Over the past 30 years, I have been part of groups, commissions, boards, and teams. When I was a public school teacher there was no end to groups forming and meeting after meeting. As a resident looking to better his community, I have had no end of teams to join. Usually, the task for each is to make things better.

Groups sometimes disband after fulfilling their goal, others continue. Groups usually come with charged and motivated people and that is their greatest strength. Many are bankers, real estate brokers, funeral directors, clergy, politicians and community activists of one sort or another.

But these groups also suffer the same afflictions of any large group of people. Some members can sit for months and not utter a word. Others dominate. Still others become frustrated by the lack of action. Some drop out, and others bully to get their personal agenda acted upon.

Some are there to see their business grow and don’t care about the big picture. Some politicians see it as a venue to meet people. But at the opposite end of the spectrum is the working, single mom who’s become active because she wants the community to offer a better quality of life for her children.

One great affliction is the “group within a group” — a small cadre that meets to determine goals and actions, then arrives to the larger group ‘armed.’ They ask, “This is what we were thinking. Does anyone have any thoughts?” But the small group has already made decisions.

This leads to trust and accountability issues, anxiety and fear. When everyone feels part of the decision, faith is established. When tasks are clearly delineated, accountability is fulfilled. When people freely volunteer for something, they become empowered and confident in the mission.

Haverhill has no end of community groups, task forces, and committees, so the missions of these groups sometimes overlap. It’s clear that Haverhill has great energy, but for all these groups and all that energy, there continues to be a dearth of movement. Now into my third decade here, this phenomenon is all too apparent.

For all the efforts, Haverhill is still stuck with: the symbol of inaction, the Woolworth Building; the closing of yet another art gallery stalling the growth of Wingate Street; a lack of quality affordable programming for disadvantaged and special needs kids and adults; the sterile look of Westgate and RiversEdge Plazas; lack of seasonal decorations downtown; an abysmal look to areas along Grand, Locust, and other spots by Radio Market — a jewel in a thorny area; lack of incentives to property owners to keep their areas clean; and little use of the farming, agricultural, livestock, and equestrian community in Haverhill.

When business owner Joe Terrazzano of Haverhill Beef discussed Kidsfest, he said,”It’s great, but it does nothing for businesses here. There is no commitment to the small business owner and no plan for the future.”

It’s very hard to determine the next steps for Haverhill. Perhaps some of these groups that overlap could consolidate. Maybe the city could settle on a few major priorities rather than trying to tackle grandiose but unaffordable propositions. Is there a way that coordinators of these groups might get together to discover where they overlap so efforts are not duplicated? Can we, as a community, pull together the conflicting goals and ideas?



Michael Veves is a former school teacher who owns an equestrian academy in Haverhill with his wife, Marianne Dunsford.

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