New Western Mass. Mayors Prepare For New Job, Budget Challenges

Jan 2, 2018

Three new mayors will be sworn in the first week of January in western Massachusetts.

In Agawam, incumbent Richard Cohen did not seek re-election, and former schools superintendent Bill Sapelli won the race to replace him. Sapelli will take office January 2nd, but said he does not plan to make any big moves right away.

"What I want to do in my first month is do a lot of listening -- and that's what I'm doing now [since the election]," Sapelli said. "I want to make sure I have all of the information, have the stakeholders chiming in or on hearsay."

Sapelli said the city will also have to figure out next steps on a possible sewer expansion, and fixes to the storm-water system. The one area he said he needs to quickly get to work on is the budget, as the planning process is already underway.

That was echoed by the incoming leader of North Adams. During the campaign, Bernard said he wanted to hire an economic development director for the city, to help attract businesses.

The new mayor said in December that he's not sure if he'll be able to get that position in the North Adams budget this next year.

"I'd certainly like to do it, but I need to really look at capacity, and look at if there are places where we can make some efficiencies in the current operation and free up capacity that way," Bernard said.

Bernard takes over for Dick Alcombright, who did not seek re-election.

In Easthampton, Nicole LaChapelle will take office January 2. She said she'll dive into a pair of school-related tasks: finding a new superintendent, and planning for a new school building.

"[Students] deserve a great, new, exciting learning environment -- as do their teachers," LaChapelle said. "That's a huge priority for me."

LaChapelle would eventually have to sell the new school to residents, who will vote on it at a special election scheduled for May 22.

LaChapelle, who succeeds retiring Mayor Karen Cadieux, said she's spent the weeks since her victory working to shut down her private law practice and attending meetings to prepare for the transition.