John McLaughlin (left), and Jill Hai became the MMA vice president and president for 2023, respectively, during the MMA Annual Business Meeting on Jan. 21.

The MMA’s new president and vice president will help steer the organization through significant change this coming year — working with a new administration at the State House, advocating for municipalities in a new legislative session, and helping the MMA find a new executive director.

Lexington Select Board Chair Jill Hai, who served as the MMA’s vice president in 2022, became president on Jan. 21, succeeding Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.

Waltham City Councillor John McLaughlin, who most recently served as second vice president of the Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association, succeeds Hai as vice president. This year, he is also serving as president of the Councillors’ Association.

Following MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith’s announcement on Jan. 10 that he will retire in September after 31 years of service, Hai has pledged to help the MMA find its new leader, and she said she hopes to have a new executive director selected early enough to allow for an overlapping transition period. She said her goal is to find a worthy successor to Beckwith.

“I think he’s done an amazing job, and it’s going to be a number one priority to make sure that we find someone who can carry on the caliber of work with the level of respect and cooperation and admiration that Geoff has earned for the organization,” Hai said. “It’s not a small task.”

Hai said she enjoys working with the MMA staff and with the members who volunteer their time above their existing responsibilities. She said a key draw of the MMA is the chance to work with knowledgeable and energized people who are passionate about local government.

Hai was first elected to the Lexington Select Board in 2018, after serving on the town’s Capital Expenditures Committee and as a Town Meeting member. She is also a volunteer member of the Norman Rockwell Museum’s Board of Trustees.

Hai has also devoted herself to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, both in her work in Lexington and at the MMA. She serves as a member of the MMA’s recently appointed DEI Advisory Board, which was formed to develop a framework for the MMA’s DEI work and programming to support cities and towns in their DEI efforts.

Overall, Hai said that she wants to ensure that the MMA represents the interests of the entire state, and to make sure she’s “hearing the voices of everybody who doesn’t necessarily otherwise have a big enough voice to get heard.”

Hai said her predecessor had set a good example for balancing the needs of different communities, and she said the MMA derives its strength from representing every town and every city in Massachusetts.

“It’s really important to me that we focus on all of the issues that are relevant, whether it is a small town in the southwestern corner, whether it is a community on the Cape that’s dealing with freshwater, whether it is the infrastructure issues, the road issues in smaller towns where they’re just not getting the [state funding] formula to work to keep the roads going, the regional schools — all of these things that are not necessarily on the top of mind for people who aren’t living those issues,” Hai said. “And it’s important to me that we as the MMA have this unique role to represent all of the towns and communities.”

Hai sees the new administration and legislative session as offering opportunities to address some of the priorities that have been on the MMA’s agenda for a long time, and she believes that communities collectively can “really move the needle” on issues including housing, transportation, infrastructure, economic recovery and development, and climate resilience.

As vice president, McLaughlin is ready to embrace the changes that 2023 brings.

“I am excited about engaging the new Healey-Driscoll administration in finding new ways to support our cities and towns,” McLaughlin said.

Now in his fifth term on the Waltham City Council, McLaughlin is the council’s vice president and has been active in the MMA since 2013. He has served on the MMA Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities, has participated as a panelist for training for newly elected councillors, and he facilitated the councillors’ webinar on promoting civility and productivity in meetings, among other contributions.

McLaughlin said he looks forward to working with Hai to find a new MMA executive director, though he notes that Beckwith’s departure is “bittersweet” for the organization.

“The MMA’s mission is to improve the effectiveness of municipal government in the Commonwealth, and President Hai and I will continue to move the ball down the field with that goal in mind,” McLaughlin said. “I see 2023 as a year full of challenges, but also enormous opportunities for both our organization and our efforts to support our municipalities.”

Written by