This Month's Gateway Cities Leader
Cities are shaped by their citizens. From New Bedford to Pittsfield, passionate young leaders are spearheading innovative efforts to reinvent their communities for a new generation. The Gateway Cities Leaders series profiles their work and introduces their ideas, visions, and aspirations to the wider Gateway City world.
Patrick Beaudry is the Manager of Public Affairs for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. The grandson of a Holyoke firefighter, Pat was born and raised in Holyoke where he attended Holyoke Public Schools. After graduating from Suffolk University, Pat worked for Senator Chang-Diaz, State Rep. Mike Kane, and Senator Mike Knapik before stints in politics and the private sector in Boston. Pat is earning a Masters in Public Administration and is happy to be back in government in the Paper City.
Tell us about the work that the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission does.
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) is the state-designated regional planning agency for the 43 cities and towns of Hampden and Hampshire counties. Our primary areas of focus are transportation, community development, environment and land use, and economic development. We work on a regional level to promote greater collaboration and coordination, as well as directly assisting our member communities with a wide range of technical assistance offerings from by-law updates and mapping services, to running domestic violence prevention programs in our more rural areas.
Why did you want to work at PVPC?
I sincerely believe the Pioneer Valley is on the cusp of an exciting and sustainable renaissance. We boast incredible levels of green energy, open space, cultural offerings and affordable housing stock. We are at the crossroads of I-91 and the Pike and will enjoy increased transit access to New York City in 2018 as Connecticut begins running expanded service from Springfield’s Union Station to Grand Central. We have an ever strengthening creative economy and, more exciting for me, a craft beer scene I’d put up against any other region’s in the world.
With all that in mind, I think the PVPC’s mission is perfectly aligned with securing the remaining needs of the region. Our work in community development is helping older towns make their communities more livable for people of all ages and abilities, as well as updating their antiquated infrastructure. Our environment and land use section is working hard to protect vital natural resources like the Valley’s crown jewel – the Connecticut River – while also continuing to push municipalities to think more holistically about how the decisions they make in shaping the built environment can positively impact their residents. In my role as Public Affairs Manager, I am able to work with my colleagues to ensure the public stays informed about decision-making processes happening in their communities and what opportunities they have to weigh in. I am also able to work with planning folks from across the Commonwealth on legislative and budgetary matters affecting us all, while ensuring the Valley’s perspective is heard.
Lastly, our ongoing efforts to secure transit equity for the region remains my key passion, as we continue to push for more East-West and up-Valley rail options, while also fighting tooth and nail for the low-income, elderly, disabled and student riders who depend on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) to get to work, medical appointments, class, and other important destinations.
How has your relationship with your hometown changed throughout your career?
I think when you grow up as a fourth-generation Holyoker, you’re pretty damn sure you know what’s what in your hometown. It wasn’t until I started working as an aide to the elected officials representing the community and was invited to meet new people and learn about their efforts that I fully appreciated how much was going on in Holyoke.
That was the case back in 2011 when I started working for Rep. Kane, and it remains the case to this day. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to be able to play a small part in the community’s local food system planning, encourage our participation in the soon-to-be-launched regional ValleyBike Share program, and I’ve spent time with the amazing folks at the Holyoke Urban Bike School (HUBS) out of the YMCA, who take kids who have never held a wrench before and turn them into confident and capable bike riders and mechanics three days a week.
Essentially, I have tried to align my own local volunteerism with the work of the PVPC. I enjoy riding my bike and forgoing the car keys as often as possible, so I joined the Holyoke Walking and Biking Committee. I hope for a more inclusive and empowering political process here in town, so I work with the Holyoke Democratic City Committee’s Outreach Subcommittee. I want business and government to work hand-in-hand to create an economic environment that allow entrepreneurs to chase their dreams, pay a livable wage, and make our community more vibrant, so I participate in the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee. Lastly, I had a hell of a lot of help from those who came before me in this city and now recognize it’s my turn to lend a hand to the next generation. I’ve been extremely proud to build a friendship with a young Holyoker named Jayden through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County, who has taught me as much as I’ve taught him.
Where have you seen the most progress take place in the region?
