HARVARD — Valeska Ross has been the cheerful voice and competent hands behind the scenes in the Board of Selectmen’s office for over a decade. She’s served three boards and worked with as many town administrators.
And now she’s moving on.
“In a way, I grew up in Harvard,” said Ross, who took the job as administrative assistant when she was just 20 years old and fresh out of Bentley College.
It was May 6, 1997, she said.
The administrator then was John Petrin, followed by Paul Cohen and finally Tim Bragan. Each has had his own style, she said.
Cohen, notably, was a town resident as well. She said he handled the dual role with aplomb.
Ross, who lives in Templeton, said, despite the commute, it may be easier not to live in the town she works in.
“I care but I can step back,” she said. “Paul was good at that.”
Ross has lived in a number of towns and cities, but “always in Massachusetts,” she said. Her list includes Leominster, Ashby, Lowell and Shirley, where her mother lives now.
Her father lives in Texas, where he’s a college professor. She also has two brothers.
Asked to pinpoint a memorable moment, she said there have been many, but the lasting impression she’ll take away is that of a “unique” town that runs on volunteer power. The volunteers who serve on town boards and committees “put so much time and energy” into their work, she said.
And when the budget is tight, as it has been for several years, it’s their job to “find ‘creative ways’ to deal with deficits and run the town,” she said.
While others actively conduct the town’s business, Ross said her role has been behind the scenes. Rather than being a policy- or decision-maker, she said she’s the go-to person and sometimes a “sounding board” for ideas.
She seems always smiling and calm, but she said the job’s had its ups and downs. She’s seen issues roil the waters, she said.
People can get testy, she acknowledged, particularly when finances are strained.
“But even where there are differences of opinion, they are still civil,” she said.
The financial stress Harvard is under stems from its lack of a commercial base, she said, which makes it difficult to come up with money for the schools and run the other town departments.
But Ross has left her mark. Awards she’s received during her tenure include one from E-government for best Web site for her management of the town Web site and one from the Massachusetts Municipal Association for the town report last year.
Although her last official day on the job will be Dec. 20, she said she plans to stay on past that date to complete the town report and finish other end-of-year business.
Her new job title will be executive support administrative specialist at Nypro in Clinton, a well-established plastics manufacturer. The company offers profit-sharing and education assistance. Ross said she plans to finish her degree.
She’s also looking forward to new career options, she said, maybe even climbing the corporate ladder. There’s plenty of time to find the right niche, she said.
“I’m still young ” she said.
But she has enjoyed her time in Harvard.
“I’ll really miss the people here,” she said.