Gaining expertise and broadening their knowledge, three municipal employees recently completed a local government certificate program from Suffolk University.
The three employees — information technology czar Aaron Hyre, Boyden Library Deputy Coordinator Christina Metcalf and Assistant Treasurer Veronica Harvey — were recognized last week by selectmen for their efforts.
“The whole program is designed to train the future leadership of municipalities,” Town Manager William Keegan told selectmen while introducing Metcalf and Harvey. “There’s a real challenge, as we all know, trying to get people into that business because it’s a very demanding role.”
Hyre could not attend last week’s session.
Approximately two dozen students had been enrolled in the program, which consisted of five, five-week courses from September 2018 to May 2019. In a fortuitous turn, last year’s program was hosted by the town of Foxboro, with classes held each Friday in the meeting at Town Hall.
This partly offset the cost of tuition, Keegan said.
Offered in conjunction with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the graduate-level academic program provides participants with a solid grounding in public management. Certificate program courses consist of the same curriculum offered at the Boston campus of Suffolk University, and are taught by Suffolk faculty — most of whom are either present or former town managers.
“We were very fortunate, not only in learning academically from them, but from their life experiences as well,” Harvey said.
Keegan said the certificate program fulfills roughly one-third of the requirements for a master’s degree in public administration. Applicants must secure the endorsement of their mayor or town manager/administrator in order to enroll.
“I’m really proud that you both did it and came through with flying colors,” Keegan said, noting that Harvey graduated with distinction and Metcalf was one of two student speakers at commencement ceremonies. “It’s very complex work these days, and these ladies have found out how really complex it can be.”
According to Keegan, this brings to six the number of Foxboro employees who have completed the rigorous program. Other graduates have included Assistant Town Manager Michael Johns, former Assistant Town Manager Mary Beth Bernard and Building Commissioner Nicholas Riccio.
“It was intense, but it was worth it,” Harvey said. “I feel like we both grew professionally as well as personally.”
Harvey added that the opportunity to network with municipal professionals in other communities was invaluable.
“It’s been a huge benefit on multiple levels — not just as an academic achievement.”
Metcalf said the first 10 weeks featured a morning course, in which students were each assigned a different community to research, which proved especially challenging.
“It culminated in a very research-intense project,” Metcalf said, adding that she had been assigned the town of Foxboro.
“Well, how’d we do?” inquired selectmen Chairman Mark Elfman.
“I think we’re in a transition phase, depending on how the commuter rail project goes,” Metcalf replied. “We’ll see how everything works out, but I think we’re a good community — a strong community.”
Harvey told selectmen she was assigned to research the city of Cambridge, where she had worked previously, for her research project.
“It was good to see everyone’s take on where we’ve come from and where we’re going to,” she observed. ‘I feel very empowered after taking it.”
Elfman offered his congratulations on behalf of fellow board members.