Over the past year, the Vision 2020 Fiscal Resources Task Group has published a series of articles detailing various aspects of how our town functions (Citizens Corner). This week we launch into a series of interviews of town leaders which we hope will provide residents with an insight into the people that manage town/school departments. We begin our series with Town Manager, Adam Chapdelaine.
An excerpt is presented here and the full length interview can be found at www.arlingtonma.gov.
WHAT IS THE CAREER PATH THAT LED YOU TO THIS LINE OF WORK?
I've worked in state and local government since graduating with my B.A. in Political Science in 2011. I was employed in the Massachusetts State House early in my career and earned my M.B.A. in the evenings at Suffolk University.
I knew early on that I wanted to transition to local government, and I received my first municipal opportunity with the City of Fall River in 2008. Following that I came to Arlington in 2010 as the Deputy Town Manager and have been Town Manager since 2012.
HOW DO YOU ANSWER WHEN SOMEONE ASKS WHAT A TOWN MANAGER DOES?
I tell them that it’s a bit like being mayor in that it has chief executive responsibilities and authority. However, in the town form of government, it’s not like the mayor because it’s not elected and you share some of the responsibilities with the elected Board of Selectmen.
It’s different in that the legislative body is a town meeting and convenes less frequently than a city council or town council. As Town Manager, I have responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day operations of most of the town’s departments as well as being responsible for budget development and management.
WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK HAS THE GREATEST IMPACT ON RESIDENTS?
When the work of municipal departments is done correctly, it goes fairly unnoticed. Arlington does a good job with the basics, giving me the freedom to focus on making sure all departments share a culture of making service to the residents of Arlington our top priority.
My goal is to develop a team that works well together and is comfortable pointing out areas where we can improve our interactions with each other and the community we serve.
SHARE A MOMENT THAT REMINDED YOU OF THE WAYS IN WHICH YOUR DEPARTMENT’S WORK MAKES THE TOWN BETTER FOR THE RESIDENTS?
I was fairly new to the job when the micro-burst hit East Arlington. It pretty much devastated a square mile area. Two hundred trees came down. No one had power. And almost immediately, all the relevant departments were on the scene. The Building Inspector was there. The Fire chief was there. The Police Chief was there. The Director of the Department of Public Works was there. Everyone was working smoothly together to marshal their resources.
I was profoundly moved to witness a concrete demonstration of how these crucial departments join forces to serve our community. I realized these competent individuals were the people I'd be working with as Town Manager. It was a powerful moment for me to see them functioning in unity to get the impacted part of the town up and running as quickly as possible. And they did it. I didn't cut any trees. They did it. It was a moving example of town government at its best.
WHEN YOUR COUNTERPART FROM ANOTHER STATE ASKS YOU ABOUT ARLINGTON, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE OUR COMMUNITY?
I would say that Arlington is a close suburb of Boston that has become an increasingly desirable place for people to live for many reasons: the quality of the schools, the proximity to employment, the parks, the restaurants. It's the quality of life, the walkability. Then I would talk about how as a government it is one of the most, if not the most, participatory of the participatory forms of government.
We have representative town meeting. We do a number of public forums on all issues over the course of the year. The count on the website is now eighty boards and commissions. I praise Arlington as a welcoming, engaged place that's just packed with interesting people: authors, scientists, entrepreneurs, titans of industry, all the incredible people who live here. I always speak glowingly of the community.
The Vision 2020 Fiscal Resources Task Group embraces and works to help the Town better realize the following Town goal: "We value Arlington's efficient delivery of public services providing for the common good. The benefits from these services and the responsibility of taxation will be equitably distributed among us. We will be known for our sound fiscal planning and for the thoughtful, open process by which realistic choices are made in our Town." We meet monthly and all are welcome to attend.