Executive Director's Report

Adam Chapdelaine

Annual Report to the Members
Submitted by MMA Executive Director & CEO Adam Chapdelaine, January 2024

Welcome to the MMA’s 45th Annual Meeting & Trade Show! As I’m only about five months into this role, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself, and to tell you why I’m so excited about my role at the MMA, what we plan to work toward on your behalf in the year ahead, and where I hope the MMA will expand its work in the near future.

I want to start by saying how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to serve in this capacity. Every day, I feel lucky be able to work with such an amazing team on the MMA staff, to have the opportunity work with such a thoughtful and engaged MMA Board of Directors, and to be able to serve all of you and your communities, with the goal of enhancing all of your abilities to do the work of local government and serve your residents.

I am a product of Massachusetts. I was raised in Fall River, and attended high school and college in Dartmouth. I’ve lived in Fall River, New Bedford, Arlington, and now Dedham. I’ve worked in Fall River, Boston, New Bedford and Arlington. I can’t claim to have lived or worked in central or western Massachusetts, or the Cape, or the North Shore, but I can tell you that via memberships with Mass Audubon and the Trustees of Reservations, I greatly enjoy exploring all corners of the Commonwealth with my family. (And I always make sure to make a contribution to the local meals tax whenever I visit one of your beautiful communities.) Myself and my wonderful family — my wife, Rita, and our two children, aged 9 and 6 — feel lucky to call both Massachusetts and Dedham our home.

Professionally, I have worked on Beacon Hill for former state Sen. Joan Menard, in the mayor’s office in Fall River, and as town manager in Arlington for more than a decade. I share all of this to say that I know the Commonwealth, I know your communities, and I have also walked many days in shoes like yours, having worked as a municipal official for a large part of my career.

I’d also like to share something that is deeply personal to me, but I think is important to help you get to know who I am. When I was 16, I lost my father to cancer. As you can imagine, this was a devastating blow to myself, my mother and my younger brother. But fast forward nearly 30 years, and I can tell you that what that experience taught me is that we can get back up, in the face of adversity, and still move forward. And I know that this is what many of you do each and every day. Sometimes the adversity is deeply personal, sometimes it is work-related, and sometimes it is simply based on just how heavy the world can feel these days. But in local government, we have no choice but to get back up, and keep moving forward. The trash needs to be picked up, the schools need to open, health and building inspectors need to ensure the safety of our residents, and the police and fire departments need to be open and ready 24/7. I feel deeply connected to local government on an almost cellular level, because I know it’s an institution that always rises to the occasion, no matter the challenge, and that is why I am so grateful to be the new Executive Director, and why I feel so bullish about the power of the MMA.

To talk about the power of the MMA, we need to look no further than the assembly of local leaders and doers who gather for this conference. This is direct evidence that the power of the MMA is rooted in its members — members who do the work and are willing to use their voices to advocate for the needs of local government at both the state and federal level. On the MMA staff, we roll up our sleeves every day to do this work for you as well, but we know that our efficacy is directly tied to all of you. When we speak for you, we speak for the 1,300 of you who will be at the MMA Annual Meeting, we speak for those unable to attend, and we speak for the 351 cities and towns across this Commonwealth. This is real power, and when channeled appropriately, the MMA has a real ability to make positive and lasting change.

Advocacy issues
What are the issues that we advocate for every day? Many of them are quite familiar to you and are based on the MMA Board’s annual goal-setting process.

First and foremost, we are committed to pursuing a fair and sustainable revenue sharing model with the state. We certainly understand that we are entering choppier waters than we’ve inhabited for the past few years from a state budget point of view, but we will continue to advocate for a commitment to increasing the main unrestricted local aid account, UGGA, by an amount that is at least as high as the projected growth in state revenue. We are also committed to advocating for funding for municipal infrastructure — both vertical and horizontal. We know that our roads and bridges need significant investment, but so do our municipal and school buildings. We need increased and sustained state funding for these needs, and we will continue to be the leading voice for these critical investments. Further, in regard to much needed funding, we will continue to advocate for full funding of the Student Opportunity Act, as well as the myriad other school funding accounts that are so important to all of you: school transportation, the special education circuit breaker, rural school aid, and charter school mitigation.

Moving beyond direct funding accounts, we are also focused on municipal workforce recruitment and retention, the need to expand housing affordability and availability across the Commonwealth, and the need for new and innovative approaches to address the rising incivility that most, if not all, of you are facing at the local level.

To be clear, this list is not exhaustive. There are many matters of importance to municipal government that we address every day either through legislative advocacy or through direct member programming and communication. All of this adds up to a comprehensive package of municipal priorities.

Beyond these critical priorities, I plan to be very focused on helping the MMA and its members enhance their abilities to plan for and adjust to the rapidly changing world that we’re living in. One of the core realities of the human condition is that change is inevitable. And in this 21st century world that we’re living in, change is tangible and quantifiable.

A changing world
One way to look at our changing world is through the lens of climate and the environment. 2023 was a tough year in this regard. Central and western Massachusetts were ravaged by floods, causing unprecedented amounts of damage to infrastructure and agricultural assets. The entire Commonwealth saw the record tied for the hottest year in history, and the cold snap of February 2023 produced more property damage, from a claims perspective, than any other previously recorded weather-related event. I won’t spend time today debating the cause of these changes, but I will offer that it has become clear that these changes are real and impactful, and we need to plan for and take meaningful action to protect our communities from these threats.

And it’s for these reasons that I am excited to enhance the MMA’s focus on climate. We will hear from Gina McCarthy as our Saturday keynote, and that will be the start of a year where we address climate in an intentional manner — and this effort will be anchored with a series of climate webinars to be offered throughout 2024.

Beyond climate, I am also interested in looking at the people of the Commonwealth. Let’s take a quick look at the population of our state. Between 2010 and 2022, Massachusetts grew by 415,000 people, or 6.3%. During that time period, our population also changed quite significantly. The population of residents aged 65 and over grew by 39%! And in 2010, Massachusetts was 76.8% white; compare that to 2022, when Massachusetts was 69.6% white. This change was supported by growth in Massachusetts residents identifying as Hispanic or Latinx, Asian and Black.

Altogether, we can see that our Commonwealth and its people are changing. We’re growing, we’re aging, and we’re diversifying. It’s statistics like this that make it clear to me that we need to continue our work on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. And I feel this way because, ultimately, DEI work is about people. It’s about doing work that makes sure that everyone in your community has access to programming, resources and services. And sometimes this means that barriers that were erected in the past need to be brought down.

To help all of you advance work like this, the MMA has had a DEI Advisory Committee for the past several years. That work will soon result in a strategic plan for DEI to assist cities and towns across the Commonwealth embarking on a DEI journey. We’re working with Bird Guess from the Racial Equity Group on the development of this strategic plan, and we are fortunate to have Bird with us at our Annual Meeting. He will be available at the MMA’s Trade Show Booth on Friday, he’ll be presenting at the “Equitable Engagement” workshop, and he’ll be speaking during the MSA’s Annual Business Meeting. If you have a chance, stop and say hello to Bird.

In closing, I want to restate just how grateful I am to be able to serve all of you in this role. I am excited about the opportunity and the challenge, and I want you all to know that I will work tirelessly on behalf of the cities and towns in this Commonwealth. And to that end, please reach out to me to share your thoughts and ideas. As I said earlier, the MMA and its power are derived from all of you, and based on that, I would love to hear from you over the course of the year.

Respectfully submitted,

Adam Chapdelaine
MMA Executive Director & CEO