After 40-plus years, Brennan to step down from Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in September

  • Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, will retire in September after 40-plus years at the regional planning organization. Gazette file photo/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 2/24/2019 8:06:34 PM

Correction: The rail service through Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke is regular-speed commuter rail. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission began work cleaning the Connecticut River 25 years ago, and that work is ongoing. PVPC serves communities Hampshire and Hampden Counties.

SPRINGFIELD — For nearly four decades, Tim Brennan has had a hand in shaping western Massachusetts communities, from helping develop and fund transportation improvements to cleaning up the Connecticut River and launching high-speed passenger rail service.

But come September, the 72-year-old executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission will retire from the organization that helped launch his career more than 40 years ago.

“It (retiring) is extraordinarily tough because I love my job,” said Brennan, who in 1981 was named to lead the regional planning agency that represents 43 communities in western Massachusetts. “Every day is different. I have never been bored once, in all of these decades of service. I am addicted to the work that makes people’s lives better.”

The Hadley resident fell in love with the area in 1973 when he began graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He began at PVPC as an intern, a position that eventually led to a job with the Springfield-based organization.

After taking over as executive director in 1981, Brennan said he developed solid working relationships with many of the senior colleagues.

One of his first accomplishments was helping to modernize and grow the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority in the mid-1970s.

“That was a pretty exciting and memorable experience for a rookie for sure,” said Brennan.

The planning expert said he’s proud of much of PVPC’s work under his tenure, most notably its role in the launch of passenger rail service in late 2014. The Amtrak service passes through stations in Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke. Commuters can travel south to Springfield, New Haven, New York or as far north as St. Albans, Vermont.

“The ridership has been superb and growing every year,” said Brennan.

Hopes are high that the service will soon expand to two trains in the morning and two trains in the evening. Brennan said his agency is working with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments in Greenfield and local politicians to push for that expansion.

PVPC’s reach goes far beyond commuter rail, however. The agency has played a role in launching an electric bike-sharing program called the ValleyBike, crafting community development plans for numerous communities in Hampshire and Hampden counties, and helping organizations that deal with domestic violence.

“We have an agenda that honestly goes from A to Z with hundreds of projects, big, small and in between,” Brennan said.

Wayne Feiden, Northampton’s planning director, worked with Brennan numerous times over the years, including on the bike share program.

“He’s been great to work with,” Feiden said. “He combines that nice piece of a nice clear vision and how to get there.”

PVPC just celebrated 25 years since it began work helping member communities clean up the Connecticut River, bringing it to a fishable and swimmable level.

“I am fond of saying our job as an agency is saying we plan with people not for them,” Brennan explained. “We plan, we do, we measure what we do.”

His endeavors cross state lines, carrying through “a mix of beautiful tiny towns and urban core cities.”

In his retirement, Brennan plans to stay in the area. He looks for ward to traveling, spending time with family and adopting a do g.

After taking some time off, Brennan plans dedicate himself to volunteer opportunities. He specifically hopes to focus on the challenges related to climate change.

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