MMA to fete trailblazer Nancy Eddy of Amherst 

  • Nancy Eddy of Amherst  Town of Amherst

  • Nancy Eddy of Amherst Town of Amherst

Staff Writer
Published: 1/15/2019 4:04:35 PM

AMHERST — When the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting and trade show begins Friday with a visit from Gov. Charlie Baker, an Amherst woman will be recognized for her role in establishing the organization.

Nancy Eddy, MMA’s first president, is heading to the Hines Convention Center and Sheraton Boston Hotel for this year’s 40th anniversary event, which has the theme “Strong Communities for a Stronger Commonwealth.”

Eddy, who served for nine years on the Amherst Select Board, said she appreciates that the organization is still going strong four decades later and that “the voice of cities and towns” remains a critical connection between the commonwealth’s 351 communities and state government.

“I think it’s been very successful,” Eddy said. “When it started I was quite confident the association would meet the needs of cities and towns.” 

As the organization marks the milestone, Eddy, 81, said she has observed the MMA take on broad policy issues, push for more joint and bulk purchasing to reduce costs and endorse group health insurance. “The sharing of ideas and resources has been useful,” Eddy said

There is also the expertise it offers on a range of topics, from municipal broadband to adult-use marijuana.

In fact, the annual meeting features 34 educational workshops and 10 learning labs, with Amherst’s Economic Development Director, Geoff Kravitz, part of one on the cannbis industry called “Growing Pains: Municipal Best Practices for the Marijuana Industry,” and Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello discussing “Here Comes the Sun: Bringing Renewable Energy to Your Community.”

The trade show will have 200 exhibitors and there will be an opportunity to network with municipal officials. Guest speakers will include former Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez, Senate President Karen Spilka and radio personalities Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.

Eddy said forming the MMA in 1979 was a lengthy process as it developed out of several other organizations, like the Massachusetts League of Cities and Towns, Massachusetts Mayors Association and Massachusetts City Coalition, that merged into it.

“A number of us thought the whole arena of cities and towns would be better represented if one voice was speaking to the governor, the Legislature and regulatory agencies,” Eddy said.

But it wasn’t an easy sell. She remembers traveling to more than 40 communities to convince them that one staff would reduce costs, and it took a few years before there were enough votes to form the MMA. A Gazette article dated July 2, 1979 quotes Eddy as saying the new organization would have more clout. ”There is now only one organization dealing with local government, the MMA,” she said.

As president for two years, Eddy also served on a committee that would meet once a month with the governor for even better direct advocacy.

Despite MMA’s work, she said there are some lingering concerns in the state, including the ever present equity issue over property taxes and how public education is funded, along with funding formulas for infrastructure needs, such as roads, highways and public transportation, and mandated costs put on communities.

Eddy, who is retired as vice president of administration and finance at Holyoke Community College, was one of few females in leadership at that time.

Later this week, she knows there will be more women at the annual conference and trade show and leaders at the state and local level that better reflects the state’s population.

“More diversity is always good,” Eddy said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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