By Brian Genest – 03-23
Things are going well in Dracut right now and it’s not by accident. It’s because the right people are in charge of town government. And the wrong people aren’t, thankfully.
Since taking over the job three years ago, Town Manager Ann Vandal has been making a tremendous difference for our town. And she’s done so in a tough environment. She was hired by a divided board, after the previous town manager was shown the door and politics had polluted the search process for a new manager. She inherited and cleaned up a town procurement scandal. She was forced to deal with all the ramifications of the pandemic on town operations, employees and citizens.
Despite the circumstances and the challenges, on Ann Vandal’s watch, 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. We’re trying to balance growth and development with open space, preservation, and conservation. There’s a strong 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.
Unfortunately, there’s a small group of negative voices in town who do nothing but try to tear down our success. It’s a tiny-but-vocal “trash what’s happening in Dracut” clan. On the airwaves, social media and anywhere else they can, they try to paint a different picture.
They want you to believe that Dracut isn’t doing well right now. They want you to believe the town isn’t headed in the right direction. They want you to believe that our best days are behind us. In other words, they don’t want you to believe your own two eyes.
Meanwhile, they attack elected officials, their spouses, and friends. They attack private citizens. They attack business owners. What’s happening in Dracut isn’t to their liking because they don’t care about seeing our town be successful. They care about power and patronage.
They give Dracut a reputation for dirty politics and keep good, qualified people from running for office, from volunteering for town boards and from getting involved in the community.
Speaking of which, if they say things are so bad in Dracut right now, why aren’t there any challengers running for the Board of Selectmen, School Committee or Housing Authority? Here’s why: Dracut is in great shape today.
Even perennial candidate Phil Thibault, a nine-time loser who has come up short in contests against all five sitting selectmen, finally took a seat on the electoral sidelines this year, thankfully. Spoiler alert: Phil Thibault has his sights on next year’s election and Selectman Joe DiRocco’s seat, which he’s already lost three times.
Perhaps Phil Thibault would be less of a failure if his talking points didn’t include calling Dracut sleepy and saying our town is starting to rot, considering nothing could be further from the truth.
Nothing silences the critics like success, however. And the sound of silence in this year’s election speaks volumes about how well things are going in Dracut right now.
The reality is that our success is due to the leadership of Town Manager Ann Vandal, 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 our town be successful, thanks to strong leadership, is something we should all be able to celebrate.
Our town has come a long way in a short time, thankfully. We must keep moving forward in a positive, professional, and proactive way. We must continue to reject the Dracut haters and the politics of the past. We must keep the positive momentum.
—Brian Genest is the producer and host of Eye On Dracut, winner of the Hometown Media Award for News, sponsored by Lucky Oil. ◊