Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The MMA Annual Meeting draws nationally recognized speakers who offer their insights on issues of concern to local governments. Each Annual Meeting concludes with a banquet dinner capped by quality entertainment.
Read about the 2020 Annual Meeting & Trade Show roster of speakers below.
Keynote Address: Deborah Lee James
Friday, January 24, 9:30-11 a.m.
Ballroom B, 3rd floor, Hynes Convention Center
Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, just the second woman to lead a U.S. military service, will share her experiences and strategies for not just surviving, but thriving in difficult public environments, where government leaders face constant change, criticism and conflict.
James’s tenure as secretary of the Air Force (2013-17) capped a 35-year defense-related career in the public and private sectors. She now motivates others by talking about navigating life’s detours and finding the opportunities within the obstacles. She will give an inspirational presentation on leadership and resiliency.
“State and local government employees are the voice of advocacy, innovation and efficiency to meet the needs of all Americans across the U.S.,” James told the MMA. “But what happens when the voice becomes hoarse, when constant change and turmoil sap your energy, when public criticism becomes intense or a work challenge seems impossible to overcome?”
In pursuit of her dream of becoming a diplomat, James earned a bachelor’s degree in comparative area studies from Duke University, and a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University. But the U.S. State Department rejected James, devastating her and forcing a Plan B.
The U.S. Department of Defense hired her in 1981, and with that, the death of one dream led to another, James writes in her book “Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success.”
James served for a decade as a professional staff member for the U.S. House’s Armed Services Committee, and in 1993 became the assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs under President Bill Clinton, advising on matters involving National Guard and Reserve members.
After leaving the Pentagon in 1998, James spent two years as a vice president at United Technologies before joining SAIC, where she rose to become president of the technical and engineering sector, overseeing 8,700 employees.
When the Obama administration asked James to interview for the Air Force secretary position, she impressed then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with her commitment to teamwork and to getting things done.
She then faced a quandary. She loved her private sector job, where she had managed to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Besides taking a pay cut, returning to the Pentagon would mean accepting responsibility for life-and-death decisions, being pulled into political battles, and risking public failure and entanglement in controversies.
“I had watched good people work hard and successfully their whole lives, then assume government posts, devote enormous time and energy, only to have something really bad happen on their watch that sent their reputation of a lifetime out the window,” James writes in “Aim High.”
James accepted the job, fully recognizing the need to establish credibility as a woman leader and as someone who had never served in uniform. She was placed in charge of 660,000 employees and a $140 billion budget.
Three weeks into her tenure, a drug investigation revealed evidence of cheating on proficiency exams by nuclear-missile personnel at a Montana Air Force base. In the aftermath, James visited Air Force bases and led efforts to boost morale, elicit feedback and improve operations and working conditions for people overseeing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
James, who lives in Virginia, now serves on advisory boards for organizations such as LeanIn.Org and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. She also coaches senior executives, stressing the need for effective communication and active listening.
WEMO Leadership Luncheon: Jackie MacMullan
Friday, January 24, noon-1:30 p.m.
Ballroom C, 3rd floor, Hynes Convention Center
Straight out of college in the early 1980s, Jackie MacMullan blew through barriers and into locker rooms as a sports reporter at a time when women were almost unheard of in the press boxes of professional sports. She went on to become one of the country’s most-respected sportswriters, earning the trust of legends including Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.
MacMullan’s determination and journalistic talent helped open the field to countless other female sports reporters. At the Women Elected Municipal Officials Leadership Luncheon, she will share her story of how she succeeded in a male-dominated field.
Known especially for her NBA coverage, MacMullan is an ESPN writer and on-air correspondent who made her name as a longtime sports reporter and columnist for The Boston Globe. She is the author of several books, including “Shaq Uncut: My Story” with Shaquille O’Neal, and “Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection,” with Geno Auriemma, longtime coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut.
MacMullan’s love of sports started with the street hockey games she played as a child in Westwood. Her entry into sports journalism grew out of frustration that her local newspaper didn’t cover girls’ sports. When MacMullan’s father urged her to call the paper, the editor offered her the girls’ sports beat.
After being a captain of the women’s basketball team at the University of New Hampshire, MacMullan was hired by the Globe in 1982 and quickly worked her way to becoming the Boston Celtics beat reporter. She maintained her professionalism even when a legendary basketball coach blew cigar smoke in her face and various self-appointed bouncers blocked her post-game access to locker rooms.
