Local Governments in the 413 Take Office Amid Omicron…
Cities up and down the Pioneer Valley swore in their new governments Monday. In two local cities new mayors took office while a third formally began his full term. City councilors and school committee members also took office, having won election in last November’s elections.
The surge in coronavirus cases, likely thanks to the omicron variant, had dampened some local festivities. However only one inauguration was entirely obliterated. As with the legislature last year, the state constitution stands in the way of virtualizing the experience entirely. Oaths must be both verbal and written component, which electeds usually fill out after raising their hands.
The only local ceremony the coronavirus totally sunk was in Westfield. Mayor Michael McCabe, who turfed Don Humason from office last fall, contracted the virus last week. He took the oath in private to ensure he could fully effect it while observing health guidelines.
McCabe and Gina-Louise Sciarra were the two new mayors taking office in the Valley. Voters in Northampton elected Sciarra in an open contest after outgoing mayor David Narkewicz declined to seek reelection. Until Monday, she had been City Council president, leading the Council through the entirety of the pandemic thus far.
In Easthampton, Mayor Nicole LaChappelle began her third term and her first four-year term. The city switched over to four-year terms as of the most recent election. The Town Council also took office, electing District 2 Councilor Homar Gomez as the body’s president. He is the first Latino to hold the position.
In Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia took the oath alongside the rest of the officials who won office last year. However, Garcia had already been mayor since mid-November. Because former mayor Alex Morse left office early last year, an acting mayor the Council had selected had been in charge.
The legislature, at the city’s request, cancelled a special mayoral election that Morse’s resignation would have prompted. The special law also allowed the winner of the regularly scheduled election to take office with immediate effect.
Joining him on Monday in the City Hall auditorium were the new City Council, School Committee, and city treasurer as well as reelected City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee. At the Council’s organizational meeting, Council President Todd McGee won another term.
The swearing-in ceremony could have presaged other drama. Some conservative councilors seemed determined to use a city ethics law to challenge the seating of city councilors who also worked for the School Department. A city ethics ordinance bars city employees from serving as councilors. However, the Council cannot by ordinance bar the seating of its own members. More ambiguous language in the charter added to the confusion.
Since the election, Holyoke Ward 1 Councilor Jenny Rivera took another day job outside the School Department. After an effort to repeal the ordinance last month fizzled, at-large Councilor Israel Rivera opted to resign from the schools. Thus, the challenges to him were withdrawn. Despite legal opinions to the contrary, had the Council voted to deny Israel Rivera’s seating, the courts would almost certainly have overturned it. However, it is possible they could have also upheld the ordinance by forcing Rivera to quit his schools job anyway.
Chicopee’s inauguration was somewhat scaled down as a reception afterward was cancelled. Mayor John Vieau, who faced no opposition for reelection, began his second term leading the 413’s second city. The bigger news may have Ward 2 Councilor Shane Brooks’s failure to secure another term as Council President. Councilors instead installed at-large Councilor Frank LaFlamme.
Springfield saw the swearing in of its new Council and School Committee that voters chose in the city’s midterm elections. Mayor Domenic Sarno was not up for reelection in 2021.
Adam Gomez and Orlando Ramos, now both legislators in the state Senate and House respectively, did not seek reelection to their ward seats. Former School Committee member Maria Perez took office as the Ward 1 Councilor, succeeding Gomez and his father Gumersindo. The elder Gomez had taken over the seat after his son resigned to focus on the Senate. Ramos served out his term. Longtime Indian Orchard activist Zaida Luna took the Ward 8 seat.
All other incumbents won reelection. Councilors reelected Ward 5 Councilor Marcus Williams to serve as president. This time they chose at-large Councilor Jesse Lederman to serve as vice-president. Williams set out a hopeful agenda for the coming year. Committee assignments should be out within a week.
Across City Hall in the former Aldermanic Chamber, the School Committee took office. Five of the six members sought and won reelection. The only new face was Joesiah Gonzalez who took Perez’s seat as the district Committee member for Wards 1 and 3.
Agawam and West Springfield swore in their government on Monday night. Agawam Mayor William Sapelli began his second term alongside the new City Council and School Committee. West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt is in the middle of a four-year term. Therefore only the Council and School Committee needed to take the oath.
Beyond the lower Valley, local governments in Greenfield, North Adams and Pittsfield also took office. North Adams swore in its new mayor Jennifer Macksey on Saturday.