Executive Director Message

Margaret M.L. Byrnes

Last November, NHMA put on its first ever virtual Annual Conference, which was a great success. Although we had hoped 2021 would allow us to return to our normal two day, in person conference, we determined that the safest decision was to hold a hybrid event—with something for everyone! The first day, Wednesday, November 17, will take place at the Doubletree in Manchester, for all of you who are ready to network and connect again in person. The core educational sessions on Wednesday will also be live streamed, so attendees who prefer to attend virtually can do so. Thursday and Friday will be entirely virtual, with numerous presenters sharing their time and expertise to educate local officials on everything from The Right-to-Know Law to ARPA funds and cybersecurity. It is almost inconceivable to think that it will have been two years since we were all able to meet in person at the Annual Conference, and NHMA staff are really looking forward to seeing our members there, whether in person or through the computer screen! We’re so grateful that technology—although it’s not without its challenges—allows us to stay connected and to continue to serve our mission of advocating for and supporting local government.

This year’s keynote presenter theme is Progress through Partnership. The theme was particularly important to us this year. As we looked back on all the challenges that have been presented to us and to our members since March 2020, we reflected that the most successful outcomes were achieved when we were forming partnerships and collaborations—working together rather than working against each other. We were grateful for collaborations with other organizations and individuals, as well as with partners at the State.

Lately, partnership might feel a little impossible—like something from a time gone by. Friction and divisiveness seem to permeate all aspects of life, and we know the weight it’s placing on our local officials trying to do their job, while respecting all perspectives and accounting for the safety of their residents.

Despite some of the challenges of the current times, NHMA will not lose sight of its purpose. We were formed by local officials in 1941 with a singular goal: to serve as a unified voice for cities and towns in New Hampshire. No matter our differences of opinion, we know we are stronger together, especially when advocating for local government. This is particularly important to keep in mind as we gear up for another legislative session: While it may feel as if the legislative session just ended, over 800 LSRs (“legislative service requests,” most of which will become bills for the 2022 legislative session) have been filed so far—and those are just House bill requests. If you followed our reporting in the Legislative Bulletin this past year, you know that there was a disturbing trend of anti-local government sentiment, reflected in a mixture of mandates, downshifting, and threats to local control.

But you also know that, in the end, the advocacy from local government officials across the state made the difference, and that the session ultimately included some great wins—as well as many important defeats. NHMA members will once again be called on in 2022 to speak up and explain why local government is so important and why partnerships and collaboration, not mandates, are the key to success.

Margaret Byrnes

Margaret serves as Executive Director and oversees all activities of the New Hampshire Municipal Association.

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