Transitions—There Are Surprises To Be Found Along The Road From
High Tech To Small Town America
By Peter Golden
Posted October 8, 2014.
It’s taken a while, but slowly I’ve begun to transition
my professional practice and thinking into new areas. Where in the
past I focused my efforts toward developing a marketing communications
firm in the Greater Boston area, I now find my work and thinking
is directed toward historic preservation and gaining a better understanding
of suburban communities and how they operate. It was not always that
In 1984, after a stint producing and marketing tradeshows for the
computer industry, I went to work for a large technology manufacturer
for whom I was a regional sales manager. I then went on to launch
my own business, The Golden Group. At the time we offered marketing
consulting, public relations, advertising and direct mail services
to computer industry clients.
It’s been an interesting three decades working with information
systems companies, real estate and financial firms, a parklands
conservancy, a number of tour operators and an education foundation.
the business is still challenging and rewarding, I’ve
become active in other areas as a writer and commentator.
In the early 2000s I contributed a single column to the Op-Ed
pages of the MetroWest Daily News, one of the better regional newspapers
in New England. While I’d been ghostwriting editorials, position
papers and speeches for clients for decades and in a previous life
wrote regularly about the pop music scene, I rarely published under
my own name at The Golden Group.
Positive reader response led me to write more columns while exploring
a variety of areas in which I had limited experience. Soon I was
investigating a host of political and policy issues ranging from
foreign affairs and the economy to transportation and energy solutions.
And while the thinking behind those early efforts may not have changed
a lot of minds, I found that work undertaken in education policy
earlier in my career allowed me to pursue new ideas with relative
Around the same time I began to publish a series of articles on
managing residential communities for a Community Associations Institute
affiliate in the Greater Boston area, where I live and work. The
result was that my understanding of capital budgets, facilities maintenance
and hands-on governance increased appreciably. Another “regular
turn,” as we say in the world of freelance writing, led me
to the pages of glossy consumer magazines serving upscale communities.
There I began to write about history, culture
and the environment—three
areas that have held a life-long fascination for me and which have
allowed me to consolidate whole realms of disconnected thinking from
earlier in my career. And then one day I found myself dozing through
one more, interminable session of my community’s town meeting,
a form of local governance common to smaller New England communities.
I’ve been involved in local affairs as a neighborhood
representative for over 25 years, so while I have no particular affection for politics,
I have enormous respect for the grassroots form of democracy that
has allowed the town in which I live, and thousands of American communities
like it, to endure and even prosper for literally hundreds of years.
I am, by the way, a great fan of catnaps, a trick I learned from
my wife early on in our marriage that has served me well over the
years. I never sleep on the job, but while I can doze even in social
situations without anyone really noticing (no mean feat), I use such
occasions in a way you may never have considered: I meditate, and
most decidedly not on my navel.
The trick is to let your subconscious off
the leash, and then pursue it as it begins to wander across the
landscape of your imagination.
It was in the course of such a brief respite (town meeting can be
a most rewarding experience, but if you’ve ever attended one
you may have noticed how some speakers tend to drone) that “the
big idea” came to mind.
I have had a somewhat out of the ordinary
life. While in college
and on into my 20s I worked in the theater as a stage manager and
producer; later, I became a reporter, photographer and editor, covering
the glory years of rock and roll from such vantage points as the
stage at Woodstock (yes, the original one, with Janice Joplin and
The Who). I also reported on the Democratic National Convention in
Chicago (yes, that one) and the French General Strike of 1968. Those
were dangerous, but fascinating times and they gave me my first opportunities
to be published.
Then, I became a teacher in the Boston schools, working with inner-city
kids through a horrendous time when a desegregation order was in
force and the city was in crisis. You’ve already heard the
rest of the story, but here’s what’s important: While
drowsing my way through a late-night session of town meeting I had
a bit of an epiphany: after decades of writing my way quite literally
around the world (if only from my study) and marketing scores of
companies, I realized that one of the most misunderstood
and underrated parts of American life are communities just like mine.
Subsequently (it’s been a few years since that “ah-ha
moment”), I’ve been able to elaborate on that idea, while
always hewing to the notion that when thinking about history,
the environment and culture when expressed through the agency of
town government (and the more grassroots the better), one can begin
to understand and even participate in the process of making life
better in a very personal and meaningful way.
I’ll be back to tell you more, but in the interim take a
moment to think of the ways you give back to your community. Whether
you’re a corporate CEO, an entrepreneur, or just a freelance
writer and marketer like me, the act of community building
is as timeless and rewarding as life itself.
See earlier Blog articles by Peter
Copyright 2002, 2014 The Golden Group.
The Golden Group is a marketing, creative and Web services firm
located in the Metrowest area of Greater Boston, Massachusetts.