“I wasn’t trying to break down barriers,” MacMullan told the 2016 graduating class at Lawrence Academy of her experience. “I was just trying to do my job.”
If these encounters made her cry, she would do it alone in her car. “And then, when I got back to work, I started trying to build my credibility, one story at a time.”
She covered basketball for Sports Illustrated from 1995 to 2000, then returned to the Globe in 2002 as an associate editor and the paper’s first female sports columnist. She started working for ESPN in 2010 and is also a correspondent for WHDH-TV.
By winning over her antagonists, MacMullan has been able to cover many of the biggest events in modern sports. She became the first woman to win the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and the first woman to win the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing earlier this year. She also won the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association for Women in Sports Media.
In the early days of her career, MacMullan said, her gender-ambiguous byline helped.
“Everyone thought I was an Irish-Catholic guy from Southie,” MacMullan told The New Yorker in May. “I got to write under a cloak.”
To protect her credibility, MacMullan avoided after-hours socializing with sports figures and tried to work harder than the competition. If the beat reporters attended only the Celtics’ morning practices, MacMullan made sure to attend both the morning and evening practices. In her New Yorker interview, MacMullan quoted Celtics great Larry Bird as once telling her: “You always show up. They notice.”
MacMullan ultimately collaborated with Bird on two books: “Bird Watching: On Playing and Coaching the Game I Love,” and “When the Game Was Ours,” written with Bird and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
In 2018, MacMullan co-edited “Basketball: A Love Story,” an oral history of the sport. She also gained attention for her five-part ESPN series last year about mental health in the NBA, getting sources to open up due to the trust she had built over the years.
MacMullan and her husband, Michael Boyle, raised a son and daughter in Westford, and her philanthropy earned her the 2009 Ron Burton Community Service Award. In 2017, she traveled to Rwanda as a board member of the Shooting Touch Foundation, which helps at-risk youth. She has also worked with the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, and the Dorchester Boys & Girls Club, among other organizations.
Though “fearless” might describe MacMullan’s career, she has spoken about how fear held her back at times; she didn’t try out for the basketball team until she was a high school junior. In her Lawrence Academy speech, she urged the graduates not to let fear hold them back.
“Don’t be the kid peeking in the door,” she said. “Be the kid that walks through the door.”
Friday Dinner Speaker: Faith Salie
Friday, January 24, 7-9 p.m.
Grand Ballroom, 2nd floor, Sheraton Boston Hotel
Some know Faith Salie as a commentator on “CBS Sunday Morning,” or as a regular panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”, or as a host of “Science Goes to the Movies,” or as a standup comedian, or an author, or even as Sarina Douglas from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
But when describing herself, Salie uses the term “professional listener.” She will share what she has learned from interviewing people from all walks of life – actors, Broadway lyricists, an artist with ALS carving his final work, and former President Jimmy Carter, among others. Her advice is relevant for anyone trying to connect with others in this noisy age – a time when many are talking but few are paying attention.
“Shutting up is what I learned to do, and it changed my life,” Salie writes in her memoir, “Approval Junkie: My Heartfelt (and Occasionally Inappropriate) Quest to Please Just About Everyone, and Ultimately Myself,” published in 2016.
Salie says people who listen ask surprising questions that “unlock” people, foster understanding and build community. Through listening, she says, we can find our own voices and add more meaningfully to the conversation. But the listening must be genuine.
“There’s a huge difference between listening to help yourself seem funny or smart or right, and listening to help someone express himself,” Salie writes in her book.
She warns against people making every story about themselves.
“We think we’re building a bridge of sharing,” she writes, “but most of the time, we’re really putting up scaffolding over someone else’s story and clambering all over it.”
Salie’s own story began in Weymouth, where she was born, before her family moved to the Atlanta suburbs. In her memoir, she explains that her quest for validation produced tangible results: good grades, a Harvard degree, a Rhodes scholarship, a master’s degree in modern English literature from Oxford University, and the prized tiara at the Miss Aphrodite high school pageant.
“But caring too much about people liking you will confine you forever to mediocrity and second-guessing yourself,” she writes.
