From the Beacon, September 2023

Greetings! This is my final column as your Executive Director. My retirement becomes official on Sept. 8, just days from now.

After 31 years, this is the right time for me to transition to a new phase in my life, so I can dedicate more time for my family, and make more space for other pursuits such as writing, researching, coaching, and mentoring (and hiking and traveling).

Yet retirement hasn’t been an easy decision, as I still feel great energy and passion for this amazing job, which I have loved very much. I am inspired every day by the MMA’s extraordinary members and staff, and I know that our association has exciting and important work to do in the months and years ahead.

I’ve spent 75% of my career and nearly half my life at the MMA. By my count I’ve written at least 336 Beacon columns and participated in 287 MMA Board of Directors meetings, 211 Local Government Advisory Commission meetings, more than 150 MIIA Board of Directors meetings, countless meetings of our member groups, hundreds of public hearings on Beacon Hill, and 32 MMA Annual Meetings. (I was hired at our 1992 conference!)

The MMA has grown and evolved in so many ways since my first day on the job.

When I started, there was no email, no website, no wifi, no cellphone service, and no Zoom platform. Our personal computers, database, word processing software, and voicemail systems were all first generation. Back then, most of our programs ran in silos, and our “innovative” communications system involved the use of blast faxes and large-scale snail mail, mixed in with an occasional DHL overnight package.

Now we are a fully integrated and engaged team, using the latest in technology to provide best-in-class member programs, meetings, conferences, and publications, including a website that is the go-to place for the latest in municipal news. Our policy agenda is broader and deeper than ever, and we connect local leaders with lawmakers, agency leaders, and partner organizations to forge meaningful consensus whenever and wherever possible, always working to have state and federal officials view critical issues through a municipal lens. MIIA is one of the nation’s elite municipal insurance pools, with outstanding risk management services and innovative approaches that have forced the entire marketplace to pay attention to the needs of cities and towns. Internally, our finance, IT and administrative teams collaborate across the organization to support and enable all our initiatives, amplifying MMA’s effectiveness.

During this time, while I received an outsized amount of recognition, there are two groups of people who have built the MMA into what it is today.

First, it’s my colleagues on the MMA staff who have improved and enhanced every part of our operation. They are the ones who expanded our services, modernized our systems, and constructed a truly impactful organization devoted to advancing the interests and needs of cities and towns, supporting the wonderful leaders who guide and shape our communities.

The credit for all these gains belongs with these dedicated and gifted professionals. My only real accomplishment has been to hire great people and support them as best I could along the way.

To every staff member who is reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have inspired me to bring my best self and my best effort to the office, and I am a better person because of you.

I am forever grateful to you, Katie McCue, Stan Corcoran, Candace Pierce, Dave Koffman, Josie Ahlberg, Anjanique Allison, Scott Anderson, Selina Alvelo, Chris Bailey, Denise Baker, Shanti Balram, David Bastien, Stephen Batchelder, Elizabeth Berner, Kawanda Boyd, Jackie Lavender Bird, Mary Blank, Amanda Brangwynne, Andrea Cannata-Vinciarelli, Anne Carlson, Maria Carney, Lin Chabra, Kiana Chapman, Christine Chouinard, Anneke Craig, Pam Christie, Gail Cummings, Ana Karolina De Carvalho, Ali DiMatteo, Kate Evarts, Meredith Gabrilska, Mary Harrington, Courtney Hernandez, Martin Jackson, Matt Johnson, Joan Jordan, Kimlee Lindgren, Jennifer Kavanaugh, Steven Keplin, Lori Lambert-Osburn, Timmery Kuck, Karen LaPointe, Neal Makowski, John Manning, Mary Ann Marino, Meera Mathur, Greg McGrath, Yasmin Melara, Carrie Milardo, Eddie Montagna, Michelle Nerino-Roth, Adrienne Núñez, John Ouellette, Lily Rancatore, Ruby Sadoques, Joe Santeusanio, Sandy Sarni, Jayne Schmitz, Lisa Stevens-Goodnight, Mary Thornton, Sam Trafidlo, Nicole Vartanian, George Varughese, Tricia Vigeant, Ben Wiley, Jeremy Wong, Daniel Yi, and all the dedicated colleagues who preceded you.

Equally true, the MMA’s transformation and progress would not have been possible without the guidance, advice, engagement, support, and motivation provided by a legion of local officials — people who stepped forward to volunteer countless hours to serve as stewards and champions of the MMA. Over the past 30 years, tens of thousands of people have served as key local officials in Massachusetts, as managers, mayors, select board members, councilors, and finance committee members. Of these, hundreds of you have stepped forward to donate even more time to the cause of local government, joining the MMA and its affiliate groups as officers, directors, and committee members. You’ve made sure that the MMA stays true to its mission to serve and enhance local government. You’ve adopted our strategic plans and budgets, you’ve informed, instructed, and empowered our staff. You’ve been there, time and again.

To the MMA’s local government leaders, you have been true difference-makers. Your involvement has been on top of your service to your neighbors and neighborhoods, which makes us doubly grateful. You are public servants in the highest and best sense of the expression, giving your time and talents to the mission and vision of building strong and vibrant communities in your hometowns and across Massachusetts.

The final point I’d like to leave you with is this: of all levels of government, it is our municipalities who have performed at the highest level during the past 31 years. Cities and towns have endured economic busts, unfunded mandates, constrained property taxes, preemptions, and a worldwide pandemic. Throughout this time, our cities and towns have professionalized their operations, enhanced their governance systems, and expanded essential services for residents and businesses. Without fail, communities have enacted on-time budgets no matter how difficult and painful the choices. Our localities have increased public engagement and are working harder than ever to combat incivility and the outsized impact of social media.

Shakespeare wrote that “the golden age is before us, not behind us.” For local government, I believe this is true. Yes, the problems of climate change, racial and social justice, incivility, crumbling infrastructure, and economic and fiscal uncertainty are all deeply vexing. Yet looking at the arc of the past three decades, I know that our communities can and will address these challenges. And that the MMA will continue to be your partner every step of the way, guided by great local leaders and a fantastic staff.

I am deeply grateful and excited that the MMA’s leaders have selected Adam Chapdelaine as our next Executive Director. Adam’s distinguished career in municipal management, his experience on Beacon Hill, his style as an engaging and collaborative leader, and his openness to innovation and new ways of doing things, will make him a dynamic leader. He’ll come with his own ideas and approaches, and that will be great for MMA and our members.

Working as your Executive Director has been an honor, and I thank you for this remarkable opportunity. Above all, I could not have done this job without the love and abiding support of my wife Dru, and our children Calley and Sam. I am forever grateful for their amazing gifts to me.

I head into my next chapter with gratitude in my heart, confident that MMA’s best days are ahead of us.

Written by Geoff Beckwith, MMA Executive Director & CEO