By Carley Dangona
Reminder Publications file photo
WESTFIELD – John Velis edged out opponent City Councilor Dan Allie to become the next 4th Hampden District state representative.
In a vote of 2,697 to 2,354, Velis won the election with 53 percent of the vote. At this time, a date for his official swearing in has not been set.
“It was so close,” Velis said. “As 8 p.m. approached I was cautiously optimistic. Over the course of the campaign, I had a very good feeling.”
His reaction after the results were official, “Oh my God, I’m going to be a state representative.” Velis said he immediately hugged his family and “reached out to all the supporters he could” to thank them.
Velis explained that constituents were “receptive” to his belief in crossing party lines to do what’s best for the residents. He said the people he encountered along the campaign trail expressed frustration and impatience with the current political system and its lack of collaboration.
“The campaign got very, very dirty and negative at the end, but I didn’t. I’m proud of myself,” Velis said. From the beginning of his campaign, Velis promised not to engage in that sort of tactic.
“Whether I win or lose, it doesn’t change who John Velis is,” he added.
Property taxes were a main topic of conversation during his door-to-door visits with residents. While he understands that the City Council handles the rates, Velis is going to focus on increasing state aid to the area to prevent further increases in property taxes.
“Really the only way for a city to raise revenues is through property taxes. Local aid is the lifeblood of a city,” he said.
“Nothing annoys me more than a politician that passes legislation without understanding how those on the ground will be affected. I’m not presumptuous enough to assume I’m the smartest person in the room,” Velis stated.
He plans to form a commission composed of leaders from various sectors of the community such as education, seniors and public safety. “I will meet with them once a moth to solicit their opinion on the legislation [coming forward],” Velis said.
“Education is the foundation for everything. I am proud to be a product of the Westfield education system. Westfield educators and teachers will always have an open door policy with me because they gave me the same open door,” Velis said.
In his December 2013 interview with Reminder Publications, Velis promised to carry on state Sen. Donald Humason Jr.’s tradition of taking part in the annual Penguin Plunge at Hampton Ponds State Park. Indeed, he participated in the plunge this past January.
“It was cold. It was freezing. I hate being cold. [However] I plan to do that every year,” Velis said, laughing. He noted that he’d rather be in 140-degree weather carrying his military gear.
“I’m going to put Westfield first. My singular focus is the best interest for the city,” Velis commented.
“Whenever I get down there [Boston], I’m going to apply the skills that I have. If nothing else, Westfield is going to get a voice. I look forward to working with the mayor [Daniel Knapik] and Humason,” Velis said.
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