A Vote of Thanks to Sandra Hackman

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By Dot Bergin

Sandra Hackman – Image (c) JMcCT, 2017 all rights reserved

The Bedford Citizen believes it is important to recognize residents who have given many hours of voluntary service to the town.  Today’s “civic heroine” is Sandra Hackman, who recently retired from the Planning Board after 15 years of service.

Although retired from that board position, Sandra continues to build on her expertise in planning. She is Bedford’s representative to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and also serves as the organization’s elected Secretary.  MAPC has 101-member communities and 90 staff members who work with the governor’s office, legislators on Beacon Hill, and member communities on everything from smart growth to transportation, housing, regional equity, economic development, and climate change.

Sandra’s background in public policy made her an ideal Planning Board member.  Originally from the Philadelphia area, she came to New England to attend Tufts University and, in her words,” never left.” In her professional life, she edited the MIT Technology Review for many years, eventually becoming editor in chief.

After leaving the magazine, she worked as a freelance editor of books and reports on public policy. At Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, for example, she worked with the Taubman Center on State and Local Government and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. Among organizations, she worked with the Union of Concerned Scientists on energy and the environment, and with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on public health.  As a skilled editor and communicator, Sandra often presented the Planning Board’s position to Town Meeting, highlighting efforts such as updates to the Comprehensive Plan.

Now she’s hoping to continue her volunteer efforts with a stint on the board of Bedford’s Council on Aging. (Her appointment comes up for review on November 20, and it’s a safe bet the Selectmen will look favorably on her application.)  During her Planning Board years, she was the liaison to the COA.

To those who know her, Sandra is the epitome of a fit, energetic, just-turned-65 senior who thinks nothing of riding her bicycle from Bedford to Lexington on the cold and extremely windy day of our Citizen interview.

“It’s an exciting time,” she says, “to focus on aging in town.” She was part of a group who “previewed” the Survey of Residents Age 55 and Over, recently mailed to individuals in that demographic, and she feels the results will provide information to encourage age-friendly initiatives.   She also referenced the AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities, which now lists 14 Massachusetts towns as members, as a possible connection for Bedford.  (Age-friendly communities have walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to key services, and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.)

Reflecting on her Planning Board years, Sandra said she enjoyed her time on the board: she loved being involved, knowing what was going on in Bedford, and thinking long-term to help ensure the town would continue to thrive while hammering out actual projects.

As to “hammering out” actual projects, Sandra acknowledged the importance of taking the long view – change doesn’t happen overnight, she said, and to those not involved in decision making, it may be hard to understand the limitations, legal and otherwise, on what the Board can and cannot do.  The inter-relationship with other boards is critical.  Change from the “familiar” is often upsetting to residents: seeing a project under construction may cause a negative reaction but when completed, people are usually pleased.  The Blake Block, the Great Road Marketplace, and the new shops and residences on Loomis Street, where an ugly industrial building was transformed into a vibrant mixed-use area, are good examples, she said.

Sandra has a wealth of ideas for continuing improvement. She is particularly interested in the concept of “placemaking,” defined as the practice of using public amenities to build community while making economic progress.  In this philosophy, the emphasis is on walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly streets that lessen a community’s dependence on fossil fuels.  In this context, she was pleased to see the Special Town Meeting affirm Bedford’s commitment to becoming a Net Zero community. Sandra applauded the recently completed “Safe Routes to School” shared-use path from the Great Road to the John Glenn Middle School, as an important forward step. She’d like to see more pedestrian/bike connections and more traffic-calming techniques employed on Bedford roads.

Placemaking also encourages the active participation of local artists and musicians in creating vibrant outdoor spaces and public events. “We have so many artists in town that we could do more in this arena,” she said, mentioning the survey spearheaded by Alyssa Sandoval (Bedford’s Economic Development Director) showing that people who live, work, and shop in Bedford very much want to see more public art.

More amenities would also be desirable at Veteran’s Memorial Park, perhaps more comfortable benches.  Outdoor seating, with shops closer to the street, can encourage a sense of community.  Bedford is making real progress, Sandra affirms, and she is hopeful about changes now being considered at the North Road commercial area, where traffic makes pedestrian access to shops and services hazardous.

“Nobody likes traffic,” she said and then, with a chuckle, she ventured a thought on Willson Park and the congestion there: “Just move the flagpole to another location,” she said, knowing she might take some flak from this suggestion.

Aside from her continuing interest in town planning, Sandra has a wide range of interests: over the past two years, she tutored three English language learners through a program called English at Large.  She has tutored men in reading and writing at the Northeast Correctional Center, the pre-release facility for MCI Concord, and plans to start doing that work again soon.

She’s enthusiastic about the exercise programs at the COA and is very much an outdoor person. Biking, hiking (this past summer in Wales) and cross-country skiing are an important part of her life, along with gardening. “I do the perennials,” she said, “and my husband Ken does the vegetables.”


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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kim siebert macphail
kim siebert macphail
4 years ago

Very impressive! Bedford is lucky to have dedicated citizen volunteers like Sandra Hackman, working in the background to improve and preserve quality of life.

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