Briefings: So Begins a Chicopee Reelection Bid with a Vieau…
Shocking few, Chicopee Mayor John Vieau has announced he would seek a third term leading the 413’s second largest city. Although his only challenger, Ward 3 City Councilor Delmarina López, had entered the race some weeks ago, Vieau had not definitively confirmed his plans until now. Still, with a relatively calm tenure, other than the pandemic, few thought he would leave the corner office either.
On the surface, Vieau’s race and his reelection mirror the campaign growing in neighboring Springfield. López is explicitly running on a few failings from Vieau’s mayoralty, which otherwise can boast some stability. Yet, Vieau is not exactly denying problems exist. Plus, he is taking steps to counter criticism that could delivery him another two-years leading the 413’s second city.
“There is still much more to do! You, the residents of Chicopee, have entrusted me in leading our City and I can proudly say that we are better today than we were yesterday,” Vieau said in a lengthy statement released on Monday.
The statement ran through a number of initiatives and developments that began on Vieau’s watch. However, he also noted how much COVID-19 had come to dominate his time in office. Elected mayor in 2019 after many years on the City Council, it was only month into his mayoralty that the shroud of the coronavirus fell upon the commonwealth.
Vieau specifically cited the reopening of schools and support for businesses.
“We collectively worked together, ultimately save [sic] the lives of the most vulnerable and guiding our City through, arguably, the most trying time in history,” he said. “I can proudly say that collectively, our success depended on all of us.”
Broadly speaking, Vieau has advantages going into reelection. Chicopee does experience political factionalism common to any older city in the region. Plus, the mayor’s first election was unexpectedly competitive. Still, Vieau has not attracted the same his intense critical opposition his predecessors had. Moreover, while voters may not forgive of all electeds who governed during the rise of a new airborne pathogen, it featured so prominently in Vieau’s tenure that Chicopee may prefer to see what he can do without a pandemic.
That said, it is significant he faces opposition compared to 2021 when Vieau did not have an opponent. López has taken aim at various elements of Vieau’s tenure, including on funding schools. That earned a rebuke from Ward 1 School Committee member Tim Wagner.
By comparison, the more recent revelations about the human resources department paying out health insurance premiums for deceased persons has provided López with an opening. She called for an audit last month.
Vieau does appear to be taking this risk seriously. This upcoming Monday, the mayor will hold a press conference with his new human resources director Stephen Zajchowski and other City Hall officials. The press release states that the new HR director will receive a formal introduction at the event.
Yet, it is rare for such an HR director to get this kind of welcome. Rather, the payout of these benefits will feature prominently. In its release, the mayor’s office said it was seeking reimbursement for the benefits that the city wrongly paid out.