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Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik endorses assistant

He made the announcement during a speech at an Easthampton Democratic Committee event at the Holyoke Country Club Thursday, where he threw his support behind his longtime administrative assistant, Karen L. Cadieux, to be his successor when he completes his term in 2013.

Cadieux, 58, has worked as Tautznik’s assistant for 16 years. Before that, she was a municipal clerk for two years.

“I’ve been looking around for a good candidate, someone I think can move the community forward,” Tautznik said Friday. “I think Karen would make a great mayor ... She can carry on with what we’ve been doing and bring her own vision to the office.”

To date, there are no other announced candidates for mayor in the 2013 election. Of the city councilors reached Friday, Justin P. Cobb, Joy E. Winnie and Daniel C. Hagan said they do not plan to run. Joseph P. McCoy and Salem Derby said they may run in the future, but not in 2013. Chester A. Ogulewicz said he is undecided. Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Brough also said he has not made any decision about running.

Cadieux said Friday she was surprised but appreciative when Tautznik announced his support Thursday. She has been considering running for mayor since Tautznik announced in February 2011 that his eighth term in office would likely be his last, she said.

“I’d like to continue some of the great things that have been happening in the city,” she said in a telephone interview. “I think my experience has definitely prepared me for the role.”

Tautznik said that Cadieux’s work experience has made her knowledgeable about municipal matters and given her an understanding of where the city needs to go.

“She may not be the face of the office, but she’s had a hand in everything,” he said, from decision making to financial planning. Tautznik said Cadieux understands the city’s policies and goals, such as the commitment to energy conservation.

She has not authored a municipal budget, but Tautznik said she would have help on that front if she is elected. Over the last few years, he said, he has been working with Finance Director Melissa Zawadzki to shift the major responsibility for balancing the budget to her.

“This fiscal year was the last time the budget was done independent of the finance director,” he said. “Next year, it will be more fully developed by the finance director and less so by the mayor.”

He said Cadieux has developed valuable relationships with politicians, vendors and residents.

“Karen is effectively the front door of the office and I think it’s given her the leadership and interpersonal skills necessary for success as mayor,” he said. “I think those skills will transfer well from her desk to the mayor’s.”

Cadieux began working for Easthampton in 1994, when it was still a town. She served as the Select Board clerk and town administrator’s secretary. In 1996, when Easthampton switched to a mayoral form of government and elected Tautznik its first leader, Cadieux became his assistant.

She said she previously worked as a legal secretary, but declined to discuss her background further. She said would release that information when she makes a formal announcement of her candidacy and platform in a few weeks.

“Right now I’m working on getting a campaign committee together and getting a prepared statement together,” she said. Mary Jane Mathers of Oakridge Circle will be her campaign manager, Cadieux said.

Tautznik said he will be involved in Cadieux’s campaign as a supporter but looks forward to being out of the spotlight. “It will be nice not to deal with the personal attacks and other things that go along with being a candidate,” he said.

After winning a seven-way race to be the first mayor in 1996, Tautznik, 58, ran unopposed until 2009, when he topped three challengers. In 2011, he defeated former police captain Donald Emerson in a heated campaign in which Emerson’s supporters argued that residents of Easthampton wanted a change in leadership.

“I hope people view it as a vote for the continuation of the successful operation of the community,” he said of Cadieux’s candidacy. “What we’ve achieved, we’ve achieved together, and I think Karen will continue those achievements.”

McCoy said that unless another councilor announces as a candidate, he will endorse Cadieux. “As someone who’s shadowed the mayor all these years, she’s the next person with as much experience doing that job, and I think she’s very well qualified,” he said Friday.

It would be a “difficult transition” for someone from the private sector to step in as mayor because of the need for knowledge and skills that are unique to working in municipal government, McCoy said.

“It’s going to be a steep learning curve for anyone, but Karen has the knowledge of all the terms and what they mean. She knows what free cash is and when it’s certified,” he said.

He added that she has been “extremely pleasant and helpful” whenever he has worked with her. “I think things like negotiating and being a hardliner are things she’ll have to learn on the job,” he said. “She’s a bright lady.”

Cadieux lives at 11 Deerfield Drive with her husband, Robert M. Cadieux, 59, who works as a driver, according to city records.

She earned $41,269 in the 2012 fiscal year. Tautznik earned $67,340 as mayor.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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