A group of people chat in a hallway

Local officials catch up while walking between meetings during the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 24.

Collaboration and innovation today, while proactively working to solve the problems of tomorrow carried through as themes of the MMA’s record-breaking 41st Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 24 and 25 in Boston, an event that continues on a path of consistent growth.

The conference featured compelling speakers, timely workshops, countless networking opportunities, a bustling Trade Show, and record attendance of 1,394 municipal officials.

Keynote speaker Deborah Lee James kicked things off by describing key actions for surviving and thriving in challenging times, noting that change and turmoil are constants in history.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also spoke during the opening session, covering the highlights of the administration’s recently released state budget proposal and the administration’s partnership with cities and towns. She announced that the administration was filing, that same day, a $200 million Chapter 90 bill. She also discussed a new Municipal Finance Training and Resource Center and related YouTube.com channel being unveiled by the Division of Local Services.

a group of people on the floor of a trade show

Local officials walk the aisles of the MMA Trade Show in Boston on Jan. 24, learning about municipal products and services from more than 200 exhibitors.

Also during the opening, the MMA unveiled its MassTown Careers multimedia campaign to raise awareness about the appeal of municipal careers and to help cities and towns recruit a new generation of employees.

At the Women Elected Municipal Officials Leadership Luncheon, Jackie MacMullan discussed her career as one of the first women sportswriters, noting important lessons and experiences she has had along the way.

On Saturday, Jan. 25, Gov. Charlie Baker attended the MMA Annual Business Meeting and discussed the dire state of housing in the Commonwealth, as well as the importance of the nonpartisan nature of local elections.

The 2020 Annual Meeting theme was “Values, Vision and Service.” The event featured 34 workshops along with 10 Learning Labs across the two days that explored topics ranging from climate change to transportation to education finance to housing.

The Trade Show featured 216 exhibitors, including a number of environmental consulting, financial, energy and technology firms.

Four people speak before a group

Former Burlington Town Administrator John Petrin (second from left) speaks on the panel of a workshop, New Perspectives on School Finance and Budgeting, on Jan. 25. Also pictured (l-r) are Bolton Finance Committee Member Brian Boyle, Brookline Select Board Member Heather Hamilton, and Arlington Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler.

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 Selectmen’s Association and Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association held annual business meetings during the Annual Meeting, electing leadership and discussing timely topics. The membership of the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association voted to change the group’s name to the Massachusetts Select Board Association.

During the Closing Session on Saturday, Leon Andrews Jr., director of the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity And Leadership (REAL) initiative, gave a thought-provoking presentation on institutional racism and the work that must be done at the local level to build more equitable communities, pointing to the town of Arlington as a leading example.

The Friday dinner featured remarks from Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin and State Auditor Suzanne Bump.

Galvin discussed the high stakes of this year’s decennial U.S. Census and his commitment to making sure that every Massachusetts resident is counted. “These will serve as our numbers, and your numbers, for the next 10 years,” he said.

Bump discussed her office’s commitment to seeking full funding for early voting.

A woman stands at a podium

Faith Salie, a contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning” and regular panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”, stresses the importance of listening during the Friday dinner at the MMA Annual Meeting on Jan. 24.

Faith Salie entertained local officials at the Friday dinner with stories from across her career, while providing lessons on the value and importance of listening. She discussed the courage it takes to sit down and listen intentionally, an act that is one of public service for local officials, saying you will learn more about yourself by listening to others.

“Silence is platinum, if we can dare to sit through the awkwardness of it,” she said.

Bon Jovi cover band Living on a Bad Name got Saturday night’s dinner crowd on their feet and singing to ’80s favorites.

This marked the fourth 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 download workshop materials, build a personal schedule of events, add to the “social wall,” and receive important notifications and updated information.

There were a few return features at this year’s Annual Meeting & Trade Show, including a “Why I Serve” activity in the entrance hall, where attendees took a moment to share why they chose to enter public service.

Film crews from MassAccess captured the exciting speakers and live testimonials from attendees about the value of the event. The keynote by James will be available for viewing on the MMA website.

“This event continues to grow in numbers and in importance,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith, “with record attendance, engaging and inspiring speakers, timely learning opportunities, and important conversations about municipal challenges and policy priorities. The sense of unity and camaraderie was clearly evident, and 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. 22 and 23, 2021, again at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

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