In 1998, just three years removed from State receivership, a delegation of government, business and civic leaders, and some ordinary citizens, traveled to Mobile, Alabama, to tell Chelsea’s story of its rise from the depths no municipality had seen since the Great Depression.
That rise was catapulted even higher with the city’s selection then as an All-America City awardee. What has happened since then, and especially over the last five years, now has Chelsea again in the running for the prestigious title coveted by municipalities far and wide.
“We’re thrilled,” said City Manager Jay Ash of the announcement that Chelsea is being invited to Denver in June to tell its story once again. “We’ve got a tremendous sense of unity, and our work together and respect for each other has us enjoying many remarkable civic accomplishments. I’m glad that we’re being recognized again for the top civic award in the country, but I’m even happier that we’ve accomplished all we have to earn us this nomination now.”
The All-America City Awards is a program of the National Civic League, the 120-year-old, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes community building as a way of strengthening communities and democracy. Each year, NCL hosts the All-America City Award competition and recognizes 10 communities as a way of highlighting outstanding civic action and congratulate those who are effectively working together to overcome obstacles on the way towards building healthy and prosperous communities.
To win the award, communities submit three main projects accomplished over the past five years, as well as a general community background that demonstrates innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement, and cross sector collaboration in addressing pressing local challenges. Chelsea’s application focuses on the successful partnership between Roca and the Chelsea Police Department, the emergence of the Healthy Chelsea Coalition, and the evolution of community engagement in the Shurtleff-Bellingham neighborhood that has led to the creation of CONNECT, a six-organization partnership promoting prosperity among its participants.
“It’s an honor to be in the select company of 25 other communities around the country who are all achieving many great outcomes,” said Molly Baldwin, Executive Director of Roca. Baldwin and Ash are the two returning leaders from the successful 1998 campaign, who are being joined by The Neighborhood Developer’s Ann Houston and Chelsea Public Schools Superintendent Mary Bourque, to direct the latest Chelsea effort.
“While we could only highlight three projects, we could have highlighted a dozen more,” added Houston. “There’s just so much for the good going on here and so many people contributing to it that we’ve already had a tough time squeezing it all into a tiny application and what will be a limited amount of time to make our case. But that’s a great challenge to have and we have all our community partners and engaged residents to thank for the overflow of accomplishments we can draw from.”
Bourque said the application team of Ash, TND’s Melissa Walsh, Healthy Chelsea’s Melissa Dimond and Roca’s John Ward really captured the essence of why Chelsea is so special.
“Anyone who get’s Jay’s ‘Inside Scoops’ knows he’s got a real flare for writing and a great passion for our community. The projects our application team reported on, and the general summary of the city that talked about our efforts to defeat Ethanol, overcome substance abuse, attack obesity and lower our drop-out rates, among many others, tells a inspiring story of a great community that is working together and taking on, and succeeding on, many difficult challenges,” reported Bourque.
Three other Massachusetts communities: Somerville, Dedham and Fitchburg, are also finalists. Providence, Rhode Island is the only other New England community of the 25 that were selected from more than 100 applicants. More than one community in a state can win the award.
“We’re in real tough company. I don’t know much about Dedham, but I greatly admire what has been happening in Somerville and Fitchburg. It’s an honor to just be in the same grouping with them now, and I hope to see all of them on stage with us as victorious communities,” Ash commented.
Ash explained that community leaders and individual residents would soon be engaged in helping to shape the presentation the Chelsea contingent will make to a jury of civic leaders assembled by NCL.
“We’ll have 10 minutes to say all that we can about all the great things going on here. That, in and of itself, will be a challenge, but it’s challenges like those that we look forward to overcoming on the way to promoting a more vibrant and inclusive Chelsea and being a regional and national leader on emerging strategies to deal with pressing municipal issues,” concluded Ash.