|By Carley Dangona
Mayor-elect Edward Sullivan speaks to a crowd of supporters at the Dante Club in West Springfield after beating incumbent Mayor Gregory Neffinger on Nov. 5.
Reminder Publications photo Carley Dangona
In the wake of the Nov. 5 election, many candidates are reeling from its results.
Sullivan vs. Neffinger
Challenger Edward Sullivan beat incumbent Mayor Gregory Neffinger 4,432 to 2,422, winning all eight of West Springfield’s precincts.
“We have a lot of work to do come Jan. 2, 2014,” Sullivan said during a post-election speech at the Dante Club.
He added, “It takes a village to raise a candidate, but we did it.”
Sullivan thanked all involved in the campaign and that rallied in support of him. He credited the win to the fact that he maintained a positive campaign, only giving the residents facts.
For the first order of business, Sullivan said, “I want to get everybody together and start meeting with the department heads to plan the town’s future.”
He commented that there is an abundance of “enthusiasm” in the community and among town officials and that he can’t wait to get started.
Sullivan’s already began meeting with school principals to develop strategies to bring all schools to a Level 1 status.
He intends to immediately tackle the issue of lowering the violent crime rate in the town. “That’s going to help all aspects of living in West Springfield, not just quality of life but economic development and everything that goes with it,” he said.
Sullivan intends to “hit the ground running,” and is hoping for a “smooth” and “seamless” transition from the current administration.
In a statement released on Nov. 6, Neffinger said, “I am proud of the accomplishments of my administration over the past two years. All the initiatives that I started: lower taxes for two years in a row, the single stream trash system, new ball fields, Senior Tax Rebate, and others will stand the test of time.
“Who would have thought that as a new mayor I would have to deal with major issues such as: an FBI investigation into a Police captain, an illegal Board of Assessors that was hidden by the former mayor and City Council, a casino proposal for the Eastern States Exposition, and the neglect of our infrastructure just to name a few.
“I wish Mr. Sullivan well and I hope that he will choose, as I have, to put West Side first.
“I have made the tough decisions to move our city forward. The final decisions land squarely on the mayor’s desk and I did not shuck my responsibility. That has made me the subject of much criticism. I have no regrets,” he concluded.
Knapik vs. Roeder
“Considering the sentiment you saw in the Pioneer Valley with incumbents, I’m grateful,” Mayor Daniel Knapik said.
He elected to serve a third term as mayor of Westfield, winning over opponent Michael Roeder 4,538 to 4,205 – a difference of 333 votes.
Knapik credited the race for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District for bring out an extra 1,000 people. “My generation came out and voted,” he said.
Knapik anticipated more news regarding the Elm Street Urban Renewal Plan, new real estate transactions bringing more restaurants to downtown and further growth at the Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport to come about within the first 100 days of his next term.
“Looking back, we tackled the hardest challenges [in my four years as mayor] and they’re behind us now,” Knapik said. He added that walking into office and having to resolve major issues such as multiple infrastructure improvements cost money.
Roeder remained positive despite the loss. “I have no regrets. It was a close race and we did everything we could. It was a fair race and I wish him the best,” he said.”
He does not intend to run for mayor again. “You have to be reasonable about this,” Roeder said, noting that he would be 70, pushing 71 at the time of the next election.
He stated that his wife “took the race to heart” and deserves a vacation. The two are considering a trip to the Caribbean.
Roeder commented that he might assist with the organization of the Independent party and its operations in Western Massachusetts, but that at this time it is only a possibility.
He cited his immediate goals, “to keep the pool running, the grass mowed and to make sure I wake up in one piece every morning.”
Mayor Richard Cohen was elected his seventh term on Nov. 5. He ran unopposed after Walter Meissner III was disqualified from the race in September when the Board of Registrars ruled phony signatures were used to validate his bid.
Approximately 27 percent of voters turned out for the election.
“It’s so important that everybody vote. There seems to be apathy across the country. Voting is a privilege and a right that shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Cohen said.
“I hope and pray that the City Council, the School Committee and I can work together for the better of all our residents,” he stated of his plans for the future.
For Cohen, many projects are at the forefront of his to do list. He explained the former Food Mart site is almost completely occupied with merchants, and the mayor wants to fill the last few spaces.
Cohen is working with the Planning & Community Development Department to create and eventually implement – with council approval – a mixed use-zoning district for the Walnut Street Extension.
A project that’s been underway is the clean up and rebuilding of the former Games and Lanes Bowling site.
“Every day we want to get that place cleaned up. It’s an eyesore. We’re waiting on the reports [from the assessment]. We ask for the community’s patience. If it were as easy as just rebuilding, we would have done that a long time ago,” Cohen said, referring to the fact that the site is contaminated.
Other goals for Cohen’s next term are to keep taxes low, to get the Route 187 project started and to complete the second phase of the School Street Park project.
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