Gov. Maura Healey announces new rural affairs position
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey announced Friday that she plans to appoint a rural affairs director.
"We're really excited about this position," she said. "First of its kind, first time in the state to have a director of rural affairs who will be there working super closely with 180 rural communities across Massachusetts."
Healey, who made the announcement during a visit to the western part of the state, said one of the key tasks for whoever fills the job will be to review all state grant opportunities to ensure that barriers for rural and small towns are limited.
The director of rural affairs will also hold office hours, so towns can receive technical assistance to identify possible grants.
Dalton Town Manager Tom Hutcheson said the new position is welcome news. He said it can help towns get more funding.
"Some of it is the smaller capacity of small towns to work on grant programs and making sure that their towns are getting the same kind of benefits that larger towns get," he said.
However, the select board chair in Conway, Philip Kantor, said the position's creation is another example of western Mass. being forgotten about by Beacon Hill.
"We got a drive-by announcement of the creation of a new committee or the creation of a new position that basically has no long-term dedicated funding attached to it," he said.
Speaking to NEPM's "The Fabulous 413" Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said the new role is meant to bring more attention to communities across the state.
"I can understand why a lot of folks in western Mass., particularly local officials, feel forgotten," she said. "One of the reasons we're putting this position in place is so we can bring more intentionality into the work that we're doing."
Both Hutcheson and Kantor agreed more needs to be done to help fund road projects and school transportation in rural areas.
NEPM's Adam Frenier and Sam Hudzik contributed to this report.
This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.