By Carley Dangona
WESTFIELD – Mayor Daniel Knapik promised to continue the progress he has made in revitalizing Westfield during his inaugural address.
The oath of office took place on the stage of the South Middle School auditorium on Jan. 6, accompanied by the school’s Jazz Band. The mayor, City Council, School Committee, Gas & Electric Commissioners and the Trustee of Westfield Athenaeum were sworn into office beginning at 9:30 a.m.
William Duval, Jeffrey Gosselin and Cindy Sullivan comprise the School Committee; Kevin Kelleher, Ray Rivera, Jane Wensley, Francis Liptak, Thomas Flaherty Sr. and Robert Sacco will serve as the Gas & Electric Commissioners; and James Adams, Dan Allie, Brent Bean II, David Flaherty, Cynthia Harris, Brian Sullivan, Matthew VanHeynigen, Christopher Keefe, Ralph Figy, Brian Hoose, Mary O’Connell, Robert Paul Sr. and Christopher Crean make up the City Council.
“There’s no career politicians [here], just ordinary citizens with full-time jobs that ran for office,” Knapik said. “[Now is] not [time] to rest on our laurels, we must continue the city’s forward progress.”
Father Joseph Soltysiak of St. Joseph’s National Catholic Church gave the Invocation, despite being ill. “I want you kids [pointing to the students of the school’s Jazz Band] to know especially, if you have a job you’ve committed to do, as long as you have some kind of strength in you to do it you follow through, especially if it’s your duty to the city of Westfield.”
During Knapik’s oath of office, City Clerk Karen Fanion began, “Do you Michael M. Knapik solemnly swear … ”
The crowd erupted with laughter. The mayor gestured to his brother, seated in the audience.
In his inaugural address, Knapik commented, “It’s rather fitting that I’m called Michael today as I spent three years in this wonderful school being called my brother as well. For those of you that have older brothers and sisters, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a good thing – I take it as a great compliment.”
The mayor highlighted some of the improvements the city has made such as the “painstaking” restoration of City Hall, better Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System scores in the schools, the creation of an 80-acre industrial park and the $16 million renovation of the runway at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport.
He cited upcoming projects to continue the city’s progress. The Elm Street Urban Renewal Plan is close to its next phase, “moving us another step closer to the construction of a new city center,” he stated.
The Gaslight District will begin over the next few months. “This project – over a decade in the making – will proved utility updates and streetscape upgrades that will put the finishing touches on our historic downtown restoration,” Knapik said.
“I’ve stayed true to the vision I laid out four years ago,” the mayor said. “We must always remember that we represent the people that have elected us. Though we may disagree at times, we must always keep an open mind in order to continue to move the people’s business forward.”
He continued, “Always remember, as elected officials one of our most important duties is to ensure that the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is well-spent. Working together for the greater good we have accomplished a great deal; we have addressed our most significant challenges; we have invested for the future. Though every day presents new challenges, remembering that ignoring the obvious is not good public policy and isn’t a strategy that I support. Judging by November’s election results, nor do the majority of the voters.”
Knapik vowed to continue working for the residents’ best interests by utilizing every local, state and national resources possible.
During the close of the program, At-large City Councilor Brian Sullivan jokingly said, “As I listened to Madame City Clerk read the election results, I thought to myself it’s about time we put a chair up here for Mr. Blanks. He or she seems to be on every ballot, every year and does very well without even showing up.”
He added, “Lastly, I can’t let it go by that a colleague of mine from the class of ’81, former senator Mike Knapik – he showed everyone in this room today how much power he really has in the city of Westfield getting elected mayor by just showing up in the audience.”
At its organizational meeting on Jan. 6, the City Council elected Bean as its president.