|By Carley Dangona
Reminder Publications file photo
WEST SPRINGFIELD The upcoming mayoral race pits Mayor Gregory Neffinger against former Town Council President Ed Sullivan, who formally announced his candidacy last week. The basis for Sullivan's platform is his lifelong dedication to community service and work ethic.
Reminder Publications had the opportunity to sit down with Sullivan to discuss his campaign and goals if elected mayor of West Springfield. He noted his love for the town and his desire to serve others as his reason for running. Despite being the norm in modern day politics, no mudslinging ensued in regards to the current administration.
"I love West Springfield. When I bleed, I bleed blue and white. For me it's all about community service because I really, really, really love the community. That's truly the reason I've been involved since I was a young teenager. I just want to move the community towards a brighter future," Sullivan said.
Sullivan, executive vice president of Sullivan Paper Co. Inc., began volunteering at the age of 12 when he coached basketball for the Park & Recreation Department.
He helped establish the Partnership for Education program and has served on the Dropout Prevention Committee. He has also been a School Committee member, a Town Meeting member, coach for the West Springfield High School girls' track and cross country team, a West Springfield-Agawam Elks Club member, committee marshal for the St. Patrick's Day parade, chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, chairman of the Master Plan Committee and chairman of Neffinger's former Casino Commission, to name a few activities.
"Everything I've done I've enjoyed," he said, adding that it's important to have fun and look forward to the task at hand.
Sullivan cited teamwork as a key of his success. "It's not about me, but the people I've worked with. Nobody does anything alone," he said. Sullivan added that his leadership skills helped make his two terms as council president a success, but said that it was a collective effort. "I have to give the other people credit; if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have accomplished [what we did].
"An opportunity presented itself to me and I took advantage of it. My campaign is about Ed Sullivan and how I can help the West Springfield community," he continued.
He discussed the possibility of a resort casino coming to West Side. He said there are three principal unknowns: what the host community agreement (HCA) will entail, whether the voters will approve the Hard Rock New England proposal and which proposal the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will choose.
"I'm not going to make the HCA a political battlefield," he said. "I could, but that's [the issue overall] something for voters to decide. I'm only one vote. I'm not the be all and the end all."
In a statement regarding his campaign, Sullivan wrote, "I believe the mayor should produce a stable budgetary plan that does not subsidize the annual operating budget with trust fund money, but makes gains in efficiencies and addresses the town's infrastructure. We need to reflect a balance between West Springfield's quality of life, economic development and the tax rate."
Sullivan explained that economic development plans must look to neighboring communities because cities and towns are not "microcosms" and will be more successful with a collaborative approach.
"Another driving factor in my decision to run is the many concerns I have heard relative to our underperforming schools. Currently Memorial Elementary School is rated in the lowest 10 percent of schools academically across the Commonwealth, while our high school level students are rated in the lower 20 percent of the public schools across the Commonwealth. As mayor and chairman of the School Committee, I will ensure that the resources and training are made available to improve our city's school system well beyond these numbers," the statement continued.
He supports continued programming for seniors. Sullivan also supports veterans and said that caring for them includes taking care of the family member that remains home, facing the daily challenges of life while dealing with the absence of their loved ones.
Sullivan said, "There's a tremendous amount of room for improvement. We have to take pride in our community. There's so many efficiencies that can be gained through the facilities. We haven't even tapped into the energy efficiencies through the rebate programs with utilities."
Sullivan stated he is "humbled" by the amount of support for his campaign and described it as "phenomenal." He said, "It is nice to have people come up to me on the street to encourage me and wish me well." He added that his entire family is involved in the campaign process and that it's great to have their support.
When asked how he would balance running a business, having a family and being mayor, if elected, Sullivan replied, "It's just a matter of working well with other people and organizing my time. If you're working with people as opposed to fighting them all the time, it makes the projects move a little smoother."
When questioned what he wants people to know about him as a person, Sullivan said that he has a sense of humor, likes to have fun, enjoys exercise and that he takes pride in working hard. While he doesn't like to fail, he said that he learns from his mistakes.
"Nobody's perfect. We all make mistakes. That is what's great about this world. We're so fortunate that nobody is perfect that's probably one of the gifts of life. You are able to excuse others because you need to be excused for your mistakes too," Sullivan said.
He encouraged residents to take part in the vote whether they cast their ballot for him or not.
"We're all in this together and if we work together we can move towards a brighter, positive future," Sullivan commented. "This town doesn't work without people getting involved."
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