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Northampton senior services pick gets pushback

  • Peggy Ensor of Florence, left, and volunteer Joanne O'Donnell of Easthampton help Olivine Lococo of Northampton adjust settings on her machine March 27, 2018 during a weekly sewing workshop at the Northampton Senior Center. "The most fun out of this class is seeing what everyone else is doing," said Lococo. The program continues on Tuesdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. through May 29th.

  • David Narkewicz



@BeraDunau
Friday, April 06, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David Narkewicz’s recent appointment of Marie Westburg to be the head of Northampton Senior Services ran up against opposition from some at Thursday’s City Council meeting, who spoke in favor of another candidate.

Westburg is the current director of the senior center in Williamsburg, a position she has held for seven years, and Council on Aging member Marlene Morrocco said she was not speaking to disparage or discuss the mayor’s choice. Instead, she made the case for the candidacy of Heather Cahillane, the senior center’s assistant director and volunteer coordinator.

“She fulfills all the qualifications,” Morrocco said.

She noted that Cahillane also applied for the senior services job two years ago, and said members of the City Council, the Council on Aging, the senior center staff and public had expressed support for Cahillane’s candidacy.

She spoke in favor of tabling the appointment of a new director until the community support for Cahillane was considered.

That another candidate from outside Northampton was set to be appointed to the position was also brought up by Morrocco.

“I’m very hurt that Heather has been overlooked for the second time,” said Lorraine Weimann, another Council on Aging member

She said Cahillane is “loved and respected” at the senior center.

“I just wish the mayor loved the senior center the way we do,” she said.

Susan Maguire said a constant refrain at the senior center is, “Let’s go ask Heather.”

“The members have come to rely on her caring and consistency,” Maguire said. “They know what they have to say will be heard.”

Although the mayor has sole authority over the appointment of the director of senior services, it must be approved by the City Council.

“It’s a straight up or down vote,” Narkewicz said after the meeting.

As with other mayoral appointments, the council has 45 days to vote on the appointment or it is automatically approved.

The council unanimously approved sending the appointment to the city services committee without debate, although Ward 1 Councilor Maureen Carney was absent from the meeting. The committee will next be meeting April 19.

Speaking after the meeting, Narkewicz said he is not able to comment on individual job applicants, citing confidentiality issues. He did note, however, that two members of the Council on Aging were a part of his screening committee for the 30 applicants who applied, although he said he wasn’t able to disclose whether Cahillane made it through that initial screening.

He also said he had picked a leader he felt could step into the role.

“I stand by that decision,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.