An era is ending as Melody Pacheco, assistant to the town administrator since 1991, is retiring on March 17. If you’ve had any dealing at all with Mattapoisett’s Town Hall, then you probably know Pacheco, aka ‘Mel.’
Before holding down the fort in the Selectmen’s office, she worked in the Clerk’s Office, the Building Department, Conservation Commission, and the Zoning Board of Appeals. She’s been a woman for all seasons, literally, as she’s planned numerous community events dependent on the weather’s cooperation.
Pacheco’s commitment to Mattapoisett and its residents goes beyond a formal job description. Her drive to assist and improve things for all involved has also included volunteering at the Council on Aging, Agriculture Commission, and collecting non-perishable food for food banks.
Monday through Friday for 35 years, Pacheco has been navigating the Town Hall operation, through good times and bad, as the “can-do” person for every job she was assigned. Now, as she counts down the days to her retirement, Pacheco is ready to hand over the coffee pot. Her words, not ours.
“I don’t feel happy or sad – it’s just time,” Pacheco waxed when asked how she feels about this milestone in her life. Giving credit where she believes credit is due, Pacheco told The Wanderer about the people who helped her along the way versus her achievements.
Lois Ennis, the former town clerk, hired Pacheco in 1987 as a part-time assistant. “I was re-entering the workforce, and I was not very confident I could do it,” she haltingly began. As it turned out, when Ennis called offering the job, Pacheco initially turned it down. But after further consideration, she called Ennis back. “Is the job still available?” It was, and the journey began.
Yet Pacheco remained uncertain that the path she had chosen was the right one for her. “I left and went into the medical field for about 10 months. I hated it!” she said. A quick call to Ennis and she found herself back in the Clerk’s Office and a Town Hall building that would become her second home.
If Pacheco is anything, she is grateful. She recalled her first supervisors as people who helped her develop into a municipal employee, not just an employee. Former Selectman Jack DeCosta and Executive Secretary Carol Adams were two key people in her professional development who impressed upon her that the role meant always representing the town in the best light possible. That not only included carrying out the responsibilities of her job to the best of her abilities but in comporting herself, her best self, at all times.
“They taught me that when you do these jobs, no matter what, you are here for the residents,” said Pacheco, recalling how DeCosta took her under his wing and how Adams taught her how to present herself in a positive light every day no matter how she was feeling, striving consistently for excellence.
We reached out to a few of the many people Pacheco has worked with over her long tenure at Town Hall. Their voices all rang with high praise. Former Town Clerk Lois Ennis: “She was always eager, anxious to learn, always very pleasant, you don’t always get that in an employee.… Mel has the same personality today that she did back then and really a strong work ethic.”
Director of Inspectional Services Andy Bobola: “We go all the way back to Rochester Memorial School.” During the years that he lived in Rochester, Mel was a childhood pal. “Fast-forward, we came back together at Town Hall,” said Bobola. For a time, one of the positions Pacheco held was administrative assistant to the Building Department. “She was my right hand,” he recalled. “She was always, always the consummate professional.” Bobola went on to say that the person we see today is the same person Pacheco has always been, cheerful and ready to help where needed. “She has always been willing to help. In town government, you can’t ask more than that; she’s accomplished so much,” Bobola said.
Barry Denham, former selectman, and soon-to-be-retired highway surveyor, said with a laugh, “Mel’s leaving is making it easier for me to retire, too.… It’s been a good run for both of us.” He said that Pacheco was a good person to work with. And he should know, having worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Pacheco the entire length of her career. “Ever since Mel started, we have worked together in one capacity or another every day.” From decorating the Town Hall to setting up for community events such as Holiday in The Park and numerous other community occasions, together they got the job done. “We’ll meet again out on the sidewalk,” Denham said with a smile.
Mike Gagne, former town administrator, agreed with those sentiments, adding, “We worked together for 12 years. She was unbelievable.” Gagne said that being the new town administrator and not from the local area could have been doubly difficult. Still, he said of Pacheco, “She was a guide, a tremendous asset, with the ability to resolve a lot of things that come through the Selectmen’s Office. I was extremely fortunate to have her.
“Many people don’t know what a compassionate heart Mel has. Many times she helped people when they needed it, quietly assisting others in need.” Gagne said that the wealth of knowledge Pacheco has after three decades in Town Hall is nothing short of “amazing,” and her ability to move with the times over those decades speaks to her capacity to adapt and accommodate to change. “She is one of the best assistants for a town administrator on the south coast,” he said, acknowledging again how lucky he was to have her seated just across the hall.
Town Administrator Mike Lorenco shared his thoughts in the short time Pacheco has been assisting him. “It is crazy to say, but Mel has been an employee for Mattapoisett for as long as I’ve been alive! We joke about that a lot, but it really is a stunning actuality that is a rare sight today. To provide service to the town for so long is a testament to her ability to make herself indispensable. She has been the face of Town Hall for over three decades and has served all three of Mattapoisett’s town administrators.
“Mel is very much the giant cog of the machine that drives much of Mattapoisett. She is the first face residents see when they come into Town Hall and is at the forefront of planning many of the town’s annual events. She is driven by her love for the Town of Mattapoisett and all those that reside in it. I am going to greatly miss Mel and her strong desire to do whatever is necessary to serve the town.”
When we asked Pacheco what she enjoyed the most during her many years at Town Hall, she first commented it was the residents; with a bit more consideration, she said it was the annual Holiday in the Park event. “It brought me more joy than anything.” She said the idea of a holiday event grew over time, beginning as a simple tree lighting ceremony. “But I wanted something bigger like a holiday stroll.” She said she was an elf during the tree lighting ceremony, a memory that made her laugh out loud. “It took place at night around 6:30, but as the town grew, I wanted it to grow.” She said the outpouring of support from the area merchants, especially the restaurants and the inclusion of the Lions’ Club toy drive, came together to make it a full afternoon of family-oriented fun.
“When you work this job, you never know what’s coming next,” Pacheco stated. “I have no remorse, no complaints. There have been a lot of good times and tough times, but you make it what it is. I’m appreciative of the opportunities I was given. It was a great era.”
By Marilou Newell