Passionate, committed civic leader Jay Ash would make ideal Cambridge city manager
From Marion Rogers, board member of Tutoring Plus and middle school teacher in Chelsea, Sept. 26, 2016: I have been a resident of Cambridge for 25 years and a teacher in Chelsea since 1999. Traveling from Cambridge to Chelsea every morning over the past 17 years, I observed the miraculous transformation of Chelsea from a city that was somewhat rough around the edges to one that is a desirable place to work and live. This has only been possible under the leadership of Robert “Jay” Ash Jr., now in the running to be Cambridge’s next city manager.
I would like to briefly share some of my personal observations and experiences with this extremely effective, personable and caring leader.
I began my relationship with the city of Chelsea teaching GED at Roca, a not-for-profit organization that helped young men and women ages 17 to 24 get off the streets by supporting them with training to get jobs. Many of these young people were once members of gangs or in jail. My first encounter with Jay Ash was interviewing him with one of these young people who was learning community engagement skills. We interviewed Jay to learn more about his role as city manager. What struck me were two things: First, Jay was most welcoming and encouraging to my young mentee, who was just beginning to embark on a new way of looking at the world. In addition, he seemed genuinely honest, especially when he described candidly how he transformed from being distressed about what these groups of young people were doing to the community he grew up in to partnering fully with Molly Baldwin, Roca’s executive director, and the Chelsea Police Department to provide real and meaningful opportunities for disenfranchised youth in the community.
While I was the director of Centro Latino’s after-school program for middle-school students, Jay was present every year at Centro’s fundraising activities and its popular annual Thanksgiving dinner, which served more than 300 people each year. His support for Centro, an agency that provided educational services and citizenship classes to the Latino population in Chelsea and surrounding communities, and its executive director, Juan Vega, is another example of his commitment to valuing all residents.
Chelsea is proud of being selected two times for the “All-America City” award as a result of its accomplishments. Jay was instrumental in forming a diverse coalition of stakeholders when applying for this recognition.
I have many other examples of Jay’s leadership, but I’ll close with one that sticks with me personally. The last half-mile of my commute to Chelsea was very bumpy; the road clearly needed resurfacing. I am not in the habit of contacting city officials about matters of my own concern, but this time I thought “Why not?” I emailed the city manager to seek information on when that road would be upgraded. To my surprise, there was an explanation in my email the very next day from City Manager Jay Ash himself. That elevated my impression of him even more, as it demonstrated the regard he holds for constituents in his community and their concerns.
I am sure Jay’s résumé speaks for itself, but in my opinion it’s his engaging demeanor and sincere caring for people that sets him apart. The spirit of Chelsea, Mass., is just like its people: warm and embracing. Jay epitomizes these qualities.
I have lived in Cambridge for 25 years and marvel at its diversity, community organizations and remarkable growth. Jay Ash brings a wealth of experience to continue to carry Cambridge forward.
The opinions expressed in this letter are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Tutoring Plus.