Unmasked: Visiting with Holliston’s Newest Officials

While most of us were hunkered down as of March 16, 2020, the work of town government continued uninterrupted as the paid professionals and unpaid officials met via Zoom and even conducted hiring procedures for several positions. Here’s what they have to say about trying to start new jobs during COVID. We asked the same questions of all of them.

Matt Zettek

Matt ZettekSustainability Coordinator

When did you start in your job as Sustainability Coordinator for Holliston?

The end of January 2020.

How long have you worked in this field?

2021 marks my 30th year working (and volunteering) in the environmental field.

I believe this is a part time contract position, is that right?

Yes. The original intent was to have a position shared with Sherborn, but both Towns established their own part time positions.

What have the biggest challenges been during COVID?

My supervisor, the Town Administrator, announced his retirement three weeks into the job and the Commonwealth went into a State of Emergency three weeks later. Pandemic restrictions impacted getting to know the community as well as colleagues in Town and at the local, regional and state levels. Programmatic and budgetary uncertainties have added to the challenge.

What do you see as opportunities for the community in sustainability?

Supporting our agricultural, open space and recreational communities, expanding solar at the schools and municipal buildings, maximizing efficiencies in current services and operations and assisting residents and business community transition to a cleaner, healthier way of doing business are some key opportunities to improve the Town’s health and well being.

What successes have you already enjoyed, in other words, what’s the good news?

The position was only funded for five months so, per the Select Board’s directive, the initial success was helping to secure a non tax based funding source to help sustain the position.

The new three year electric aggregation program that began in December 2020 has a 100% renewable component and will generate more than $325,000 in annual savings for participants. To help reduce waste, textile recycling is now available at the Recycling Center and a food waste subscription composting initiative with Ashland has expanded this curbside service. The MetroWest Solar + Clean Heat Challenge begins in mid June and provides discounted pricing for solar and clean heat and cooling technologies to residents and small businesses.

What keeps you awake at night now that things are normalizing – hopefully nothing!

I am fortunate and sleep well at night!

What message of greeting would you like to send to the community?

Holliston is a beautiful Town with great people and community spirit. Working together in a sustainable way will enhance the quality of life and put us in good position for the Town’s 300th birthday celebration in 2024 and beyond.

Mark Kaferlein

Mark KaferleinBuilding Inspector

When did you start your job as Building Inspector?

November 9, 2020

What have the biggest challenges been during COVID?

My three kids and wife got COVID during the first two months. I was quarantined at home with a computer, when the first kid got sick, within the first two weeks of starting the job. Thank goodness the town had a computer system that allowed me to work from home. It all started in November and then at Christmas another one was sick, and in January, my daughter got it. Then someone that works here in the basement got it. Off and on – I was quarantined for five or six days at a time. The constant changing of the criteria, the inconsistency between feds and local officials, was crazy.

What do you see for opportunities in the Department?

I think we are on our way there with the new online system and we need to get everybody to buy into it, even if they think they are not good with computers. In time, the online permit process will speed things up.

This town does close to 900 permits a year – with only one inspector. I do have one alternate inspector for follow-up inspections on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Even going back to 2016, we issued 830 permits at a value of $30 million. In 2017, 835 permits, and then, 2018 dipped to 787 with a value of about $34million. In 2019, there were 860 permits, and in 2020 – during COVID –  795 permits at $32 million, and to date 860, as of May, for $53 million in estimated value.

We are just plugging away. But right now, if someone applies for a permit, I can’t even look at it for five to seven days. In between, we have to deal with Zoning Enforcement issues, too. There are lots of calls with questions and requests for clarification

The point is that the computer system can improve the process and speed it up…so we want folks to use it.

What successes have you already enjoyed? What’s the good news?

Getting my feet on the ground was good!. Also, I found that for years, the business certificates were signed off on and just tossed in a file. Now I work with the Town Clerk and get the applications when people apply for certificates, and I can verify them. This can avoid all kinds of violations.

The new part time person will be digging through paperwork and scanning all relevant history under each address in town so that it’s all in one location, whether it was a septic permit, wiring or a Special Permit – no matter which department issued it. Everything will go into the computer under each address instead of paper archives. And any Department can access everything.

What keeps you awake at night now that things are normalizing – hopefully nothing!

Nothing keeps me awake. You can drive a freight train through my bedroom, and it won’t wake me up. Ask my wife, she can tell you.

What message would you like to send to the community?

We’re online!!

There’s a big upgrade coming in August. More user friendly. Homeowners and contractors all need to utilize that system.

Here’s how: Go to the town’s website https://www.townofholliston.us/

  • Departments – click on Building Department –  front page – apply for online permit here..
  • That takes you into the online software. Just type  in the name and number of the site and it shows everything on that property. Click on apply for permit.
  • This software helps Realtors, too – and buyers.
  • Scan any required documents – big architectural drawings, plot plans, BOH applications and permits, signed contracts – everything that we would ask for at the counter needs to go in here.
  • Homeowners can do a hand drawing, but it has to be enough for me to be sure the project complies. I need measurements, layout of joists, beams. I need the same information I’d ask for if you came to the counter. They can be scanned right into the system and they will live there.

My message?  Anybody that thinks they need a building permit, 99% of the time they do. Pretty much everything needs a permit. If you are a new business, check with the Building Inspector because you may need a permit to do your business. Look at the Zoning Bylaws – Section 3 – Use Regulations. If there’s an N, the use is not allowed at all, and if your use is not listed in the bylaw, you need to get a variance for that use. Better to know that at the outset.

Mary Greendale


  1. Christina Hein on July 16, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    Both Matt and Mark have been excellent additions to the Town of Holliston. Both have stepped into their new roles during very challenging times and have adapted well. Thank you for all your good work to date!

    Tina Hein
    Chair, Select Board

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