Mary McGinnis, above, is leaving the post of director of administrative services after a year on the job. Her replacement, Julia Sabourin, left, was confirmed by the City Council on Tuesday night.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Julia Sabourin will assume the position of director of administrative services from Mary McGinnis, who will return to a position at Berkshire Health Systems in May following a one-year leave of absence to take the chief of staff position in the mayor's office.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the appointment of Sabourin, an English teacher, grant administrator, and seventh-grade team leader for Reid Middle School.
"I'm really excited about taking on the position," Sabourin told iBerkshires. "There's a lot of exciting things going on in the city right now, that I feel fortunate to be a part of."
Sabourin, who has a bachelor's in political science and master's in elementary education, said that since she has been working for the school system, more of her time there has been involved in community outreach and securing grant funding.
Sabourin recently co-wrote and received more than a half-million dollars in 21st Century learning grant awards for Reid, and now administers the program, which provides hundreds of hours of educational experience out in the community to at-risk students.
"When this position came up, it was something I was really interested in," said Sabourin. "I've always loved policy, and I really respect Mayor [Daniel] Bianchi. I've gotten to see a lot of what's going on in the community through my experience doing outreach at Reid."
In an interview on Tuesday, McGinnis discussed the role of the director of administrative services, much of which involves coordinating the many special projects related to the goals of the administration.
Since McGinnis took over for former Director Donna Mattoon last April, this has included being responsible for organizing and serving on several new committees and task forces, on issues such as affirmative action and Civil Service. Until the recent hiring of a new gang prevention coordinator for the Shannon Grant, administration of these services also consumed much of the past year, McGinnis indicated.
"My first year seemed like nothing but affirmative action and Shannon Grant," McGinnis said. "There were a lot of things we were trying to get going."
McGinnis said philosophically, creativity and social justice were important priorities that had informed her work on administration projects, which also included the formation of the newly appointed Human Rights Commission and plans to reinstate the city's dormant Youth Commission.
Issues of equality have been palpable throughout the past year, during which the Bianchi administration and other branches of local government have drawn criticism from the NAACP and other parties for a deficit of minority employees.
"I've done the best I could with that, and it was a tough nut to crack," McGinnis said. "But I think between the Human Rights Commission, and the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, I think we're going to work to improve fair hiring practices in the city."
Homelessness has been another major concern during the past year, particularly in the face of one of the worst cold weather winters in the region in recent years. Coordinating with local charitable organizations, McGinnis helped find housing accommodations for 15 families that came to her attention at City Hall, and coordinated with local agencies
to create more beds available to indigent residents.
"I wish I could have done more," she reflected. "For the future, affordable, permanent housing is going to be essential."
"Mary has been absolutely terrific," said Bianchi, "You can throw almost anything at her and she's able to manage it, she's got a great network of people to reach out to, and she just has a great way about her."
The mayor said McGinnis' nursing background had been a beneficial qualification to her in the key political role.
"You have to have compassion," said Bianchi. "But you also have to have a tough skin."
"The people that I've worked with I've found to be kind, considerate, fun. They're like a family, and it's hard to leave them," said McGinnis. "It's been an honor, and I'm really lucky I had this opportunity."