Incoming MMA Executive Director and CEO Adam Chapdelaine

When Adam Chapdelaine becomes the MMA’s new executive director on Sept. 9, he will bring his years of experience working in city and town halls, his firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the State House, and an abiding belief in the essential role of local government in our quality of life.

Chapdelaine, an MMA past president who served for a decade as town manager in Arlington and most recently was deputy director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, was appointed on July 28 by the MMA Board of Directors to succeed Geoff Beckwith, who has led the organization for three decades.

As he embarks on his new role, Chapdelaine said the MMA and its members must continue making the case on Beacon Hill for robust local aid. He said local government has a strong case, because cities and towns are central to every Massachusetts resident who drives on local roads, borrows books from a local library, and relies on police and fire services for safety.

“I feel that there’s a magic in the fact that cities and towns touch everybody’s lives,” Chapdelaine said. “I think there’s a strong footing to be able to talk about the critical, fundamental importance of cities and towns as a building block of our society. We can be pretty persuasive about how critical these issues are to the core quality of life that every Massachusetts resident enjoys.”

Chapdelaine has been engaged with the MMA’s work for more than a decade, having served on the MMA Fiscal Policy Committee and the MMA Board of Directors, as president of the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association in 2018, and as MMA president in 2021. He said he always had a high regard for Beckwith’s leadership, but has long considered pursuing the director’s role when the opportunity arose.

First steps
Chapdelaine said he wants to begin by building relationships with the MMA staff and getting feedback from members.

“I have my viewpoints on what the key municipal issues are, but I know that those issues differ from rural to suburban to urban, from western Mass. to central Mass. to eastern Mass. to the Cape, and all of the regions within those,” he said. “So I want to find the right way to learn from all the members about what their priorities are.”

Some municipal issues, however, already command spots on the to-do list, including climate change, staffing shortages, increased public incivility, and an urgency to maximize funding opportunities through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. But the “forever challenge,” he said, remains state funding, particularly Chapter 90 road funds, Chapter 70 education aid and Unrestricted General Government Aid.

“I think we’re coming back into much tighter times, and tight times happening at the same time as when you need significant investment in things is a bad recipe,” he said. “To put a positive spin on it, I think that the MMA can be an amazing asset to cities and towns as they face tightened revenues and increased demand for services and infrastructure investment, but I think that’s going to be a big issue.”

Chapdelaine also plans to focus on the revenue-raising constraints brought by Proposition 2½, a 40-year-old law “that hasn’t kept up with the needs and demands of the 21st century.” He said his Proposition 2½ comments resonated when he interviewed for the job with the MMA’s search committee.

“The head nods were most intense when I was talking about the limitations of Prop 2½,” he said.

Chapdelaine said he’ll seek a range of voices in shaping the MMA’s agenda, including trying to engage less-involved members. If someone’s not at the table, he said, then “why aren’t they at this table, and has anyone asked them to be at this table?”

A career in government
A Fall River native, Chapdelaine earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UMass Dartmouth, and spent more than five years working for then-Sen. Joan Menard, starting in 2002. The experience taught him that a firm grasp of policy is essential on Beacon Hill, as is forming “trusting relationships” with legislators and their staffs.

Chapdelaine’s time on Beacon Hill inspired his municipal career. When he called municipal managers to provide local aid figures, several tried to recruit him into local government, and he started attending Suffolk University at night to earn his master’s degree in business administration.

After leaving the State House, Chapdelaine worked as Fall River’s elections director, community services director, and finally city administrator. Starting in 2010, he served two years as Arlington’s deputy town manager before becoming town manager. He recently was president of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and has served on the Metro Mayors’ Coalition, the Commonwealth’s Group Insurance Commission, and the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.

Ongoing and future challenges
Chapdelaine has focused on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts throughout his career. Over the past couple years, he served as co-chair, with Westwood Town Administrator Christopher Coleman, of the MMA’s DEI Advisory Committee. He said several challenges frustrate municipal efforts to advance DEI work, including limited funding, political polarization, and a lack of existing diversity in communities that can obscure inequities.

“I think much of that work is going to be focused on figuring out how to give local governments the tools that they need, wherever they are on the journey,” he said.

Climate change has also been a central issue for Chapdelaine. At the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, he worked to engage business and civic leaders and citizens in designing and implementing the city’s climate adaptation and mitigation strategy. Following a summer of climate disasters — particularly wildfires, flooding and extreme heat — he said, “there’s more of an acceptance that we need to do something,” and he’s optimistic that federal aid will help businesses, residents and municipalities electrify their buildings and fleets. He said the MMA can support municipal efforts to access the funds and help speed up electrification.

Coastal communities face staggering resiliency costs, however, and all communities will need significant funding and resources for investments such as cooling centers, heat pumps, and efforts to address stormwater flooding.

Chapdelaine said he’ll bring his climate focus to his work with MIIA, the MMA’s nonprofit insurance service, and he said he’s eager to work with Stan Corcoran, MIIA’s executive vice president. In particular, he said he is interested in promoting members’ resiliency efforts through policy language and incentives.

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