Bedford has a new town manager. Matthew Hanson, 35, was sworn in by Town Clerk Bridget Rodrigue during a brief ceremony on Monday morning in Town Hall.
“I look forward to working with all of you,” he told town employees and members of the Select Board.
After the ceremony, it was time to get to work on the first day of his new job. And with a Select Board meeting on Monday night, his first day was long.
Hanson has a lot of experience in town government. He started as the Tyngsborough Assistant Town Administrator in November 2015 and was named administrator in April 2017. Hanson also was elected to two terms on the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen, served on the Finance Committee, and was an elected as a Town Meeting representative for 13 years.
During his job interview with the Bedford Select Board, when asked how he would reconcile a difference of opinion between the town manager and Select Board, Hanson said, “Having been on both sides of the table, my job is to bring the best information, the best advice.”
Something that will be useful now in Bedford is his experience with municipal construction projects, adding that “communication, collaboration, and consensus building are something I always felt was a strong suit of mine.”
He told the Select Board members during the summer interview that for long-term goals, he collaborates with his Select Board. “I tend to bring as many goals to the table as they do. I do have a vision for the community,” he said, based on his daily exposure.
Budget preparation is also central in his experience.
“During my entire time, I have been the lead architect of the budget,” Hanson said of his Tyngsborough years. “I have been through every aspect of the budget process,” participating in bond rating calls, increasing reserve balances, developing short- and long-range capital plans, and a townwide facility assessment.
He also emphasized his accessibility and transparency.
“I love being able to connect with people who are engaged and interested. I would rather put information out there than have to have people ask for it,” Hanson said.
Asked about leadership style during the summer, Hanson said, “Most important is leading by example.” He stressed “equitable treatment of everyone,” and added, “It’s great to be liked, but often the town manager has to wear the hat of a disciplinarian or enforcer. But if your staff know you’re fair across the board, it goes much easier.”
“What creates a lot of animosity is that feeling of not being heard,” Hanson said. “I do like to try to make as many people happy as possible. There are often ways when you can work a little harder to get some sort of compromise.” He added, “You don’t want someone to say, ‘You didn’t care what I said.’”
Hanson said diversity, equity, and inclusion collectively are “a topic that encompasses everything that we touch.”
Beyond hiring, he said, all the town’s services should be equitable. “Every decision that I or the board make should be put through the lens of: Is this fair? Is this working for everyone?”