With the highly transmissible omicron COVID-19 variant surging in Massachusetts, the MMA has made the difficult decision to cancel its plans for an in-person Annual Meeting & Trade Show, and will instead transition a number of key events to a virtual setting.

After holding an all-virtual conference in 2021, MMA staff and members had been eagerly anticipating getting together in person again on Jan. 21 and 22, and the association continually adjusted its robust COVID Safety Plan to protect participants. Recent developments, however, made it increasingly clear that the current surge would be in full force during the conference.

“We began planning this event last summer with great excitement about giving local leaders from all corners of the state an opportunity to be together again,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “After so much time apart, there was a strong desire to reconnect. Ultimately, however, the defenses we had planned could not match the strength of this omicron tidal wave, and we were forced to reconsider, which is deeply disappointing. As an organization dedicated to building strong communities, we must do our part to flatten the curve and model best practices to protect public health.

“Fortunately, MMA staff and members can put the lessons of the past 22 months to good use by quickly pivoting to offer many of the key elements of Annual Meeting virtually — and at no charge. It won’t quite be the event we had hoped for, but it will enable us to discuss the challenges of these times and work together to continue moving our communities forward.”

Virtual events
The Annual Meeting opening session and the MMA Annual Business Meeting will continue as planned, and be held as scheduled via Zoom.

The opening session on Friday, Jan. 21, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., will include:
• Welcoming remarks from MMA leadership
• Keynote address by Eric Termuende, a globally recognized speaker, author and podcaster on the future of work
• An address from Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito

The MMA Annual Business Meeting on Saturday, Jan. 22, from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m., will include an address by Gov. Charlie Baker and remarks from U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.

The Annual Business Meeting will also feature remarks from incoming MMA President and Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, as well as the presentation of the MMA’s annual awards for municipal innovations, town reports and city and town websites.

Those who had already registered for the Annual Meeting are automatically registered for the virtual events and will receive an email with the Zoom links. Members who hadn’t registered will need to do so in order to receive the Zoom links. Members will receive more information shortly by email.

MIIA’s Annual Business Meeting will move from Saturday, Jan. 22, to Friday, Jan. 21, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., as a virtual event. MIIA will be emailing invitations and a Zoom link to MIIA members only.

In addition, the MMA is planning a series of webinars, scheduled to begin on Jan. 24, to present the timely and informative workshops that are a key component of the Annual Meeting. These workshops will be offered at no cost to MMA members, and details will be emailed soon.

Registrant refunds and hotel cancellations
In early February, the MMA will be processing refunds to all those who had registered and paid for the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show, including meal tickets. Those who registered do not need to take any action to get their refunds.

Those who made hotel room reservations will need to contact the Sheraton Boston Hotel directly, at 800-325-3535, to avoid hotel charges. The MMA is not involved in the hotel reservation process, so members are urged to contact the Sheraton as soon as possible to cancel their rooms.

Rescheduled events
The Massachusetts Mayors’ Association, the Massachusetts Select Board Association, and the Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association will hold their annual business meetings and elect officers for 2022 during special Zoom meetings to be held in January. The Massachusetts Municipal Management Association will hold its Annual Meeting on Feb. 11. Details will be emailed to the members of each group.

Canceled events
The annual Trade Show, the Women Elected Municipal Officials Leadership Luncheon, the closing session and the Friday dinner and entertainment will not be held as virtual events.

“Unfortunately, there is no practical way to effectively hold a Trade Show online, so that event will need to be canceled for this one year,” Beckwith said. “The MMA wishes to thank all the companies, nonprofits and government agencies that had been planning to take part, for their patience and support.”

Trade Show exhibitors should contact Karen LaPointe at klapointe@mma.org with any questions.

WEMO looks forward to an in-person event this spring, and the MMA will look to engage the scheduled closing session speaker, National League of Cities Executive Director Clarence Anthony, at a later date to assist in its ongoing efforts to advance its diversity, equity and inclusion work. (Details to come.)

“Switching the MMA Annual Meeting to a mostly virtual event is disappointing, but absolutely the right thing to do, which is why the MMA Executive Committee approved this move earlier today,” said MMA President and Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. “Kudos to the MMA leadership and staff for pivoting so rapidly, and for making the key components available to all local leaders free of charge. We look forward to when conditions allow us to get together again safely, as we clearly all need that.”

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