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Williamstown Board Picks Williams Grad To Be Town Manager

Main St. Williamstown, Mass.

The Williamstown Select Board has decided to bring a Williams College graduate back to the area as the next town manager.Jason Hoch says when he got into municipal government 15 years ago, he always told himself if a spot opened up in Williamstown he would take it.

“I’m a Williams graduate and honestly I fell in love with Williamstown the first time I visited when I was looking at colleges as a high school student,” said Hoch.

The Williamstown Select Board granted Hoch his wish with unanimous approval last week. For the past five years, Hoch has been the town manager in Litchfield, New Hampshire, population 8,300. Before that Hoch oversaw town governments in Plaistow and Littleton, New Hampshire. Hoch recently spent time speaking with some of Williamstown’s 7,800 residents about his ideas for the town.

“There are some design opportunities for stitching together the Spring St. district and the Water St. district, especially with the Cable Mills housing coming online, Water St. is going to be a real residential neighborhood a year from now or less,” Hoch said. “How to make that work. Practically in terms of local buildings, there is a strong need in moving forward on building the case for and then designing a public safety facility as well as supporting the needs for renovations at Mt. Greylock.”

Hoch adds he’s excited about how the area’s arts, culture and outdoor recreation can be bundled together to attract businesses. Having graduated from Williams with a degree in political economy in 1995, Hoch says the town and the college are in a symbiotic relationship.

“Telling the story, working on plans and making sure there are places that both sides are working together and strategically investing in the community’s best interest makes a lot of sense,” Hoch said. “Understanding the timing and pacing of that. Balancing as well. The college is a really large landowner. The college has a reasonable amount of money to invest in the community, but it is not the end-all and be-all. Finding that balance is going to be an interesting ongoing challenge for all of us.”

Hoch is expected to start in Williamstown, in northwest Berkshire County near the Vermont line, in late August following contract negotiations. The town advertised the position with a salary range of $105,000 to $125,000. Hoch will be taking over for Peter Fohlin, who is retiring after 15 years as town manager. Fohlin says not much has changed in town during his time. He is hesitant to say he’s proud of specific projects, noting the damage Tropical Storm Irene caused at the Spruces Mobile Home Park — expected to be decommissioned next year and be placed under a conservation restriction. FEMA awarded the town $6.1 million to help relocate the estimated 275 people living in the park.

“Some of the things, like the situation at the Spruces, while they would be considered successful projects, they are not something to take much happiness or satisfaction from,” Fohlin said. “But I am very proud of the fact that we’ve had strong financial management here. We have increased the town’s bond rating to AA1. We are the only town in Berkshire County who has reached that level. We’re leaving the town with an abundance of free cash, unused levy capacity and stabilization funds so the town has never been in a stronger financial position than it is right now.”

Angus Jennings, the United Independent Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor in last year’s election, was the other finalist for the post.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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