The fiscal crisis in Massachusetts from 1989 through 1994 was financially devastating to cities and towns,
but Mendon's way of enduring it was what many people might regard as unthinkable. Town boards had to
reduce their budgets. Many builders had gone bankrupt. Housing subdivisions were left unfinished. Real
estate taxes went uncollected. There was a reduction in state aid. The bottom had fallen out of the mid-
1980's prosperity that Governor Dukakis had boasted as the "Massachusetts Miracle." Mendon tightened
its belt, but at the same time pulled off what would have been improbable in any other town. It built three
new public buildings.
By 1989, Mendon' growth in population required a need for more space for town services. Senior citizens
had no place to gather. The highway department needed more room for its trucks and equipment. The
police department lacked adequate space in its location in the basement of Town Hall. Dispatchers
worked from their homes. There was not enough floor space to meet state required upgrades. The need
for new buildings was most evident, but the prevailing economic climate made the chances for such new
construction very remote.
Tom Hackenson, who had an extensive background of public service and expertise in the building trade,
volunteered to coordinate an effort to address the town's building needs. He successfully solicited
volunteer help, financial donations, and contributions of building materials. As chairman of the Mendon
Council on Aging, he and his volunteer crew worked on weekends to begin construction of a new senior
center at 62 Providence Road. His crew included his brother, Bill, and his sons, Steve and Tom, and other
dedicated carpenters. The building was completed , and an open house was held on October 28, 1990.
Three hundred grateful residents attended as the town was presented a beautiful new building at no cost.
Tom's second project was to work with a building committee and volunteers to construct a new highway
barn at 66 Providence Road. Many town officials, local contractors, and residents gave generously of their
time and skills to construct a building that had a floor space of 9,920 square feet. With equipment and
many building materials donated, the cost to the town was minimal for a building of its size. The new,
spacious highway barn opened in November 1991 and turned over to Tom Guerra, Highway Surveyor.
As the former highway barn behind Town Hall was vacated, Mr. Hackenson offered his services to convert
it to a police station. Tom, his sons, his brother, several members of the police department, and other
volunteers, donated their time on weekends and in their spare time to provide a new building of expanded
workspace. The town provided money from its stabilization fund to cover the costs of materials. The newly
converted building was completed in August 1994 and presented to Chief Dennis Grady and the Mendon
Tom Hackenson's low-key leadership, his boundless energy, his dedication to public service, and his
love for his town enabled Mendon to construct three new public buildings when other towns were
struggling to avoid economic disaster. In addition to spearheading the construction of three buildings, he
served for many years as an assessor and a town and state building inspector. In 1967, he was an active
participant in Mendon's 300th anniversary celebration, particularly in planning and organizing the parade.
Tom's contributions to the town of Mendon have been most commendable. He has served us in an
exemplary manner. He has been an outstanding citizen, the likes of which we may never see again.
Family friend, January 30, 2015