MMA President Ruthanne Fuller (left) and Vice President Jill Hai

With a new year of challenges and opportunities ahead, the MMA’s new president and vice president for 2022 are seeking to maximize the organization’s advocacy work on behalf of cities and towns, as well as the MMA’s spirit of collaboration and learning among its members.

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, who served as the MMA’s vice president in 2021, became president on Jan. 31, succeeding Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.

Lexington Select Board Member Jill Hai, who has been serving as the second vice president of the Massachusetts Select Board Association, succeeds Fuller as vice president.

As president, Fuller said she wants to make the most of the MMA’s strengths during this uncertain time for municipalities.

“The MMA brings together the people on the front lines in our cities and towns — mayors, town managers, city councillors and select board members — to share best practices and advocate for their residents, businesses, and nonprofits,” Fuller said. “As president, I look forward to building on these relationships as we continue to tackle the ever-changing landscape of this pandemic and the opportunities and challenges of local government.”

Fuller, who became Newton’s first woman mayor in 2018, also has eight years of experience as a city councillor. Before moving to Newton more than 25 years ago, Fuller served on the Finance Committee in Brookline. She also has more than two decades of experience as a strategic planner for nonprofits and businesses. She earned a bachelor’s degree in American history from Brown University, and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University.

As mayor, Fuller has tackled a wide range of issues affecting her city of almost 90,000 people. Under her leadership, Newton established full-day kindergarten; launched NewMo, a ride-share transportation service for seniors; and prioritized affordable housing efforts. The pandemic has also helped shape the city’s priorities and its leader.

“We know this coronavirus is wily and continuously changing,” Fuller said. “As municipal leaders, we, too, have become nimble. We’ve had to evolve rapidly, finding innovative ways to provide our services and support our neighbors. The pandemic has made us stronger, more innovative, more compassionate, and more focused on equity.”

Fuller urged MMA members to reach out to her with their needs and concerns. She will also be working closely with Hai over the next year.

As vice president, Hai said she is excited to engage in the MMA’s ongoing work.

“I’m looking forward to helping continue the work to collectively advocate for and find paths of economic recovery, to expand access to affordable and workforce housing, and to offer resources to tackle big issues,” Hai said.

Hai was first elected to the Lexington Select Board in 2018, after serving five years on the town’s Capital Expenditures Committee, four of those years as chair. She was also a Town Meeting member for a dozen years, and a member of local education organizations.

A former labor and employment lawyer, Hai is extensively involved in philanthropic and civic work, and serves on the Norman Rockwell Museum’s Board of Trustees, and on the board of directors for Repair the World, a Jewish service organization. She earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and a law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law.

Since joining the Lexington Select Board, Hai has focused on economic development, housing, transportation, and social justice and racial equity issues, leading an effort to hire a minority-owned consulting firm to help Lexington address racial equity issues. She also wrote the Town Meeting warrant article to change the Board of Selectmen to the gender-neutral Select Board.

Hai said the MMA provides a “unique benefit” to municipalities and the state through its advocacy, and she said the “shared thinking and exploration” offered through the MMA’s programming broadens municipal leaders’ experiences and knowledge, and leads to new ways of approaching issues.

“The MMA brings us together to share our experiences, collaborate and learn from each other, but as importantly, provides a coordinated means to advocate for large-scale solutions,” Hai said. “So many of the issues we face, including housing, transportation, environmental infrastructure, election laws, public health and racial equity, among others, require solutions bigger than any one municipality.”

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