By Rod Lee
In an interview with Timothy Murray of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce in November of 2016, Julie A. Jacobson demonstrated why she was the right choice to become Auburn town manager in 2011.
Nine years later, it is more apparent than ever that Ms. Jacobson was the ideal pick to serve as lead administrator of the town’s fortunes, including a FY 2020 budget of $65.9 million. In appreciation of this, her contract was recently renewed—enthusiastically, by her employer—for another three years. It will run through January 30, 2023.
Smart, personable, agile in responding to queries for information and well-versed in the mechanics of government at the state and local level, she has many achievements to her credit already. To name one that had a major impact early on, she implemented an omnibus reorganization plan that consolidated twenty-five departments into nine, improved the delivery of services, instituted reforms and enhanced communication.
Chatting with Mr. Murray back in 2016, Ms. Jacobson said she identified economic development as a focal point from the start. This she saw as a need stemming in large part from the experience she gained on that front as assistant city manager and chief development officer for the city of Worcester from September 2004 to January 2011 and as CEO over the same time frame of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority.
Equally significant in her preparation for taking on the Auburn post were the three years she spent as a legislative aide to State Rep. Thomas P. White.
“My experience in economic development allowed me to understand the needs of the business community,” she told Mr. Murray. “I was able to open lines of communication and establish an ongoing dialogue with business owners.”
Recognizing the importance of commerce and industry to the economic health of the town has proven to be a winning attribute for Ms. Jacobson. Her first year on the job, she started a “business roundtable,” which brought merchants into the fold. This was key, she said, because, although Auburn’s population is only 16,500, it more than doubles to 34,000 on any given day as people pour in for products and services.
She also grasps that Auburn is not a self-contained entity but part of “a regional economy. If Auburn succeeds with the commercial/industrial sector, others will too.”
Under her leadership and in the face of the costs of a new middle school and a renovation of Bay Path Regional Vocational, Auburn has continued a steady march toward a single property tax rate. “This is working” in drawing business to town, she says.
She created a strong working partnership with the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and reached out to business owners to let them know she is accessible and eager to listen and help.
Asked on January 15th what he thinks makes Ms. Jacobson such an effective town manager, Fire Chief Stephen M. Coleman Jr. said “I think the big thing is she leads by example. She sets the bar for the department heads and employees we serve. She has built a fantastic team and we all work to her level. In some respects she makes us better. She was a breath of fresh air when she was hired. As I posted on Twitter after Craig Semon’s article appeared (in the Telegram & Gazette, about her contract extension), I could never have imagined I would have an opportunity to work with such a great leader.”
Edward J. Kazanovicz, CFO and assistant town manager in Auburn, describes Ms. Jacobson as “a personal friend and great manager. The skills she brings are invaluable,” Mr. Kazanovicz said. “She’s held in the highest regard and respect by her peers, by town officials and within the community. She is currently serving as the new president of the Massachusetts Municipal Assocation (MMA).”
Steve Londregan of Chuck’s Steakhouse & Margarita Grille, current president of the Auburn Chamber, echoed Chief Coleman and Mr. Kazanovicz’s thoughts.
“She is doing fantastic work for the business community,” Mr. Londregan said. “I cannot say enough good things about her.”
Mr. Londregan and Ms. Jacobson were classmates at the College of the Holy Cross. “We didn’t know each other then, though,” he said.
He is glad they do now.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.