Isenberg Students Energized by Holyoke's 23-Year-Old Mayor

December 6, 2012

Holyoke mayor Alex Morse, the youngest chief executive in that city's history, spoke at Isenberg on December 4 to Full-time MBA students and other members of the School's community. During his 45-minute presentation, the articulate, high-energy speaker recounted his cultural background, educational and career development, and election campaign. He also surveyed his daunting challenges as mayor in three critical arenas: education, economic development, and public safety.


Holyoke, Morse noted, has a 50% high-school graduation rate and thousands of adults without basic job skills. To combat a high illiteracy rate-a key to the education logjam-Morse has hired a full-time Community Literacy Coordinator. The mayor has also rolled out a comprehensive urban redevelopment strategy that he says will attract employers and job training. Economic development will benefit from the city's renewed infrastructure and its hydroelectric/electric utility rates--the cheapest in the state, he said. But Holyoke must contend with Massachusetts' highest commercial tax rate.  On the upside, the city, in collaboration with the state's leading universities, recently opened its $170 million green high-performance computing center, he continued. And Holyoke will connect by rail in 2014 to New York and Montreal via a $2 million passenger train platform.


At Brown University, Morse majored in urban studies because, he said, he wanted to make a pragmatic difference after graduation. He cited two mayors as mentors-former Providence mayor (now U.S. Rep.) David Cicilline (with whom he interned at Brown) and former Holyoke mayor Michael Sullivan. A life-long resident of Holyoke, Morse is the city's first mayor with fluency in Spanish (Spanish speakers, he noted, comprise 48% of the electorate.) Shortly after assuming office, Morse, who is addressing public safety through community policing, took up residence in a loft in downtown Holyoke. It was a move consistent with his tenacious and passionate commitment to his city and its future.