President’s Message

Ruthanne Fuller

By MMA President and Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, January 2023

Welcome to the MMA’s 44th Annual Meeting & Trade Show. I am absolutely thrilled that we are together in person again. We really need this.

I have been honored to serve as President of this great association over the past year and to “pay it forward.” In my years as a City Councillor and the past five as Mayor, the Massachusetts Municipal Association has been enormously helpful to me and to the city of Newton. During the pandemic, for example, Geoff Beckwith and the MMA team provided critical, timely and accurate information, access to decision makers at both the state and federal level, and ongoing opportunities for city and town staff and elected officials to share our ideas, our struggles, and our successes as we all worked together through a crisis.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, and the MMA lives by, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Since we last were together in January 2020, all of you rolled up your sleeves, faced the challenges of the day — no matter what they were — and delivered the very best that local governments in cities and towns can do for residents and businesses all across this great Commonwealth. And you did so with passion, integrity, hard work and creativity. I’ve been inspired each day by the important work you’re doing to bolster our common good.

These past few years haven’t been easy, but we are making progress on the challenges of our times — from COVID-19, the economic fallout, inflation, supply chain disruptions, and staffing shortages to climate change, inequities, insufficient housing, transportation challenges, and political divisiveness. Billions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have been flowing into our communities, helping us recover from the pandemic and shore up critical infrastructure. Simultaneously, the Commonwealth stepped up with funding for COVID recovery.

The state budget included a healthy, and much-needed, 5.4% increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid (affectionately known as UGGA) for fiscal 2023. While the state has been enjoying record revenue surpluses, cities and towns have not had the same good fortune, and the UGGA increase is a recognition of this reality. The state budget also increased Chapter 70 education aid by $495 million, and boosted funding for special education and charter school tuition reimbursements. The state also provided an additional $150 million for infrastructure grant programs, and passed substantial infrastructure bond and economic development packages, the impacts of which will be felt each year over the next decade.

Throughout the past eight years, the MMA and our 351 cities and towns had terrific partners in Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Their door was always open; they were always willing to listen; they always worked collaboratively with us to solve pressing problems, including some that had been long overlooked. They showed a genuine interest in helping our local governments run more smoothly — the fundamental mission of the MMA — and created new programs, including the Community Compact and Community One Stop, that helped us do more and do better. To work with a team that is so accessible and responsive — a team that never forgot their local government roots — has been continuously productive and frequently joyous. (An excellent report from the Rappaport Institute this past fall highlighted the fruits of this partnership.)

Now we have a new team to work with — another great team. Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll — history-makers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — are committed to building on state-local government partnerships and making them even stronger. Both are very talented, thoughtful and creative leaders with an incredibly strong track record of “getting stuff done.” I have the deepest respect and affection for Lt. Gov. Driscoll, whom I’ve had the pleasure of calling a colleague and a mentor as a fellow mayor since I came into office five years ago. All of us in cities and towns have friends at the State House with this great team. Over the course of our two-day conference, we’ll hear from both, and learn more about their vision for the future of Massachusetts.

My reflection on the past year would not be complete without expressing my deepest gratitude to the leader of the MMA for 31 years, Geoff Beckwith. Geoff’s wisdom and judgment, knowhow and experience, tact and steadiness, ability to see the forest and the trees as well as maneuver both short-term exigencies and long-term goals, and, in the very best sense, his political acumen have helped countless local finance committee members and human resource professionals, city councilors and select board members, town managers and mayors. We all are very fortunate to benefit from the relationships he and his team have built and their sterling reputation in this state — not to mention the direct services that they provide to all of us every single day.

We make progress and effect change by working together, across large cities and small towns, and from Salisbury and Williamstown to Egremont and Provincetown. The MMA advocates on behalf of all of us at the State House for the funding and legislation needed to support strong communities and vibrant main streets. The MMA forms legislative positions and priorities with the input from your generous service on the MMA’s Board of Directors, the five MMA Policy Committees, and the Local Government Advisory Commission.

In addition to the many relevant workshops available here at this Annual Meeting, the MMA and its member organizations — representing select boards, mayors, town managers and administrators, councillors, and finance committees, as well as human resources and human services professionals — host a broad and deep range of educational opportunities — meetings and free webinars — specifically for municipal officials. The MMA also offers top-notch communications and information vehicles, including The Beacon and the just-launched Mass Municipal Data Hub.

The MMA is helping to build the pipeline of qualified people to run our cities and towns for years to come by teaming up with Suffolk University to offer three professional development programs. Plus, the MMA’s MassTown Careers campaign works to bring new people into local government careers.

Women Elected Municipal Officials, better known as WEMO, continues to grow and thrive, creating opportunities for women local government professionals to connect, to learn skills, and to help us advance our careers. This year, we pulled together a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Board that will lead us in developing training and resources to support our DEI work in our home towns and cities.

I want to thank Cece Calabrese and Adam Chapdelaine, who served so effectively as Presidents of the MMA during the hardest period of the pandemic and missed the opportunity to speak in person to all of you.

We still face many challenges, and for that I turn the presidency over to my wonderful colleague Jill Hai, chair of the Select Board in Lexington, who I expect will be officially elected on Saturday. I have so enjoyed working with Jill over this past year, and we are in very capable hands going forward.

Please enjoy this wonderful conference. Stop me if I’m nearby and say hello. There’s nothing else like it for coming to know fellow public servants across our Commonwealth.

Ruthanne Fuller
Mayor, Newton
MMA President