Three Western Mass. Cities Get New Mayors, And Incumbents Breeze Past Competition

Nov 8, 2017

Voters in western Massachusetts turned out on Tuesday to elect new mayors in three cities -- and in two others, residents voted in the incumbents.

Holyoke And Northampton Mayors Win Re-election

The only incumbent mayors in western Massachusetts cities who faced challengers easily won on Tuesday.

In Holyoke, Mayor Alex Morse defeated former city councilor Jay Ferreira with more than 57 percent of the vote. That was by far the most comfortable margin of his four campaigns in Holyoke, quite a tally given that he's only 28 years old.

This campaign centered on Holyoke's fire department -- including its preparedness after a fatal file last New Year's Day -- and the city's schools, which have been taken over by the state.

Morse this year tapped campaign donors from around the state and the country, and outspent Ferreira 11 times over.

Unlike Morse's previous terms, this one is for four years instead of two.

During the campaign, Ferreira doubted Morse would actually serve out the full term, noting rumors of the mayor's aspirations for higher office. In a debate on WWLP, Morse said he "absolutely" was committed to serving all four years.

Meanwhile, voters in Northampton elected David Narkewicz as the city's mayor for the third time. Narkewicz beat his opponent, bookstore owner John Riley, by nearly 4,000 votes.

David Narkewicz in a file photo.
Credit Daily Hampshire Gazette

“I’ve been very out in the community in the time that I’ve been mayor,” Narkewicz said in an interview after his victory. “So I think that people have gotten to know me.”

Narkewicz says his campaign focused on issues like infrastructure investment and sustainable energy.

In the near-term, Narkewicz plans to complete a solar array project for the city's landfill, and continue efforts to address the opioid crisis.

Several rows of sign-holders greeted voters as they drove down the driveway to White Brook Middle School in Easthampton.
Credit Sam Hudzik / NEPR

New Mayors Elected In Agawam, Easthampton And North Adams

Also on Tuesday, voters in three western Massachusetts cities picked new mayors, as the incumbents opted not to seek re-election.

Easthampton elected lawyer and Democratic Party activist Nicole LaChapelle. She defeated Longtime City Councilor Joy Winnie by 11 percentage points, a margin LaChapelle said she did not expect.

“No -- yeah, let me be coy with the press right now -- no, not at all,” LaChapelle said after the results came in. “I had no idea.”

Easthampton Mayor-elect Nicole LaChapelle, center, greets supporters at the Brass Cat in Easthampton on November 7, 2017.
Credit Chris Marion / The Republican

Some voters saw this election as a split between longtime residents who favored Winnie, and newer arrivals who backed LaChapelle. But the mayor-elect said she does not see it that way.

“Knocking on doors and listening to other folks in public venues, we all had this idea, vision and commitment, to an Easthampton that was successful, that would have a sustainable economy outside of the city, and bringing in good partners,” LaChapelle said.

LaChapelle said her main challenge is to improve schools, and make sure all students feel safe and welcomed.

Easthampton High School has been rocked by racial tensions, and a report from the state’s attorney general that said minority students were punished more often and more harshly than white students.

LaChapelle will succeed Mayor Karen Cadieux, who did not seek a third term.

Bill Sapelli greets voters in Agawam, Mass.
Credit Don Treeger / The Republican

In Agawam, voters picked former School Superintendent Bill Sapelli as their new mayor.

Reached by phone shortly after the results came in, Sapelli said he wants to take a little time to find his footing.

“I’m not going to march in, and say, ‘Here’s how we’re going to fix all these problems,’” he said. “I’m going to...start sitting down with [the heads of the public works, police and fire departments] and saying, ‘OK, here’s what I see as some of the needs in town, what are your thoughts?’”

Sapelli knows a lot of those department heads from his four decades working in Agawam's School Department. He retired as superintendent in 2012.

Sapelli beat his opponent, City Council President Jimmy Cichetti, by more than 3,000 votes.

Outgoing Mayor Richard Cohen did not seek reelection after serving eight terms. He was on the ballot for a City Council seat, but lost.

North Adams Mayor-elect Tom Bernard addresses supporters on Tuesday after defeating Bob Moulton, Jr.
Credit Adam Frenier / NEPR

In the Berkshires, Tom Bernard is set to become just the third mayor in North Adams since 1984. In his first try at elected office, he beat city councilor Bob Moulton, Jr. with 70 percent of the vote.

Bernard, an administrator at Smith College, touted his managerial experience throughout his campaign. At a post-election gathering, he told supporters the city needs to stick together.

"Elections focus on opposition and highlighting differences, but the work of moving our city forward is going to involve everyone's best thinking and hard work," Bernard said. "We need to think of ourselves as one city, because that's what we are and that's how we'll succeed.”

Bernard will replace Dick Alcombright, who decided not to run for re-election after eight years in office.

Sam Hudzik, Adam Frenier, Sean Teehan and Heather Brandon contributed to this report.