“A Successful Town Needs Volunteers”, says Mark Ahronian
Now enjoying his “retirement” from the Select Board, Mark Ahronian met with Chris and me recently to share thoughts about his term. He had selected a breezy patio for our socially distanced meeting, and he and Linda set out lemonade and various treats for our chat. The afternoon was hot, humidity was dense, but Mark’s ease in conversation soon helped us to sit back and enjoy his Holliston tales.
“What did you do on Monday night?” we asked, knowing he had not peeked into the Zoom conference call of the Select Board, the first since Election Day, June 23. He and Linda had gone out for dinner, now that Governor Baker’s Phase 3 had made eating in a restaurant possible. The celebration included their anniversary and Mark’s birthday. Noting that a celebration for the pair was not exactly what he had in mind, a larger party will have to wait for another time.
Mark soon noted what he had left behind: homework, preparation for meetings, reading and answering emails, attending events, acting as a liaison to other committees–not to mention that this was an extraordinary year with a health emergency. With buildings closing, postponements to enact, the creation of a 1/12th budget, and setting up for such an unprecedented emergency, more time and effort was required of everyone. Add to that a change of trash and recycling company, and searches conducted and completed for a Sustainability Coordinator, a Facilities Manager, and a Town Administrator. This year was a test of even this experienced Board member’s mettle.
It was through Mark’s past successful and varied volunteer efforts that he felt he learned the most valuable lessons that he applied to his Select Board work. “Public service is so important,” he said. “A successful town needs volunteers.”
He remembered serving as a member of the Council on Aging. For several years with the COA, Mark advocated for this special segment of the population. But working with others to plan, design, and landscape a new larger parking lot for the Senior Center honed some of Mark’s skills in volunteering. He was quick to point out the phone calls he made to others, who quickly responded with labor, materials, and skills. Calling in the Town Administrator was another boon to the project. And the final outcome—a parking lot that is larger, safer, and more picturesque, was the benefit of teamwork.
Another valued experience Mark shared was his time working with the Holliston in Bloom Committee. In traveling “around the country” for this purpose, Mark said he learned that the outcome of any project would be better the more people were involved. He spoke proudly of not only Holliston’s 1st place win(s), but also of the recognition received for its community involvement.
One of Mark’s observations about foot traffic also resulted in teamwork responsible for creating a crosswalk from the municipal parking lot through the area between the Fire Department and the auto garage on Central Street. “It was a dangerous area,” said Mark. Again working with many others, Mark engaged Paul Saulnier, Herb Brockett, the Fire Chief, among others, and even a group of HHS student artists to create a space that was now safe and attractive (and known to some as Mark Ahronian Way).
A final project, the Town Hall side patio for employees and guests was the last experience Mark shared with us. Completed before our move to Holliston, the patio steps, reclaimed bricks, and gardens required endless hours of work by many, many residents, each sharing time and talents with the town. Through collaboration, the project was completed, and so many were able not only to share a role in its creation, but also to share in the pride of accomplishment.
Final words to us of what makes a good public servant—whether a Select Board member, a committee member, or a lone volunteer? “Ninety per cent of the job was listening to others,” said Mark. “Keep the [communication] lines open.” Evidence of Mark’s listening is all around town.