From the Beacon, February 2020

Our 2020 Annual Meeting is in the record books – literally. Over two action-packed days, nearly 1,400 local leaders gathered for learning, reflecting, networking and policy-setting. It was the largest gathering in our history, and the energy from those two days will propel us forward with great momentum.

This boost will be very helpful, because Massachusetts continues to face the strange mixture of a stable economy here at home, but great uncertainty at the national level, and many questions concerning municipal and state finances will only be answered over time. This is the “new normal,” where it is persistently unclear how local and state governments can match the rising cost of delivering high-quality services to residents. Every community, from the smallest town to the largest city – rural, suburban and urban – is making difficult choices and hard decisions.

2020 will be exciting, because it is in challenging times that all of us, working together, can make the greatest difference, add the most value, and help each other and all communities succeed and build a stronger future. The MMA has key priorities to:

• Increase municipal aid and ensure adequate education funding for all communities
• Boost road and transportation resources to grow our economy
• Address our urgent environmental infrastructure and climate resiliency needs
• Safeguard local decision-making in zoning, while giving communities the tools and flexibility necessary to accelerate housing production
• Enhance local management authority, home rule and hometown democracy

These will not be easily won, but will make a huge difference in building a stronger Commonwealth.

On a related front, local leaders are also working very hard to foster civility in our city and town halls, encouraging neighbors to be engaged in their hometown government, all in the context of a constant maelstrom of opposition and ill will on the national stage. Many people are baffled how these two realities – engagement locally and polarization nationally – can exist at the same time.

Gov. Charlie Baker was eloquent when he spoke to us during the conference and reflected that one of the best parts of what the MMA and nonpartisan local government is all about “is the work you do, the enthusiasm you bring to it, the expertise you have, and the commitment you demonstrate to the people who put you there in the first place.”

Local government – hometown government – can show our nation how to come together and make government work for the citizens.

Community building transcends the borders of any one municipality, and that’s why the MMA was established 41 years ago – because the fundamental truth is that we all have a stake in each other’s future. The time, energy and devotion that municipal leaders invest to make our communities stronger and work with each other is how we will build a stronger Massachusetts and a stronger nation.

As we move forward in 2020, the MMA will be right by your side all year, working hard, fostering an agenda for investment, economic growth and community unity. The successes we win together will come from planning, organizing and pushing.

All of us on the MMA staff are grateful for the opportunity to do meaningful work. All we need to do is look at the talent, passion and devotion that our members – you – bring to public service, and we know there is nothing we would rather do than support your great efforts.

Following this theme of service, during Annual Meeting we recognized three members of our staff who have been awarded the National League of Cities’ John Stutz Award for 25 years of dedicated service to their state municipal association – John Ouellette, Mary Ann Marino, and Greg McGrath.

John Ouellette is the MMA’s Manager of Publications and Digital Communications. John joined the MMA staff on July 28, 1994. During his tenure here, we’ve enhanced all of our publications, added exciting new ones, and moved into the modern age with a state-of-the-art website and social media. John’s as hard a worker as there is, and he takes pride in doing his very best every single day.

Mary Ann Marino joined the MMA staff on March 17, 1993. Mary Ann is our Loss Control Assistant, and she has worked diligently, every day, to support all of MIIA’s risk management programs, and tens of thousands of municipal staff have benefited over her tenure, as MIIA has made municipal workplaces safer, protected public property, and reduced taxpayer liabilities.

Greg McGrath joined the MMA staff on March 28, 1994, and is at the intersection of all of MIIA’s finances as Assistant Controller on our pool’s finance team. To say that Greg is detail-oriented and hard-working is to understate by an order of magnitude, as he keeps all of the invoices, payments and transactions flowing smoothly, enhancing our customer service and MIIA’s performance for all our members.

I want to thank our 2019 MMA President, Ellen Allen, for her strong leadership, and for using her talents to unite and guide us. She has brought us a wealth of knowledge, dedication, professionalism and community spirit, and has been – and will continue to be – an invaluable leader for our Association because she naturally brings people together for the common good.

And, wonderfully, our 2020 President, Cece Calabrese, brings these same values to the MMA, and a fantastic skill set that can unite us in common cause, as does our new Vice President, Adam Chapdelaine, and our talented Board of Directors. All of us on the staff are deeply grateful for the opportunity to advocate for the needs of our towns and cities with excellent leaders who will guide the MMA forward.

Following your leadership, inspired by your efforts, and adopting your example, we will work to make 2020 a great year for our communities.

Written by Geoff Beckwith, MMA Executive Director & CEO