Facing The Challenges of Change
(from Maine Townsman, January 2001)
by Bruce Benway, MMA President; City Manager of Biddeford

The July, 2000 cover of the Maine Townsman showed four maps of Maine depicting the expansion of development from 1960, 1980, 2000 (projected) and 2020 (projected). These four maps spanning only sixty years demonstrate growth changes affecting Maine's citizens. While it is most evident in southern Maine, the trend toward a more urban/suburban state has implications for all who love the great State of Maine. The expansion of development has and will continue to prompt changes which some will identify as signs of progress while others will see a loss to the "way life should be."

Municipal officials must and will face the challenges of planning and responding to the effects of development growth. The reality of ongoing change and new challenges underscores the importance of being prepared, of recognizing the effects of change and taking appropriate steps to meet new challenges. Maine Municipal Association has a proud history of serving member needs as changes and challenges are met by local government officials.

In addition to ongoing advocacy, legal and technical assistance, training and group self insurance programs, MMA regularly provides new offerings to address special needs. During the energy crisis of the early 1980's, MMA provided energy audit services. The upheaval of the commercial insurance market in the mid-1980's led to the establishment of the MMA Property and Casualty Program. The Governing Skills and Municipal Leadership Programs are more recent efforts to assist elected and appointed municipal officials to deal with our many challenges. The Technology in Local Government Conference, scheduled for March 20 at the Augusta Civic Center, is an important effort to assist local officials in finding and applying technology to all municipal operations.

We remain committed to MMA's mission - to serve the needs of local governments throughout Maine and advocate for common interests at the state and national level. By surveying and outreaching to members this year, the MMA Executive Committee will invite input regarding current and future needs. We will use the information from these efforts to map out possible new areas of service. 

We are also taking steps to ensure the vitality of the organization as a resource to the members. In a follow-up to the Organizational Study conducted last year, we will review our governance structure and procedures to ensure sound organizational planning and policy making through effective member representation while keeping membership participation a priority. The Executive Director will continue his efforts to strengthen internal coordination and collaboration with the goal of delivering services effectively and efficiently.

Municipal government has been a predominant part of my life since an early age when my father served as a town manager. It is especially pleasing to be continuing that legacy in Maine and to have the opportunity and privilege to serve you as President of the Maine Municipal Association. As I begin my year as MMA President, I want to thank you for your support and invite you to share your thoughts and suggestions with me and other members of the Executive Committee.