Stoughton Select Board Member Debra Roberts (left), Somerville City Councillor Kristen Strezo (center), and Sharon Select Board Member Kiana Pierre-Louis get together during the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show.

The importance of connection and collaboration to solve problems at the local level and build supportive communities carried through as themes of the 44th MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 20 and 21 in Boston, held in-person for the first time since 2020.

More than 1,200 municipal officials and employees from across the state attended the conference, which featured compelling speakers, timely workshops, countless networking opportunities, and a bustling Trade Show.

The keynote speaker, psychologist and author Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, kicked things off with strategies for improving mental resilience and managing stress. Gov. Maura Healey also spoke during the Opening Session, outlining key priorities for her administration.

Also during the opening, the MMA announced the launch of the new Mass Municipal Data Hub, an interactive, online resource that contains a wealth of information about all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns.

At the Women Elected Municipal Officials Leadership Luncheon, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, a former longtime mayor of Salem, discussed her career path and the importance of support systems for women seeking elected office.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, Lt. Gov. Driscoll returned to address the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting, following U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, who discussed the federal delegation’s efforts to win funding for Massachusetts communities.

Attendees learned about a variety of municipal topics during the MMA Annual Meeting workshops.

The 2023 Annual Meeting theme was “Connect, Engage, Be Inspired.” The event featured 18 workshops along with 10 Learning Labs across the two days that explored topics ranging from PFAS to succession planning to clean energy to housing. Presentation materials from the workshops are now available on the MMA website.

The Trade Show featured more than 200 exhibitors, including a number of environmental consulting, financial, energy and technology firms.

Before the official start of the conference, first-time attendees had an opportunity to hear from their seasoned counterparts to get tips on how to make the most of the high-energy event.

The Massachusetts Mayors’ Association, Massachusetts Municipal Management Association, Massachusetts Select Board Association and Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association held their annual business meetings on Saturday, electing leadership and discussing timely topics.

The Closing Session on Saturday featured Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities, and Marc Ott, CEO and executive director of the International City/County Management Association, engaging in a thought-provoking and personal fireside chat with MMA President Jill Hai about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in local government.

Anthony Everett, host of the television show “Chronicle,” speaks during the Friday dinner at the MMA Annual Meeting on Jan. 20.

Anthony Everett, longtime host of the Channel 5’s “Chronicle,” entertained local officials at the Friday dinner with stories from across his career reporting on interesting stories from communities around the state.

“Town or city hall is the first place we call when working on a story in a community,” he said.

Referring to the entire state, he said, “No place else has what Massachusetts has in its rich history and geographic diversity.”

This marked the fifth year that the Annual Meeting has had its own mobile app for attendees. The app features comprehensive information and interactive features, including the ability to access workshop materials, build a personal schedule of events, connect with fellow attendees and receive important notifications and updated information.

The event offered two popular new features this year: a Headshot Station, where municipal members could get a professional headshot taken for free, and a roundtable discussion on career advancement featuring some of the top municipal recruitment professionals in the state.

Three Quincy employees — Deputy Planning Director Robert Stevens (left), Housing Programs Manager Sherry Zou (center), and Joana Pavli — visit the Trade Show during the MMA Annual Meeting.

Some return features included a “Why I Serve” activity in the entrance hall, where attendees could take a moment to share why they chose to enter public service.

Awards were announced to recognize the best municipal websites, town reports, and innovative programs.

Film crews from MassAccess captured the exciting speakers and live testimonials from attendees about the value of the event. Various sessions will be available for viewing on the MMA website in the coming days.

“From moment one, you could feel the energy as we all celebrated being back together in person,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “This event picked up right where we left off, with an incredible level of engagement among members, insightful and inspiring speakers, timely learning opportunities, and important conversations about municipal challenges and policy priorities.

“The energy and enthusiasm of our membership give us excellent momentum for the year ahead. I want to thank our terrific staff for their hard work to grow and continually improve this event, and I applaud our members for using the Annual Meeting to learn, network and continue their outstanding public service to the people of Massachusetts.”

Next year’s MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show will be held on Jan. 19 and 20, 2024, again at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

Written by