Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz announces new staff hires

Last modified: Wednesday, May 07, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David J. Narkewicz is creating a new chief of staff position to coordinate the daily work of his office and provide assistance on all aspects of city operations, just one of several moves as part of a larger reorganization within his office.

Lyn Simmons, who has served as mayoral aide to Narkewicz and former Mayor Clare Higgins since 2011, has been promoted to fill the new position.

Reached at her home in Florence late Tuesday afternoon, Simmons — who is currently on maternity leave — said she was excited about being chosen for the new post.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I work well with the mayor and I’m hoping to work on some special projects.”

Other new faces in the mayor’s office include Northampton residents Christopher Hellman, who will replace Simmons as mayoral aide, and Cynthia Murphy, who is filling the shoes of Corinne Philippides as executive assistant to the mayor and License Commission. Philippides retired last month after 22 years with the city.

Additionally, the city has reconfigured the clerk of the City Council and License Commission position after former clerk Mary Midura left to take a job with the Northampton Police Department. Staffing responsibilities for the council were incorporated into the city clerk’s office, with Assistant City Clerk Pamela Powers being sworn in as council clerk last month. Staffing for the License Commission has moved into the mayor’s office and will be part of Murphy’s job description.

Narkewicz said that with the departure of Midura and Philippides, he began to look at ways other mayors in the region staff their offices. He said Simmons will perform numerous tasks to “advance my administration’s agenda.” In addition to overseeing the mayor’s office, Simmons will work with the mayor on a broad range of issues. She will serve as his liaison to city departments, the City Council and state and federal officials, as well as represent him at meetings and events.

Narkewicz said he has tasked Simmons with several special projects since being elected mayor, including coordinating an effort to design a new city website and helping design the city’s annual budget.

“I want to build and expand upon that effort and utilize her experience and skill set,” he said.

He believes that moving Simmons into a new chief of staff position will allow him to focus on larger issues he’d like to accomplish.

“I think this will help free me up to work on some of the bigger-picture issues and help me organize and frame those issues that I want to be working on,” Narkewicz said.

Simmons, 32, said she got to know Narkewicz when he was a City Council member and she was working as council clerk.

“His style now is the same,” she said. “He’s very much into policy and I like that.”

Simmons said she also appreciates that the mayor’s office is small enough so that everyone’s views on an issue can be considered.

“This is the biggest change to happen in that office for some time,” she added, of the reorganization Narkewicz announced Tuesday. “We are all going to be figuring out the changes together.”

Simmons, a city native and graduate of Northampton High School, holds a bachelor of science degree in legal studies from Bay Path College and a master’s in public administration from Westfield State College. She has worked for the city since 2004 and previously served as assistant city clerk and clerk of the City Council and License Commission. Earlier this year, she was chosen as town administrator in Southampton but turned the job down because she couldn’t agree to the contract being offered.

Simmons is scheduled to start in the new position at the end of the month. She will make $50,945 in the fiscal year that begins in July.

Hellman, meanwhile, previously worked as a senior research analyst for the National Priorities Project and brings to the position more than 25 years experience in government, budgeting and community outreach. Most of that time has been spent at the federal level, but in recent years Hellman has become active in local government, having served on the city Board of Public Works, the Capital Improvements Committee, and on the board of the Friends of Forbes Library.

Though the position in the mayor’s office is entry-level, Hellman, 52, said it fits with his desire to restart his career in local government, “where you see the impact” of policy.

“I don’t think I could have a better opportunity to see the workings of the city than the mayor’s office,” he said. “I’m hoping to utilize my experience in politics and government to do some positive things.”

Hellman was born and raised in Northampton, is a 1980 graduate of Northampton High School, and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Middlebury College. He starts the new position Wednesday. He will earn an annual salary of $33,288.

Murphy has worked for the Northampton School Department since 2002 and most recently served as secretary to the associate principal at Northampton High School. She did not immediately return phone calls from the Gazette Tuesday seeking comment on her new post with the city.

Narkewicz said Murphy is “a well liked member of the high school staff and administration.”

Murphy — another Northampton native — is also graduate of Northampton High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She starts her new position May 19 and will earn an annual salary of $40,925.

Gazette staff writer Barbara Solow contributed to this story.