What I have found interesting about the Pioneer Valley’s gateway cities is they have all enjoyed varying degrees of economic progress over the past few years, but all on their respective communities’ own terms. Springfield obviously has a lot going on between the Union Station and upcoming MGM Casino openings downtown, and has also rolled out renovations to the Basketball Hall of Fame and a new Dr. Seuss Museum. Chicopee has remained a global manufacturing competitor, going toe-to-toe with site options abroad and winning. Westfield has invested a great deal in their downtown vibrancy with ever increasing walking, biking, and dining options. Holyoke is not only on the cusp of leading the Commonwealth in the emerging marijuana industry – filling the empty mill space that once made it the paper producing capital of the world, but has also had recent successes in developing an arts and culture district along one of our three canals on Race Street, as well as entering the initial planning stages for creating a Puerto Rican Cultural District in South Holyoke that will rightly capitalize on Holyoke’s status as the highest per capita Puerto Rican population in the country.
What is the biggest challenge that lies ahead in 2018?
Graduating college and entering public service in 2009, I have yet to know a ‘good’ federal, state, or local budget. Looking ahead, we will continue to fight budget cuts and advocate to maintain level funding on a whole host of important line items – particularly at the state level. Whether it’s shaking an additional $1 million loose in the FY’19 Capital budget to address the nearly $320 million worth of work left to be completed to address Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke’s legacy combined sewer overflow infrastructure in defense of the Connecticut River, securing the funding necessary to avoid a second round of service cuts in as many years at the PVTA, or continuing to be vocal cheerleaders for funding sources like the Community Compact, Efficiency and Regionalization grants, and District Local Technical Assistance, among others, we are up to the task.
What has been your proudest moment on the job?
Though far from complete, I would have to say my involvement in the ValleyBike Share program and Gateway Hilltowns Collaborative have been my two proudest endeavors.
Bike share programs have become standard issued for America’s major metro areas like Boston, but making them work in places like Worcester and Salem, as well as here in the Valley, come with a few additional challenges. I have been proud to play a small part in bringing this 21st century amenity to Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, Amherst and South Hadley next spring – the first entirely electric-assist fleet in the Commonwealth – and cannot wait to see it finally come to fruition after years of planning and hard work by people much smarter than me.
The Gateway Hilltowns Collaborative was a project I was fortunate enough to join while still on the ground floor. Through the Commonwealth’s Community Compact program, six towns with a combined population of about 7,500 people have come together to pursue shared municipal services, IT operations, and regional economic development while maintaining the towns’ individual identities. Facing aging populations, shrinking school enrollments, and the same economic fallout experienced by many Gateway Cities in the loss of manufacturing, Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, Montgomery, and Russell, under the Collaborative’s leadership, are taking a fresh look at how their communities can be vibrant, accessible, and developable for current residents as well as the next generation.
It has the ‘little bit of country, little bit of rock and roll’ variety we enjoy here in the Pioneer Valley and I remain incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work in a diverse range of communities with the residents who work hard every day to make them better.
What is your favorite hidden gem in Holyoke?
I’m going to go with an indoor and outdoor hidden gem on this question.
The New England National Scenic Trail, which stretches from the Long Island Sound to New Hampshire, actually runs right through the Mt. Tom State Reservation in town and has spectacular views westward of the Berkshires and northeastward to the Mount Holyoke range, separated by the mighty Connecticut River. There are numerous trailheads along its path that put most city residents within minutes of accessing one of the top hiking trails in the Northeast.I would also highlight Race Street and Holyoke’s Canal Walk, with Gateway City Arts serving as its main anchor. Starting as simple studio space, Gateway City Arts has grown into a café, bar, restaurant and music/community venue, hosting everything from local fundraisers to sold-out shows by the nationally renowned, funk and jam band Rubblebucket. They also recently secured funding to develop shared office space for entrepreneurs. Gateway City Art’s success has given investors the confidence to move forward with additional developments like the Cubit, which will host Holyoke Community College’s MGM Culinary Arts Institute on its first two floors and market rate apartments on the top two floors.
Is there a young leader in your city that we should spotlight? Please let us know.