February 23, 2012
LARP Alumni Assume Leadership Roles in Ware, Easthampton
When Easthampton, MA, city planner Stuart Beckley MRP ’89 (landscape architecture and regional planning) recently left his position after 22 years to become town manager of Ware, MA, Mayor Michael Tautznik stated, “He is irreplaceable,” referencing Easthampton’s growth and expansion under Beckley’s watch. Enter Jessica Allan MRP, MLA ’04 (landscape architecture and regional planning), who will take over the position in early March.
“[His] are some very big shoes to fill, but the mayor and I both know I’m not going to be the next Stuart,” says Allan. “I’m going to be the next city planner, and it’s a position I’ll cultivate in my own way.”
“We all seemed to agree that Jessica was the best fit,” Tautznik says. “She lives here, she knows the community, and she’s already been involved in planning here.” As principal planner at the Springfield-based Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), Allan assisted Easthampton in creating its master plan and also in drafting and adopting “smart growth” zoning that promotes the creation of higher-density housing in downtown areas.
“I’m thrilled to work in the same community where I live, and [one] that I love,” says Allan. “From a planner’s perspective, Easthampton is really an ideal community because you can walk to the downtown, walk on the bike path and to other things. The community also has a lot of great, engaged people.”
At PVPC for the past eight years, Allan gained much background for her new position, including knowledge of state and federal programs designed to help municipalities and eight years experience with solving problems that communities like Easthampton face. She also provided land-use planning and zoning assistance to 43 communities. Prior to PVPC Allan was a research assistant on planning projects for the New England Greenways Consortium at UMass Amherst. Prior to earning her master’s degrees in regional planning and landscape architecture, she worked at the Trust for Public Land in Washington, D.C. “My work there, which involved developing materials and maps for federal land acquisition projects and coordinating grassroots efforts, was one of the reasons I decided to go back to school for the advanced degrees,” says Allan, who earned her BA in journalism from St. Michael’s College in 1995.
When Beckley began two decades ago, Easthampton was a “historic, industrial mill town that had a lot of grit.” His colleagues credit him with playing an instrumental role in improving the city, and hail him as a source of knowledge and details about city government and planning. “He knows all of the bylaws forward and backwards,” says Joseph Pipczynski, director of public works.
Beckley says he’s most proud of the community planning efforts like the Master Plan and the major rezoning effort in 1995, as well as the recreational projects such as the Manhan Rail Trail, the expansion of the parks, and the preservation of open space. Beckley, who served twice as Easthampton’s acting town administrator, says the new job in Ware is "an exciting opportunity" and “the logical next step” in his career. "The two communities are similar, too, in that they both have industrial, working-class histories. I hope to bring stability to Ware,” he notes.
Unanimously recommended, Beckley is “a facilitator, a proven successful leader,” says Kathleen H. Coulombe, chair of the search committee. “[He] sees his own success through the achievements of the whole.”
Much of this information is based on articles by Rebecca Everett of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.