By: Brian Genest – Nov. 2023
‘Tis the season to count your blessings and there are plenty of reasons to be grateful in Dracut.
Strong town government is at the top of the list. Things have been going well in Dracut and it’s not by accident. It’s because the right people have been in charge of town government.
Thanks to the leadership of Town Manager Ann Vandal, who took over the job four years ago, Dracut is in better shape than it has been in quite some time. Town finances are in solid shape. School spending is on the rise.
Capital improvement projects are being worked on all over town. There’s continuing efforts to balance growth and development with open space, preservation, and conservation. There’s an ongoing focus on economic development, including bringing in new businesses and supporting existing ones.
Morale at town hall is high. People in town are optimistic about our future.
In her annual performance review in October, Vandal scored a 3.9 out of 5. Her high score from Selectmen again this year is reflective of her consistent on-the-job performance and the fact that Dracut is in good shape overall right now.
Make no mistake about it: Our success is due to Vandal’s leadership, her staff of department heads, and all the town employees. Our success is due to clear direction from the decisive majority on the Board of Selectmen. Our success is due to strong support from the townspeople. Seeing Dracut be successful as the result of strong leadership is something we can all truly appreciate.
Here’s something else you may appreciate: At a recent Tri-Board meeting about town finances and potential future budget deficits with the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and members of the Finance Committee, accusations flew, tempers flared, and emotions ran high. Vandal, on the other hand, stayed calm, cool, and collected during the discussion, telling board members nothing had changed since the previous Tri-Board meeting: town finance officials are currently estimating a $2.2 million budget deficit for the 2025 fiscal year, but that figure is fluid and far from final.
Vandal said there is no way to determine whether there will be a deficit or what the amount could be, based on the information available right now.
She refused to give into the bullying, browbeating, and belligerence from some who wanted her to name a list of potential budget cuts.
“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that, and cut this and cut that.’ I won’t do that, until we have to,” Vandal said.
In other words, we can also be thankful for Vandal’s commonsense and patience when it comes to handling town finances and business.
A strong Police Department that enjoys strong support from the community is another blessing.
Here’s one recent example: Thanks to a thorough and diligent investigation by the Dracut Police Department, organized sporting events and large gatherings have been shut down at 167 Betty Ann Lane.
There’s no more cheering crowds, no more cars racing up and down the street and no more illegal sales of food and beer. Instead, there’s peace and quiet once again in that residential neighborhood because police investigated appropriately and solved the problem. The neighbors on Betty Ann Lane and all of us should be appreciative of the efforts by our police to resolve the matter effectively.
The police protect and serve our community in many ways. Another example is the Dracut Public Safety Night that was held in June. For the second year in a row, the Dracut Police Department hosted an overwhelmingly successful event where hundreds of town residents came to enjoy the festivities, interact with law enforcement officials, and show their support for our police and other first responders.
It was a good reminder to be thankful for the good things that happen in Dracut all year long, thanks to teamwork, public-private partnerships, and hometown pride.
— Brian Genest is the producer and host of Eye on Dracut, winner of the Hometown Media Award for News, sponsored by Lucky Oil. Watch the monthly show on DATV Channel 8 in Dracut or online anytime at DracutTV.org. ◊