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After 14 years as selectman, today’s the last day for Allen

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Long time Montague Selectboard member Pat Allen is retiring.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Long time Montague Selectboard member Pat Allen is retiring.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Long time Montague Selectboard member Pat Allen is retiring.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Long time Montague Selectboard member Pat Allen is retiring.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Long time Montague Selectboard member Pat Allen is retiring.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Long time Montague Selectboard member Pat Allen is retiring.

MONTAGUE — Selectman Patricia Allen believes she is leaving the town in a good place, with improved self-esteem.

Today will be Allen’s last meeting as a member of the Board of Selectmen, a board on which she has served for 14 years, winning five consecutive elections.

“I think the town has done incredibly well, I really think that we’ve totally changed our image, for ourselves and everybody else,” Allen said.

When she first ran for the office in 1999, Allen identified economic development and safety among her top priorities. Economic development remains a priority, she said, but the Airport Industrial Park has since filled up and the town is planning a second; new restaurants and artists have moved onto Avenue A, a series of annual events have sprung up and Allen believes the town’s improved self-image has fed into itself.

“Somebody told me ‘you have to understand, Montague is a way of life,’ We’re out there having events, parties, and we feel good about ourselves, even though we still don’t have much money,” she said.

Drugs and domestic violence remain problems everywhere, Allen said, but she believes it is understood these aren’t accepted and the town has an excellent police force.

Allen points to the first year of the Franklin County Pumpkinfest, in 2010.

“I looked and saw the thousands of people on Avenue A, and I thought 10 years ago, most of those people wouldn’t have dreamed of being on Avenue A at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night,” Allen said. “Now it’s like why not, not only on Avenue A but dressed up in costumes and bringing their kids.”

Allen credits a talented pool of town staff and officials, community members, and the year 2004 with the change.

That year Allen describes as a turning point, with the town celebrating its 250th anniversary with a two-hour parade through Montague City and Turners Falls, large and eye-catching enough to prompt favorable comparisons to Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and a reconciliation ceremony with Native American groups.

The village of Turners Falls owes its name to the leader of a militia attack on a nearby Native American fishing encampment during King Phillip’s War. Greenfield and Montague had seen a spate of domestic violence murders in recent years, Allen said, and conversations downtown yielded shrugs and the phrase, “Well, it’s the Turners curse.”

Allen said both sides took the resulting ceremony seriously and the Narragansett tribe’s commitment to the town has resulted in a grant application in which Allen sees strong potential for economic growth. The town is still waiting on the result of the application for a battlefield grant to study the history of the relatively little-known battle, and Allen sees the study as a catalyst for making the town a hub for Native American studies in the way that Old Deerfield is for early colonial life.

Allen moved to town in 1995, and after joining the Planning Board and participating in the creation of a town master plan, felt she had acquired the necessary background to serve on the Board of Selectmen when it was suggested she run.

Allen joined the board at a time when things were not going smoothly, and she describes the first few years of her tenure as the “wild and woolly years.”

A series of televised disciplinary hearings with the then police chief, the fight over Montague Community Television after the local cable programmer was replaced by Greenfield’s station, two scandals involving the theft of trash sticker money and a Board of Selectmen held in such regard that residents voted a recall option into the town bylaws were among the issues of the day.

Allen said she once snapped a pen in half during a televised hearing, eliciting gifts of pens and pencils from strangers.

“I reached the point that I was so angry that I would lie awake at night,” Allen said, but was comforted by the thought that residents were as angry as she was.

Now, Allen sees things moving smoothly and the board accomplishing what it should.

“We obviously have differences of opinion but we’re civil and cordial and it seems to me we move things along,” Allen said.

Nevertheless, Allen said she is conflicted about leaving the board, having announced her resignation in April. Her parent’s health required her to leave the state on an unpredictable schedule, and while she was able to participate in meetings by phone, she said she didn’t feel the system was adequate and the town deserved better.

Allen has a background in architecture and worked as a draftsman, with a pause to raise two children. When she and husband Dr. Mark Allen first moved to the area, she worked in The Recorder’s art department, beginning a full-time job with the Franklin County Registry of Deeds around the time she was elected to the Board of Selectmen. The Allens have two grown sons and two grandchildren, with a third due in August.

Tuesday’s special election, run in tandem with the state’s special senatorial election, will decide Allen’s successor.

Allen endorses Michael Nelson.

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