by Rollins Terry
In June, Westfield mom Meaghan Murphy was appointed “chief spirit officer” by Mayor Andy Skibitsky and charged with helping revive the town’s downtown spirit. Murphy knows a thing or two about communication, as she is executive editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and co-founded Teen People.
In her new position, Murphy began using a new town nickname: Bestfield. Under this name, Murphy runs an Instagram and Facebook page, which she calls “a love letter to our town.”
“This is where I chose to live, and raise my three kids, and I feel like I have a responsibility to make it a vibrant, positive and energetic place to be,” Murphy said.
To achieve this, Murphy has created an offspring of the national Kindness Rocks Project. She paints and hides “spirit rocks” around town, primarily downtown and in local parks, to bring more happiness into the community.
Murphy also has designed events in town to promote local shops. She recently had author Laurie Gelman do a book signing of her bestseller Class Mom at The Town Book Store. Murphy also has set up donation boxes in stores like Athleta to collect school supplies for children in nearby towns.
“I want our downtown to thrive,” Murphy said. “It can’t thrive if we are not shopping there. One of the things I have been able to do as CSO is connect local businesses and help them find their voice.”
NosVino, a locally owned wine and liquor shop, provided drinks for the Class Mom signing, and manager Chris LoBrace attended along with the owners of other businesses. “We chose to work with Bestfield because synergy is good for small businesses,” said LoBrace. “There’s also a big social media networking ability. Each business bolsters and moves followers to each other’s posts.”
Many WHS students report not knowing what Bestfield is. However, they have noticed changes in our downtown.
“A lot of stores are coming in and out of town, and many small businesses really need that support to not be overshadowed by larger corporations,” said freshman Grace Luo.
Although Murphy intends Bestfield to be a movement of teamwork and joy, the use of “Best” in the name has raised concerns of elitism.
Skibitsky recalled receiving two concerned comments about elitism from residents after appointing Murphy. Although he takes these concerns seriously, Skibitsky does not see Bestfield as an elitist manifestation.
“It’s been my experience that most people consider their hometowns, wherever they may be, to be ‘the best,’ and that every town naturally promotes its best qualities,” Skibitsky said. “Further, I thought about what we teach our children. We tell them every day to do the best they can, to be the best that they can be. Would we not guide them to do their best for fear that such encouragement may be interpreted as elitism or slighting others?”
Murphy added: “If you do a deeper dive and look at the Facebook or the Instagram and what’s happening, it is all positive. We could spend a lot of energy on the name Bestfield, or we could spend that energy dropping off a coat at the coat drive, shopping local, or painting a spirit rock.
“Who cares what we call this positivity charge? Because I think the good is pretty loud.”