Salie’s book candidly explores her struggle with anorexia, her doomed first marriage, and the pain of losing her mother to cancer. She learned hard lessons while pursuing a career in show business, the pinnacle of people-pleasing endeavors. She starred in the 2004 sitcom “Significant Others” and made guest appearances on shows such as “Married … With Children,” “Charmed” and “Sex and the City.” Despite her hard work, she was confronted with Hollywood’s obsession with appearance. “Why aren’t you as pretty as I want you to be?” an acting coach once asked her.
She quips that her Oxford classmates “became things like 2020 presidential candidates and Pulitzer Prize winners,” while she went to Hollywood “and landed on a ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ collectible trading card worth hundreds of cents.”
Over the past decade, Salie has solidified her reputation as a journalist, writer and podcast and TV host. She turned to radio in 2007 as host of “Fair Game From PRI with Faith Salie.” On “Science Goes to the Movies,” produced by CUNY-TV in New York, she has interviewed experts about the connections between science and pop culture.
For “CBS Sunday Morning,” Salie has examined “mansplaining,” expressed her disdain for open office plans, and gone swimming with the Weeki Wachee mermaids in Florida.
As a writer, Salie has contributed to numerous publications and websites, including Slate, Health and O, The Oprah Magazine. She has sung with the Boston Pops, performed stand-up comedy and appeared at Carnegie Hall. This past April, Salie adapted “Approval Junkie” for the stage and performed it in Atlanta.
Salie’s journey toward greater self acceptance has led her to a second marriage and motherhood; she and her husband live in New York City with their son and daughter. In her book, Salie rules out a complete recovery from her approval-junkie ways.
“I’m wary of total self-acceptance,” Salie writes. “I’d rather fail dramatically than risk complacency.”
Closing Session: Leon Andrews Jr.
Saturday, Jan. 25, 4-5:30 p.m.
Ballroom A, 3rd floor, Hynes Convention Center
Leon Andrews Jr., the first director of the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) initiative, will discuss how local leaders can help eliminate racial disparities, heal racial divisions and build more equitable communities.
Through REAL, an initiative to promote equity and encourage honest conversations about race, Andrews works with communities to help narrow racial divides. In a time of high-profile, racially motivated killings, white supremacist activity, and a spike in hate crimes, Andrews has been a vocal advocate for policies that encourage diversity, inclusion and economic and racial justice.
The NLC started the REAL program after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown, a black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, and the unrest that followed. The program works with communities to address racial tensions, identify systemic problems that perpetuate injustice, and build communities that allow residents of all backgrounds to thrive. It also provides training and resources to help communities see the racial implications of their policies, programs and budget priorities.
“We are intentional about naming race,” Andrews recently told the MMA. “That’s because when we look beyond what we were already seeing in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, Charlottesville and looked at the data … from infant mortality to life expectancy, race is still one of the strongest predictors of one’s success in this country.
“If the data tell us that, then what drives our work with [communities] is to close the gap so that race no longer predicts one’s success, while also improving outcomes for everyone,” Andrews said. “This requires cities [to take] targeted strategies.”
Problems related to inequality often fall on the doorsteps of city and town halls, Andrews said. So municipal leaders need to understand the impact of race and equity in their communities.
Andrews emphasizes the need for leaders to strengthen relationships with diverse stakeholders in the community – to ensure that cities and towns have these vital connections in place before racial incidents and conflicts occur.
In an article published on EfficientGov.com, Andrews urged local leaders to take seven steps to improve race relations: build trust between police and communities of color; gather data on racial disparities; listen to communities of color; advocate for racial equity; institute policy reforms; provide training; and prioritize accountability.
A native of Washington, D.C., Andrews joined the NLC in 2006, spending eight years as a senior fellow and program director of the NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families, where he worked with municipal officials to address problems affecting young people and to promote youth engagement and leadership.
Before joining the NLC, Andrews was a research fellow at The Forum for Youth Investment. Previous roles include work for the U.S. Department of Justice, the office of former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the United States Public Interest Research Group, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, YouthBuild Pittsburgh, the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. He has also been an adjunct political science professor at Eastern Michigan University.
Andrews serves on the boards of ChangeLab Solutions, the National Recreation and Park Association, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the National Network for Youth.
With a master’s degree in public policy and management, Andrews is now a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Michigan’s urban and regional planning program. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Dr. Kristine Andrews, and their three daughters.
Entertainment: To Be Announced
Saturday, Jan. 25, 6:45-8:30 p.m.
Grand Ballroom, 2nd floor, Sheraton Boston Hotel