You Guest It: And The Winner Is…Brewster!

by Mary Chaffee

It’s awards season now with the Oscars, Emmys, and other entertainment honors being presented. It’s also awards season for Massachusetts local governments.

Brewster is a scenic coastal town with historic architecture, cherished herring, and a beautiful environment. The town’s population squeaked over 10,000 recently making it the 180th largest municipality in Massachusetts (by population). Despite its size, Brewster has become “a powerhouse of excellence” as evidenced by recent prestigious awards.

Every year, the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) recognizes excellence in Massachusetts municipalities (you could call them the “Oscars” for city and town governments). At its Jan. 19 annual meeting in Boston, Brewster won three awards for excellence in local government:

“Best Town Website”­ (first place): Brewster’s new town website won first place for towns with 5,000 to 12,000 residents. The new town website was launched in 2023 and is a critical part of Brewster’s public engagement. The website aims to provide the public with the information they need, and to make the experience easy and convenient.

“Best Town Report” (third place): Brewster publishes an annual town report that summarizes the government’s activities over the previous year. The town has worked to improve the quality of the report over recent years, and that effort paid off.

“The Municipal Innovation Award”: Brewster received this statewide award that recognizes increased local government effectiveness through creative programs. Brewster’s hydration station project was recognized as a top example of local government innovation. The project aims to reduce the need for harmful single-use plastic bottles by offering people the ability to fill reusable bottles at hydration stations throughout Brewster.

In addition to these statewide awards, Brewster received a national award for its fiscal 2024 budget from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). This award demonstrates the strength of Brewster’s financial planning as well as the transparency of the town’s budget process (Brewster launched an online budget platform where anyone may view budget documents). This award is good news for taxpayers because it demonstrates the health of Brewster’s budgeting process. Strong municipal financial health contributes to a top bond rating and gives the town the lowest possible interest rates on capital projects, saving taxpayers money. Brewster has a AAA bond rating (the highest possible).

Brewster’s public water supply has received numerous awards for high quality drinking water including being named the seventh best-tasting water in the nation (by the American Water Works Association). The town’s water was recognized as the ”Best Drinking Water in New England” twice and the “Best-tasting Water in Massachusetts” twice. Brewster water received the “Public Water System” award from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection four times.

Local government exists to improve the quality of life for residents by providing critical services like fire and police, recreational facilities, and social and cultural activities. Local government functions more closely to the citizens it serves (more so than state and federal governments).

Residents expect local government to work effectively and efficiently. Awards like these reflect the extensive work and commitment to the community by Brewster town leaders, staff, and citizen-volunteers who serve on numerous town committees. Brewster’s recent awards underscore that Brewster residents are getting highly efficient and effective government.

Mary Chaffee is a resident of Brewster and serves on the town’s select board.