Editor's Note: The following letter was submitted to Dedham Patch by current Dedham Selectman Paul Reynolds, who will not be seeking re-election this year.
The Board of Selectmen will recognize Reynolds and fellow outgoing Selectman Sarah MacDonald Thursday night.
Reynolds Wrap Up: A Final Note of Appreciation
As my tenure as Dedham Selectman nears to a close, I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts and gratitude. When I was first elected back in 2008, we were heading into the worst economic downturn in modern history. It could have been a time where we as a Town panicked and backed away from investing in making the best town even better. But the resilient citizens of Dedham proved smarter, stronger and more strategic than that.
We collectively said “yes” to host of improvements that turned heads across the Commonwealth, including repair of nearly 100 miles of long-neglected road and sewers, building of new schools and facilities, modernization of energy systems in town & school buildings – including installation of solar and other sustainability measures that landed the Leading by Example Environmental Award by the Commonwealth. We also created the Robin Reyes Major Capital Facilities Fund, which dedicates the hotel & meals tax revenues to a special town “piggy bank” to help fund long overdue building projects – including new police and fire stations, and senior center.
The Town also took a courageous lead in funding its retiree pension and health care obligations. As Boston Business Journal reports, "unlike most other communities that adopted reform or made plan changes in the spirit of the reform law, Dedham did something different. Instead of pouring those health care savings back into its operating budget, it committed those freed-up funds to help fully pay its ARC (annual required contributions) going forward. This is unheard of."
Of course, these improvements required investments. As a recent Boston Globe article recently pointed out, Dedham’s tax rate has jumped over the last decade, which reflects a collective decision to finally take care of critical needs. To be clear, no one likes taxes; including me. But I firmly believe that unlike many other towns, we’ve faced up to the true cost of effective government. Today we enjoy the positive results taking on challenges vs. ignoring them. As Boston Business Journal reports, "Indeed, the difference, and what makes the town unusual, is that it has leaders who are willing to think and act in a way that’s beneficial to Dedham’s long-term financial health."
As a result, Dedham is now one of only 29 other municipalities out of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns that have received AAA Bond ratings from either S&P or Moodys. Getting that kind of fiscal report card doesn’t come easy – but we did it.
The Town has also continued to invest in our children’s future. From lower class sizes to investing in technology for our students, and construction of new schools and facilities, Dedham is an attractive choice for new parents deciding where to settle down and raise their children. The debt service on school infrastructure improvements only account for approximately 4% of our taxes – all approved by voters who proudly affirmed one of Dedham’s core values - education.
The Town of Dedham continues to provide the services that people expect - unlike some towns that have slashed services in the face of budget crises. For example, Dedham’s residents not only continue to enjoy curbside trash pick up, but new single-stream recycling has doubled recycle rates and contained costs. Residents don’t necessarily want fewer services – just smarter services. Over the past decade the Town has come up with creative, financially resourceful ways to deliver those services. As a result, Dedham is turning heads around in the Commonwealth. At the recent Massachusetts’ Municipal Association’s Annual Conference, House Speaker Robert DeLeo recognized Dedham for its financial management and continued accomplishments.
And so I proudly give a salute to my fellow Board of Selectmen colleagues – Chairman Mike Butler, Jim MacDonald, Carmen DelloIacono, and Sarah MacDonald. We worked extraordinarily well together and helped accelerate these positive changes, as well introduce as a host of new communication tools, including the TownWorks eNewsletter and the Selectmen’s FreshIdeas@dedham-ma.gov group email. These additions increased education and communication efforts, which have fostered a more inclusive and welcoming government.
I also want to recognize the amazing town staff – led by Town Administrator Bill Keegan, an extraordinarily capable executive, and the indomitable Assistant TA Nancy Baker whose talent and incredible knowledge has kept us moving forward so smoothly. Thanks also to State Representative Paul McMurtry who models “service above self” every day – and serves as an inspiration to me – as well as so many others.
After April 12, I will continue celebrate all the good work we have accomplished together. And most of all, continue to give thanks to each one you for believing in and investing in making the best town even better – for generations to come.
Board of Selectmen, 2008-2014