After learning the political ropes from VT Senator (then Congressman) Bernie Sanders and supporting the efforts of Ben and Jerry’s Co-Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield as their assistant, Natalie Blais gave up her free supply of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and moved to Massachusetts when her husband was offered a job at Amherst College.
Since moving to Western Massachusetts over a decade ago, Natalie has worked on behalf of the residents of western Massachusetts in various public positions.
As a Congressional Aide to Representatives Olver and McGovern, Natalie assisted individual constituents experiencing difficulties with the federal government. Working alongside communities, businesses and non-profits, she advanced community economic development priorities including broadband expansion, bike paths, roadway and rail projects, energy efficiency expansion and the adoption of renewable energy technology. One of Natalie’s proudest accomplishments was helping to bring the $72 million Knowledge Corridor rail expansion project to fruition. As a result of this experience, Natalie is keenly aware of the unique challenges our rural area faces when it comes to state investment and the advocacy required to ensure our voices are heard.
In 2015, Natalie jumped at the opportunity to join the University of Massachusetts Amherst family and became Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s first Chief of Staff. In this role, she served as an adviser to the Chancellor, oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Chancellor’s office and coordinated activities that advanced campus priorities with various internal and external stakeholders. Her time at UMass Amherst strengthened her belief that world class public educational opportunities should be made available and affordable to all. Natalie believes that achieving this goal requires collaboration between our community colleges and public universities, their students and faculty and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Natalie is currently Executive Director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce located in Greenfield. Under her leadership, the Chamber has supported area businesses and advocated for state policies that benefit the rural economy. She has been an outspoken proponent of expanding the region’s reputation as an outdoor recreational hub and exploring ways to enhance the creative economy.
Natalie earned a B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and an M.A. in Organizational and Political Communication from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, after being awarded the Cecil and Helen Rose Ethics in Communication Scholarship.
In 2015, Natalie was awarded the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Regional Recognition Award honoring her “dedicated public service, responsible leadership, and unwavering support of the goals of sound planning and regional cooperation.”
Natalie lives in Sunderland with her husband, Luke, and her two children, Shane and Danny. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening and starting (but not necessarily finishing) home improvement projects.
Natalie serves as the Chair of the Sunderland Public Library Board of Trustees and is on the Board of Amherst Montessori School.