In July 1983, Ronald W. Reagan was president, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police was the number one song on the Billboard chart, and Joyce M. Mason began her career at Mashpee Town Hall as an administrative secretary.
Earlier this week Town Manager Mason, 60, reflected on her three decades of service to the town, and current status as its longest-serving town hall employee. During the past 30 years, Mashpee has morphed from a sleepy, rural “pass-through” town to a bustling residential and commercial hub of the Upper Cape that has had a more than threefold population increase, much of it under the leadership of Ms. Mason.
“I’ve been here 30 years, and I’m not bored yet,” she said.
From her start as a secretary in the board of selectmen’s office, Ms. Mason has worked through the ranks of town government, being promoted to administrative assistant, and eventually assistant to former Mashpee Town Administrator Robert L. Whritenour Jr. When Mr. Whritenour resigned 11 years ago to become town manager in Falmouth, Ms. Mason was tapped to assume the position on an interim basis for six months.
Longtime, and current, Selectman Wayne E. Taylor was on the search committee to recruit and hire a new town manager for Mashpee.
“We conducted a search, and at that time we determined that Joyce was a very good assistant town administrator and she was ready to move into the top spot. Since then, the town has been served very well by Joyce. She has done a great job stabilizing our finances with conservative fiscal policies, and has been very effective managing town departments. I’m very happy with her performance—Joyce is a perfect example of what hard work will get you,” Mr. Taylor said, adding that, in fairness, some people say that Ms. Mason has some deficiencies, but so did her predecessors.
Joyce is a perfect example of what hard work will get you.
Selectman Wayne Taylor
During Ms. Mason’s tenure as town manager, Mashpee has consistently been one of the fastest growing communities in Mass-achusetts. Looking back at the high-growth years, Ms. Mason proudly cites the town’s gradual, controlled growth, through which maintaining open space was one of her major accomplishments. Building a services infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing town is also an achievement that she would like to be part of her legacy.
“We have many new and beautiful buildings in town to serve our residents including a high school, library, senior center, police department, and two fire stations,” she said.
Ms. Mason also referenced the town’s close relationship with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and seeing it receive federal recognition in 2007, as a highlight of her years as town manager.
Job Has Its Difficulties
While Ms. Mason says she thoroughly enjoys her position and looks forward to going to work every morning, she is the first to admit that being town manager is a tough job. “It is impossible to make everyone happy, and you try not to take some of the attacks personally, but there are also rewards when residents tell you that you are doing a good job,” she said, noting that recently a couple brought a tray of cookies to her office to thank her for the recent Great Neck Road North reconstruction project.
When asked about her most difficult time as town manager, Ms. Mason did not hesitate to say that it was during the administration of the immediate past school superintendent. Ms. Mason and former School Superintendent Ann M. Bradshaw, who left the position in June, had a tumultuous relationship that was often played out in public meetings and in the press.
Theresa M. Cook has worked with Ms. Mason for most of the past 30 years in several capacities: as a selectman, school committee member, and currently a finance committee member, and has high praise for Ms. Mason.
“Joyce has really kept our town on its toes striking a careful balance of the ‘needs’ as opposed to the ‘wants,’ not an easy task. It is hard to be the one that says ‘we can’t afford to do that,’ or on the reverse, ‘we can’t afford not to do this,’ ” Ms. Cook said, adding that Ms. Mason deserves kudos for moving the town forward even during the tough economic climate of the last five years.
When asked if setting a retirement date has ever crossed her mind, Ms. Mason said that it has not and that she still has more work to do in Mashpee.
“They say you’ll know when it’s time,” she said.
In the coming years, Ms. Mason has set her sights on building additional revenue streams for the town, stabilizing a reserve fund, working to make sure that the town’s young people can find work in the community, and helping to build a high-performance school system in Mashpee.
“I have had the good fortune of being provided growth opportunities in Mashpee, and every one of them presented new and exciting challenges. While I live in Plymouth, Mashpee is very much where I feel at home,” Ms. Mason said.