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Discover Lasell

From the State House to the Classroom

May 07, 2018

Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash visits Lasell College

In Assistant Professor Paul DeBole's State & Local Government course, it is not uncommon to find local and federal experts at the front of the classroom. It is the first-hand narratives from these civil servants, says DeBole, that gives students clear insight into how the Commonwealth and the country function. DeBole recently welcomed Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash to a class of curious attendees, which included Lasell President Michael Alexander and Associate Dean of the School of Communication & the Arts Aaron Toffler.

Jay Ash served as the city manager of Chelsea for 14 years, and now brings his expertise to the state level under Governor Charlie Baker. On any given day, he tackles issues in housing, consumer affairs, business regulation, and job, business, and community development in all reaches of the Commonwealth - a task he has been thrilled to undertake.

"I have the greatest job in the world," said Ash. "It allows me to go out there, get something accomplished, and make a difference."

Ash shared with students the difference between working at the city and state level. In Chelsea, he appreciated the opportunity to dive into redevelopment projects and see them through from conception to completion; with the constraints of overseeing a much larger area in his current role, he doesn't get to immerse in change at the micro level. Yet, with this comes his ability to expand the reach of funding that he can provide to cities and towns to undertake those types of initiatives.

Students and faculty posed questions throughout Ash's visit, with queries ranging from those about road salt laws to the impact of casinos and legalized marijuana on the Commonwealth's economic development. Ash shared his appreciation for lively debate around these topics.

"One of the great things about the law is that we can all be in the same situation but see it in different ways," said Ash. "The city and state work together on many of these issues, and lots of very smart people debate them from both sides."

DeBole hopes to bring in additional guest speakers this fall, with the goal of providing similar glimpses into government roles. 

"It can be hard to picture what happens at the upper levels of government, especially on the state side," said DeBole. "Secretary Ash brought this group along for a front-seat ride in his job and made it clear why he loves it so much."