Lisa Blackmer, Mel Kleckner are new MMA president, VP

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A Berkshire County official is president of the MMA for the first time in two decades, after the MMA Board of Directors elected North Adams Councillor Lisa Blackmer as president at the association’s Annual Business Meeting in Boston on Jan. 23.
 
Brookline Town Administrator Mel Kleckner was elected vice president.
 
Blackmer has been a city councillor since 2008, a town administrator in Sandisfield, and member of the MMA’s Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration. She served as MMA vice president this past year.
 
“It shows that we are really a statewide organization,” Blackmer said. “We used to joke about having this state covered from the Berkshires to the Cape with David [Dunford, last year’s MMA president] from Orleans. I think it’s a good thing for the MMA, Berkshire County, Western Massachusetts and North Adams.”
 
The last MMA president from Berkshire County was then-Pittsfield Mayor Edward Reilly in 1995. Mary Hale, a former selectman from the Berkshire County town of Tyringham, was MMA president in 1988.
 
The MMA’s leadership will continue to extend the breadth of the Commonwealth with the election of Kleckner, who previously served as town administrator in Wilbraham, Belmont and Winchester.
 
“I’m very excited about working with other cities and towns to try and make life easier for us to balance our budgets and to do important projects,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity with a new administration that does seem to be cognizant of the ways cities and towns work to make our lives better.”
 
Blackmer said priorities for the coming year include maintaining and increasing unrestricted general government aid and Chapter 90 funding, which she noted is an issue in Western Massachusetts because public transportation is not as abundant as it is in the eastern part of the state.
 
The opioid crisis “is a long way from being resolved,” she said, and the MMA will work on getting its recommendations to battle the epidemic into the state budget.
 
Gov. Charlie Baker’s “municipal modernization” bill is something that both Blackmer and Kleckner cited as a priority for the coming year. Blackmer added that the bill ties in with the state’s Community Compact initiative as well as the first “best practices” report released by the MMA at its Annual Meeting.
 
“Obviously there is going to be something that comes up [this year] that we weren’t aware of or planning on,” she said. “Three years ago we weren’t talking about opiates.”
 
MMA Executive Director and CEO Geoff Beckwith praised the leadership qualities of the new president and vice president.
 
“The MMA is fortunate to have Lisa and Mel providing leadership and wise counsel to the organization,” he said. “All of us on the staff are delighted that the MMA Board has selected these two outstanding local officials to guide us forward.”