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1620-2020: Meet Brian Maguire

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Plymouth 400 Inc.’s new president, Brian Maguire, isn’t worried. Despite the pressure of leading the historic effort to celebrate the town’s 400th anniversary, which has taken a toll on others, Maguire remains excited and optimistic.
As the town’s efforts to create a fitting celebration to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower moves into its fifth year, Maguire talked about his vision and his plan.
He is relatively new to the non-profit, having been appointed to its board of directors less than two years ago. He became the presidency of the organizations late this fall.
Though clearly trying to look forward and remain above the fray, he answered most questions without hesitation. Often trying to put things in the most positive light, when he found himself unable to do so, he acknowledged his discomfort or politely declined.
Beyond the difficulties experienced in the last few weeks by those involved in preparations for the anniversary, one of our first questions Maguire addressed concerned the origin of his interest in the event, and his qualifications to lead the effort.
Maguire is not the a person you might expect to find leading this 400th anniversary committee.
While he spent his early years in Plymouth, Maguire has lived in Milton for the last three decades.
Though he is a history buff, he is an accountant by trade and holds a master’s degree in business administration – training he has put to work at Kingston-based L. Knife & Sons since graduating from college 32 years ago.
Actually it’s precisely the differences and his professional experience, Maguire said, that will enable him to lead this important effort forward.
“I do think that my experience is going to be helpful, both because of the success I have seen at L. Knife, and because I look at the 400th anniversary as a kind of business start-up, something that I have a lot of experience with,” Maguire said.
“When I came to L. Knife in 1981, it was just two companies and now it’s 18,” he explained.
Acquisitions and start-ups: Maguire relishes the challenge of starting or restarting companies.
He’s clearly proud of his affiliation with L. Knife, noting that it’s the 10th largest beverage distribution company in America. The company employs more than 1,400 people, and more than 600 of those report directly to him in his role as vice president for operations.
“We just were selected as one of the top 100 places to work in Massachusetts,” Maguire said, adding that he wants everyone who’s working to support the 400th anniversary effort to feel the same sense of pride and commitment he has seen at the Kingston-based business.
To accomplish that goal, Maguire has several plans. One of the first is to welcome, with open arms, the former members of the town’s anniversary committee, which was recently disbanded. Maguire emphasized that he hopes to establish a more centralized and efficient approach to the anniversary effort.
“There were some very skilled, engaged and knowledgeable people on that committee,” Maguire said, “and when they are part of this committee it will make us all the more effective.”
When those new board members are in place (the 400 Inc. only recently expanded its board membership to 25 in anticipation of greater citizen involvement) then he’ll be able to more readily implement some of the other organizational and strategic goals he has in mind.
Maguire said he plans to hold a meeting focused on organizational issues alone, including the creation of a variety of new committees, including one devoted only to fundraising.
Plymouth 400 Inc. is also ready for – and really needs – full time staff.
 “We have an administrative assistant and have just hired a P.R. person,” Maguire said, “and one of the other things that is going to happen, by the end of January, is the hiring of an executive director.”
“We are also going to meet in February to finalize the events,” Maguire continued, ticking off his plans one by one. “We’ve had a list of signature events for several years, and now we need to be sure that everyone is still on board with each event and, then, finalize those plans, discuss their scope, their costs, define them fully.”
When that’s done, Maguire added, the plan is to present those plans and detail what it’s going to take to pull them off (money, manpower and the like) to local and state officials and the community.
“In the past, though there has been a lot going on, a lot of planning taking place, we didn’t do the best job of communicating what we were up to,” Maguire admitted. “That’s going to change, for the better.”
That goes as well for townspeople, Maguire said. A large percentage of Plymouth residents have yet to engage with the committee, or the idea of the celebration, he said, noting that is largely because the committee hasn’t done a good job telling the story.
“I personally got involved on the board about two and a half years ago, largely because I was moved by the story,” Maguire said. “This is really a celebration of the start of America, a story of immigrants coming to the new world.”
While Plymoutheans may be familiar with that story, they need a bit more to attract their attention and get them engaged, he explained.
His group already has a list of more than 100 local residents waiting for assignments, but it needs to reach even further, Maguire said.
“We also need to do a better job of making the case for the more tangible benefits that this celebration will bring to Plymouth,” Maguire explained, ticking off the numbers: $1.3 billion in local receipts; 24,000 new jobs; $17 million in tax revenues.
Those are the figures for the 400th celebration in Jamestown, Va., in 2007.
“Yes, this anniversary is going to give the area an economic boost,” he said, “and we have to get that message out.”
Going forward, getting that message out will be the job of the new P.R. officer, Maguire said. But the committee is already doing a lot more to increase its visibility. It was involved in the Thanksgiving parade, has advertised on the radio and is expanding the number of special events it’s running (including adding a 5K road race). Plymouth 400 Inc. will also be one of the chief sponsors of Plymouths first-ever First Night celebration, to be held next year, at the close of 2014.
Asked if there are other ways the committee plans to improve the level of involvement on the part of Plymouth residents, Maguire didn’t miss a beat.
“The first thing they can do is buy a license plate,” he said.
That’s one of Maguire’s pet peeves. The committee, he said, earns a nice return on each of the special 400th anniversary license plates sold, and that money will come back to the committee every year. But that will only happen if and when 1,500 of these plates have been reserved and paid for.
As of this week the committee had received 1,747 orders but only 1,065 people had paid for their plate.
It’s not just the money, of course. Selling those 1,500 plates is a kind of symbol of the public’s interest and support for the committee’s efforts.
But, though it’s important to him, Maguire said he is not going to let the license plate effort impact everything else the committee wants to do.
“There’s a lot to do, plenty for everyone. We need to do a better job of reaching out, but not just to Plymouth residents,” Maguire said. “We need to reach out to other towns that are part of this history, especially towns like Provincetown.”
Maguire also supports a greater involvement by the Wampanoag people – including creating a special event focused on their history.
“This is going to be a big quarter,” Maguire said, lapsing into corporate-speak, “and a big year. There’s a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of imminent happenings. We’re finalizing plans for the traveling exhibit. We have a magazine that will go out twice a year. And our sister city, Plymouth, England, will be holding a special ceremony commemorating the departure of the Mayflower from England.
“It’s a labor of love, on the part of so many people,” he added, “because people realize that this event is important. Not just important for Plymouth and the region, but important for the whole country.”
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.

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