynn chose to go to WQED after the offer, where shows like National Geographic specials, Mr. Rogers and Carmen Sandiego were produced. It was here that he used his networking skills to set up deals between PBS and his old friends from the entertainment business – Nickelodeon, MTV and Warner Brothers.

“The Pittsburgh PBS station was in trouble when I got there, and I think I brought in a fair amount of money – in the millions. I did a lot of high-tech production and partnerships; I produced and got funding for the virtual reality theatre for the Carnegie Science Center,” he said. “I put together a deal and produced with the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon, a set-up where you could drive the Mars Rover on a desert in Chile from controls at the Science Center in Pittsburgh.”

He soon remarried, and he and his wife had a daughter, Grace – now 12 and a student at Lawn Avenue School. He and his wife have been married for 15 years, something he says has brought him great happiness.

So how did a man at the top of his game in the entertainment business end up in Jamestown?

First, he quit his job in production and began his third career – designing and building Japanese-style furniture for local architects in Pittsburgh.

“I found it a little more rewarding,” he said.

But after Lynn’s wife received a job offer in Newport – she’s now the executive director of a foundation in the area – they rented the first home they found available in Jamestown.

“It was sort of a leap of faith,” said Lynn, who had visited Jamestown before while he was a New York resident. “I knew this would be a good place for us, without even having to think twice about it.”

Jamestown reminds him a lot of his hometown in Iowa, he said.

“It’s like taking the small town I grew up in so long ago and popping it down on the ocean,” he said. “I knew my daughter could grow up kind of the way that I grew up.”

Lynn’s daughter, Grace, was another reason for choosing to live in Jamestown over Newport.

“I know when she’s walking around town, she’s fine,” he said.

Lynn’s son, now 21, attends Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

These days, Lynn enjoys reading literature on Japanese architecture and being near the water whenever possible. A former champion in several national swimming competitions, he hasn’t been able to swim since he was injured five years ago.

“I was flat on my back for three or four years,” he said. “After being really active – being a champion swimmer, being a furniture designer and builder – and then all of a sudden I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t even know if I could breathe from one day to the next.”

Despite difficulties he’s faced in the past – physically and emotionally – the future remains promising for Lynn, who’s in no hurry to retire.

He’s keeping his options open, and considering the next steps he will take to promote his furniture to art galleries, the possibility of managing an up-and-coming band from Brooklyn, producing some television projects and continuing his fight against the LNG terminal.

“We just bought a house,” he said. “I’m sort of just to the point where I’m able to make those decisions. I’m trying to get up at least to do some [furniture] pieces for the three galleries that have asked. And the other stuff will take off, if I want it to or not.”

Dick Lynn will soon begin writing a column on the LNG issue for the Jamestown Press.

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