Suhoski to chair statewide organization

  • Athol Town Manager Shaun A. Suhoski Contributed photo

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 11/23/2020 5:34:38 PM
Modified: 11/23/2020 5:34:19 PM

ATHOL — Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski has been chosen to head up an organization that serves administrators from communities across the Commonwealth. At the virtual annual meeting of Small Town Administrators of Massachusetts (STAM) held earlier this month, Suhoski was picked to replace outgoing chair Andrea Llamas, town administrator for the town of Northfield.

“Our organization in any given year,” said Suhoski, “represents, or has about 80 — maybe 100, in a good year — administrators from towns of 12,000 or less. Andrea served as our chair, quite capably and was very well organized; kind of like the rock of the group for about a decade.

“I wasn’t expecting to be nominated, but somebody approached me and asked if I’d object, and I said ‘no.’ I had served on the Executive Committee for several years, and on the Program Committee; so, I’m really looking forward to the next year.”

Suhoski praised Llamas for, among other things, formalizing the formal certification process and credentialing.

Suhoski said that, among other things, STAM serves as a resource for problem-solving.

“Number one,” he said, “it’s a peer resource. Our list serve is able to reach across 100 communities across the Commonwealth, and somebody — an administrator in one of those communities — has likely faced an issue or concern that later comes up for someone else.

“So, we’re able to provide peer support, reference materials, things like that.”

The group, he explained, also encourages young people to look at public administration as a possible career choice.

“We do, as a collective, recognize the need for more young folks to take an interest in these careers,” he explained.

“One of the reasons I’m excited about the next year or so is that, in my role as chair, I hope to further strengthen the partnership with the Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC) in advocating the rural agenda.”

Suhoski, who represents the Montachusett region on the RPAC, noted that group has taken a look at the need for more people to enter the field. A report done by the organization “did focus on the need to recruit and retain — to have a pipeline of future administrative officials.

“The Mass. Municipal Association (MMA), as well, recognizes that, and they put together a video series to encourage younger people to choose this career. So, we are working on that, and I suspect we’re going to need to do a lot more.

“We’re getting a little long in the tooth in our profession and we need committed, energetic and intelligent folks to come along behind us.”

Suhoski said STAM is not actively involved in legislative lobbying but does work to highlight the issues of importance to smaller Bay State communities.

“Where STAM and the Rural Policy Advisory Commission are at is we’re trying to bring and amplify the voice of rural Massachusetts to make sure the needs at least are heard and brought forward so they can be addressed. The MMA will bring their legislative analysis to our meetings on a quarterly basis, and we’ll use their research to encourage members of STAM to weigh in with their boards of selectmen, if we see something that’s of concern. We don’t want to be a political group because we’re not elected; we’re appointed officials.”

Suhoski said his position as chair of STAM will take very little time away from his main duty of serving the town of Athol and will indeed assist him in meeting his responsibilities.

“I probably couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve had to go to STAM with a question or concern, or just to help to find some arcane statute to help in understanding issues that are happening here,” he said. “We all provide support to each other, and it’s good to have professional colleagues you can rely upon or look to historical processes. It’s going to make for better decision-making in our day-to-day work.

“Many times it can save time. So, I don’t spend my time recreating the wheel.”

In addition to his membership in STAM and other professional organization, Suhoski said employees of the town are encouraged to do likewise.

“We encourage our employees to be involved with professional organizations and professional development,” he concluded. “The employee is becoming more skilled, gaining experience, knowledge, ability, building relationships across the Commonwealth.

“At the same time, they’re displaying to other areas of the Commonwealth that, hey, Athol has some pretty sharp people.”

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