From the Beacon, December 2023

Let’s be honest, December is a wild time of year. The holidays are upon us, and we all have what seems to be a never-ending series of personal and professional events to attend (and maybe host).

At the local level, many of you are working to simultaneously set your tax rates for the current fiscal year while preparing your budget submissions for next fiscal year. This all adds up to a packed schedule, feelings of stress and anxiety, and an open question of whether you’ll be able to get it all done. (Spoiler alert, you always do.)

All of this might make it feel like there’s no room for anything else, but I would argue that there is no better time than the end of the year to take stock of what you’ve accomplished for your community over the past 12 months and to think about and plan for what you want to accomplish in the year ahead. Setting aside time to do this can provide you with a positive boost when you consider all that you’ve been able to accomplish, while also helping you manage the stress of what lies ahead by mapping out your priorities, along with strategies for making them a reality.

Taking a look at what you and your team have done this year is a great place to start. Knowing where you’ve been and what you’ve done will likely fill you with a sense of pride, and provide you with a good framework for outlining what needs to be accomplished going forward.

Many of you have managed through budget challenges, overseen school and municipal building projects, directed the investment of significant ARPA dollars, and supported your communities as they coped with the various traumas that have occurred in 2023. There are likely many more things that you can put on your own list of achievements. Take stock of this work, consider celebrating it with your team and community, check how it aligns with your goals and priorities, and then, I’d argue, you will be in a good position to start thinking of the year ahead.

Looking forward, it’s likely that you have plenty of projects and initiatives underway that will continue in 2024. This work will be critical, and it’s important to account for the time that it will take to get it done. Beyond that, what are your emerging priorities for the new year? Is there a new budget initiative that you’re considering? Are you aiming for a new and enhanced pursuit of federal grant opportunities? Perhaps you have an override or debt exclusion campaign coming up soon. Communities across the Commonwealth are considering all of this and more as the new year approaches. Taking time now to think about what your priorities really are, what resources will be needed to achieve those priorities, and how your priorities balance against existing work will all be important considerations for you as you plan your work for 2024.

All of this might seem daunting as we face December, but now is the time to do this work and set yourself up for success in 2024. In the words of famed British chemist and academic Douglas H. Everett, “There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” As local government leaders, you are the people who know how to turn one into the other.

Wishing you all the best as you enter this holiday season, and looking forward to seeing all that you accomplish in the new year!

Written by Adam Chapdelaine, MMA Executive Director & CEO