Home Posts tagged Mariah Kurtz
Class of 2024

Owner, Kurtz Consulting: Age 30

Mariah Kurtz understands the importance of municipal government, especially in a very small town — and especially at a time of great challenge.

Over the past five years, she found herself in both, first as assistant town planner, then town planner, in Erving, population 1,665.

“I really jumped into municipal government on the hard mode. I was still getting to know the town when COVID hit,” she recalled. “I had to pivot … I guess I learned flexibility.”

Her role in such a small community was expansive. “It turns out, in a rural town, it’s not just reading and approving permits all day; there just aren’t that many permits to approve. So you end up doing a lot of other things. Like, this culvert needs to be replaced. How does that work? Who do we work with? How do we pay for it? Or, we want to plan an event to get people to come to the park, so we work with the Recreation Department to do that.

“The work was really exciting to me, talking to residents and learning what their needs were and what their desires were for their small town to flourish,” she added. “That was magical.”

Growing up in a family construction business — Westfield-based Kurtz Inc. is a notable name in Western Mass. — taught her the complexities of building and development on a small scale, and majoring in sustainable community development at UMass Amherst gave her a broader, more holistic perspective. “Instead of, ‘where do we pour the concrete?’ it’s ‘why do we do that, and how do we take into account the landscape?’”

That perspective guided Kurtz in Erving, and even more so now, a few months after launching her own grant-writing and consulting business, based in Greenfield and serving small businesses, nonprofits, farmers, and, yes, small towns.

“This way, towns don’t have to employ a full-time grant writer or planner, with the salary and benefits that go with that,” she explained, adding, “I actually never wanted to work in municipal government. For a lot of my peers at UMass, that was the traditional track, being a town planner in a local municipality. But I didn’t see that for myself.”

She is gratified, however, at effecting positive change in the region.

“With some projects, you see progress right away. I’ve done some public art projects, and there it is — you see it. But other projects take 20 years to see the difference in the environment,” she explained. “I’m most excited about helping people make those projects happen — and make their dreams happen.”

—Joseph Bednar