Currently browsing posts filed under "Jason Hoch ’95"

Follow this category via RSS

Hoch ’95 Hired as Williamstown Town Manager

Jason Hoch - 2014An Eph has been hired to replace longtime Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin, who recently retired. Jason Hoch, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his graduation from Williams College, was named the unanimous choice of the Board of Selectmen on Friday.

Hoch was a Political Economy major while at Williams, and his work there put him on the road to Spring Street. As a senior, his thesis was entitled “Crisis on Main Street,” examining downtown Adams about two years after the opening of Walmart near the North Adams/Adams border in September, 1993. In the thesis, Hoch applied Albert Hirschman’s “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” framework, a longtime linchpin of the Political Economy curriculum.

Hoch has been working his way around New England as a town manager ever since. From 1997 to 2004, he served as town manager in Littleton, NH, where he enlisted public school students in the planning and execution of a revitalization program that helped rejuvenate Main Street, construct an educational nature trail, and develop a GIS mapping system. His efforts in Littleton helped create an unusually walkable small town:

Hoch, Littleton’s town manager, has worked hard to make his town inviting to pedestrians, and he’s eager to show off some of the recent innovations.

Before him, a red-roofed bridge stretches across the water. The sign over the entrance reads “2004,” the year the federally funded bridge opened.

Hoch steps onto the bridge. Its wide planks and waist-high railings make it a place to linger as well as walk. Halfway across, an elderly couple has paused. She perches on the railing and he holds her safe. They kiss like teenagers…

In the early 1990s, Littleton was on a downslide. The vacancy rate on Main Street was up and the number of people coming into town was down. A non-profit Main Streets program sparked the commercial district back to life, but the task of bettering downtown remained…

On his walk through Littleton, Jason Hoch ambles on the western side of the Ammonoosuc, along a gravel trail the city developed last year. Green and quiet, aside from the burble of the river, it’s hard to imagine that the interstate is a fraction of a mile away. This side of the river hosts a farmers’ market every Sunday.

“People park downtown and walk over the bridge to the market,” Hoch says. “Businesses started finding there were more people downtown, and the farmers’ market extended hours.”

Hoch is proud of what the town has accomplished.

“Littleton was an old mill town, and over the past eight years, it has started to become a different place,” he says. “On Main Street, it feels like a real town.”

The gravel crunches beneath his feet. “Little changes like this make a difference,” he says. “A simple gravel path. This isn’t hard to make happen. People can do stuff like this.”

From Littleton, Hoch moved on to Plaistow, NH, where he purchased a home and started a family. After a two-year stint in Plaistow, some work as an independent consultant, and with the addition of a bear, Hoch became the town administrator in Litchfield, NH, in mid-2010. He quickly earned plaudits for helping the town become better organized and its administration more creative and more efficient:

“People are asking for my advice, and sometimes even following it,” he said, half-joking. “I’m not just pushing paper somewhere.”

He said one example was an addition of ground-speed salt dispensers to Highway Department trucks, which he recommended to road agent Jack Pinciaro. The electronic dispensers measure the speed of the truck and lay down the appropriate amount of salt.

“It was something I saw in my years in Littleton, and it makes work easier and saves us money,” he said.

Hoch said he also brought in “a completely different approach” to the town’s budget system. He reviewed the original proposal by the Budget Committee and then made adjustments and cuts that went beyond their recommendations. The process brought praise from taxpayers and town officials.

“That’s always a good validation that you’re in the right direction,” he said.

Other highlights from his first year include helping to negotiate a new police union contract, renewing the town’s cable franchise agreement and developing a more efficient financial system that led to the town’s “clean audit” this summer.

More recently, Hoch helped update Litchfield’s personnel policies, improved efficiency in the town roads department, and helped the town establish an annual “Winterfest” celebration.

During his time in New Hampshire, however, Williamstown has never been far from his mind. As news reports of his hiring note, he warned Litchfield at the time of his hiring that “You need to be concerned when the vacancy come up in Williamstown.” Previously, Hoch participated in an EphBlog survey on Twitter about “Courses to Audit” while at Williams:

Jason, Welcome back to the Purple Valley! May the town/gown divide ever be lessened with you on the town side.

Facebooktwitter

Currently browsing posts filed under "Jason Hoch ’95"

Follow this category via RSS