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Town Hall Q&A: Assistant Town Manager Elaine Lazarus

by | Aug 5, 2021 | Featured, Featured: Features

Elaine Lazarus

Elaine Lazarus

Elaine Lazarus first came to Hopkinton in 1992 as town planner and she has played key roles in the town’s growth over the past three decades. She currently serves as assistant town manager.

Lazarus grew up in Raynham and got her undergraduate degree from UMass in environmental design. She also has master’s degrees from the University of Rhode Island and Suffolk University. After working for General Services Administration as a planner, she worked as an assistant planner for the Town of Wellesley, and then was a shared town planner for the towns of Charlton and Dudley for two years. She joined Hopkinton Town Hall in 1992 as town planner, which included working on the town’s master plans and working to implement them. She also served as planning director and director of the Land Use Department when it was formed in 2010. She still runs the Land Use Department as part of her role as assistant town manager.

Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, gardening and being outdoors.

Hopkinton Independent: What first drew you to Hopkinton?

Elaine Lazarus: “The location was good, commuting wise. But also, it was a community that was growing. In the early to mid-‘90s there was quite a boom in development. There was lot of opportunity for interesting work in the planning field. And it was a community that was forward-looking from a planning standpoint. As a planner, it was nice to work in a community where planning and then implementing those plans was a priority.”

HI: Looking back at when you started in town and were working on your first master plan, have the changes to the town been what you expected?

EL: “A lot of the things the town had envisioned during those planning processes are still the vision today. The desire for a community with rural feel, with lots of accessible open space, managed development, managed growth. But some of the things have changed. For example, the approach to housing development has changed a bit, with developments such as Legacy Farms, which I could not have predicted in those early years. People in Hopkinton I think are very pragmatic in their approach and I think that affects the vision through time.”

HI: What are your primary responsibilities in your current role?

EL: “A few years ago I went back and got that second master’s from Suffolk University, in 2015. Because I guess my desire was to have a more holistic approach to local government and to work more cross-departmentally, different projects and initiatives. This position gives me more of the ability to do that. So I’m involved in projects that may cross boundaries. I also deal with the town’s general insurance — not the health insurance but the property insurance and so forth, that’s one of my major responsibilities. I serve as staff to a bunch of boards and committees. The Select Board is one, but also the Woodville Historic District Commission, and I help out the other historical commissions as needed, the Upper Charles Trails Committee, some of the open space initiatives that occur, including working with some of the volunteers who manage the land that’s under the jurisdiction of the Select Board. And I’m involved in Annual Town Meeting as well. My job is a catch-all position. There’s a lot that’s going on, a lot of administrative work involved.”

HI: What is a goal for the near future?

EL: “One of the things that I’m trying to finish up right now is an orientation handbook for boards and committees with a lot of the frequently asked questions, as a way to assist board and committee members with learning about their roles and their responsibilities — things like open meetings and records management, how to post an agenda, when to post an agenda, that kind of thing. I would like to finish that up and have that available for people to use.”

HI: What has been your biggest challenge during your time here?

EL: “I’m not sure I can identify a biggest challenge. One of the great things about Hopkinton is that people are engaged in so many things and it always presents a lot of opportunities for new initiatives and things to work on. I suppose maybe a challenge is trying to balance all of those — which are all good things.”

HI: What stands out as a memorable moment here?

EL: “I think completing that first master plan. It was a hard process. I wasn’t totally new to the field. But I was new to Hopkinton. When it was complete I felt a a great sense of accomplishment, in 1993. And one of the things I have enjoyed over the years is Town Meeting. I enjoy the Town Meeting process each year.”

HI: What has been the most enjoyable part of your job?

EL: “I think working with the people in Hopkinton, both who work for the town and residents and those in the business community. It’s the people.”

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