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Town Manager

Nov 04

Message from Town Manager, Michael Herbert

Posted on November 4, 2020 at 1:04 PM by Ashley Place

Dear Ashland Residents,

Over the course of 2020, we have experienced a monumental escalation in tension throughout our nation, which has inevitably filtered into our cities and towns. While Ashland has weathered these storms better than most, we have not been immune to it.

Fortunately Ashland, like many towns across the Commonwealth are based more on community principles, and less on party affiliation. Our shared values of compassion, practicality, benevolence, and equality of opportunity transcend political ideologies and created the town that we have today and will also be the values that guide us into the future. In light of that, regardless of this election's result (and it appears that it may be a while before we know that result with any certainty), many of our neighbors and friends will be disappointed. Continuing to focus as a town on those aforementioned shared values will ensure that we have the ability to look at the coming months as an opportunity to bring us together versus dividing us further.

Within this context, I am writing today to communicate two important points. First, the way your public officials govern, and the way your employees and staff approach their jobs, is blind to whether you voted Democrat, Republican, or didn't even vote at all. As Town Manager, I have a truly blessed opportunity to see this play out on a daily basis so it can be said with the utmost confidence. Nevertheless, I believe that public officials have a role to play in the healing and de-escalation that will need to happen for our communities if we are to transcend our current state of affairs. I want to assure you that we will approach this, as Abraham Lincoln stated, "With malice towards none, and charity for all." To that end, over the next days and weeks we will be distributing resources to help all in our community rebuild bridges and mend relationships between ALL of us. I also know our school department will be providing similar resources for our parents and students.

Second, the election results are going to lead some to experience disappointment, grief, despair, perhaps rage, while others will feel vindicated. Many of those same people are going to feel tempted to ostracize and attack. It's a naturally occurring human reaction, heightened by the social climate of today.

If you find yourself tempted to go down that path, I want to ask you all to please take a moment and remember not only who we were before this pandemic hit but who we will eventually be again. While you may feel like lashing out, at the end of the day, those that you malign are still going to be your fellow residents and friends. Eventually, you are going to see them at a neighborhood get together or at your kids' games. They could be the owner of a business that you frequent, which greatly contributes to our town. They may be members of the same congregation or community organization. Once things are said, you can't unring many of those bells, despite your most sincere apologies. Pause and restraint, especially over the next few weeks, will serve us all well. 

Remember that even though it feels like a lifetime, our world was upended only 9 months ago. Prior to that, we were doing very well and poised to accomplish some great things as a town. We have the opportunity to get to that place again, only this time it's going to take a little more work. We shouldn't shy away from it.

Thank you for reading and I hope you all are well.

Sincerely,
Michael Herbert
Oct 30

Town Manager's Weekly Newsletter- 10/29

Posted on October 30, 2020 at 11:05 AM by Ashley Place

Dear Ashland Residents,

Hope this email finds you and your family well as you enjoy the last vestiges of autumn. As you all know, Halloween is coming in a couple of days and while I haven't "cancelled" Halloween, there are a number of tips and guidelines that you can follow to help make your night more safe and enjoyable. These tips were endorsed by both the Board of Health and the Select Board, and you can find them here and here.

However you choose to spend your Saturday evening, I hope it is safe and enjoyable.

Please pay special attention to the update on the Valentine Property below. We are looking for partners who can help the town achieve some of the uses that have been envisioned for this property. These include things like a farm to table restaurant, bed and breakfast, organic farm, arts center, and function hall. The biggest hurdle for any partner of course is assembling the millions necessary to rehabilitate and build-out the barn and the house for those types of uses, but the town is offering assistance in that endeavor. All of the details for this partnership are detailed in the "Request for Proposals" in the Valentine information below. I hope to see many proposals from community members coming up. Many thanks to the Valentine Committee for the work they have put into this project as well as Jenn Ball and Beth Reynolds.

Also a brief update on Special Town Meeting. While we have traditionally only had one Special Town Meeting in the fall, this year we plan on having two. The first will be in December and will cover all articles other than the ones related to the Public Safety Building & Mindess Elementary School. The second Special Town Meeting will be held in early January and will be dedicated to those two projects. Please be on the lookout for more details.

Finally, I want to let you know that as of today, Ashland has achieved almost 60% voter turnout for this year's presidential election through early voting and voting by mail alone. Thank you to all the staff and volunteers making this an easy process for residents (trust me it is not an easy process for them). I hope we can all breath a sigh of relief on November 4th.

Michael Herbert
Oct 19

Town Manager's Weekly Newsletter- 10/15

Posted on October 19, 2020 at 10:34 AM by Ashley Place

Dear Ashland Residents & Friends: 

The National Research Center (NRC) at Polco and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA) recently announced at the ICMA Annual Conference, that the Town of Ashland received two of this year's 2020 Voice of the People Awards (VOP)- including the winning award for Transformation in Natural Environment and the finalist award for Transformation in Community Engagement. 
 
The Voice of the People Awards is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The awards, presented by the NRC at Polco and the ICMA, acknowledge local governments with the highest or most improved ratings on The National Community Survey™ (The NCS) and that take the best actions based on their data. 

The Town of Ashland won two Transformation awards based on survey results from 2016 and 2019. The Award for Transformation in Open Space reflects the town's commitment since 2016, to protect and preserve hundreds of acres of open space. Since that time, the Town of Ashland purchased or protected through other means- like deed restrictions during that time, over 300 acres. Some of the larger preservation efforts include the Girl Scout Property, the Rail Transit District, and the Nicolo Property. 

The award for Transformation in Citizen Engagement reflects the Town's efforts to be more inclusive and efforts to have more residents involved in the public process. Since 2016, the town has made concerted efforts to increase outreach through social media, regular newsletter updates, and new events such as the Diwali celebration in November. 

It is rare that a town like Ashland receives national recognition like this. Personally, the part of this award that gives me the most pride is that it was accomplished through a collaboration of regular citizens and town government. The feedback was driven by the citizens. And while the policy proposals and work to bring things to Town Meeting falls largely on the shoulders of government, it is ultimately Town Meeting that decides on many of these decisions. 

Michael Herbert