The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mike Nicholson

Mike Nicholson photo
Executive Aide to the Mayor
City of Gardner, Massachusetts

Degree & graduation year: Accelerated Master of Public Policy, 2017

What I do: What I love about my job is that it is different depending on the day. My position is the equivalent of a chief of staff position in an executive office. While the bulk of my job consists of researching new initiatives the city can undertake to promote itself and better the quality of life for its residents, my daily tasks can change on the dot depending on what issues arise, phone calls we get, visits we receive, or things we see on social media. I have been involved in everything from union negotiations to grant writing, general constituent services, public-private partnership collaboration, and more. I also act as a liaison between the Mayor’s office and other city and state departments and officials.

How I ended up working there: I ended up in my current position in Mayor Hawke’s office after having interned in his office for some time. Throughout my undergraduate career, I interned in his office during all of my school breaks. The summer between my undergrad and my master’s, the mayor offered me the job based on the work he had seen me do while acting as his intern.

The best part of my job: Being able to see the impact of the projects that I am working on in the city. Working in a public sector executive office really allows you to see the benefits of your job first hand. From helping someone who walks into the office, or seeing people use new infrastructure that the city put up through a grant that I wrote, it is a really rewarding feeling.

A recent exciting work experience: One of the fun projects that I get to oversee annually is the Gardner Food Truck Festival. We start planning in October and the festival takes place on the second Saturday in June. This year’s event was a huge success with more than 3,000 people attending. It’s really exciting to see something that you put so much work into come together in a way for the community to come out and enjoy a fun start to the summer.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: The School of Public Policy taught me how to look at policy through a broad lens, rather than in a specific area. Aspects of public policy can be found in just about any field, discipline, or topic. My classes at SPP have helped me to view the work I do every day through that same lens and to be able to see the full picture of the projects I work on.

Future plans: I definitely want to stay involved in state and local government-related jobs. Where that takes me is something we’ll just have to wait and see, but I like working in public service and being able to help people every day through my job.