Holyoke City Council OKs home rule petition to ditch special mayoral election

  • Holyoke City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2021 5:58:30 PM

HOLYOKE — The City Council unanimously passed a home rule petition Tuesday that would do away with the need for a special mayoral election in 2021.

The petition was prompted by the impending exit of Mayor Alex Morse, who is leaving March 26 to take the job of town manager in Provincetown.

The state Legislature now has to approve the petition before it becomes law. If it is not granted, a nonpartisan special election primary would also likely be held to narrow the field to two candidates prior to the special election.

Holyoke’s regular mayoral election is set for November.

So far, City Councilor Rebecca Lisi and School Committee member Devin Sheehan have declared their candidacies for mayor, and City Councilor Michael Sullivan has a campaign website up, although he has yet to officially announce his candidacy. Former Morse aide William Glidden is also considering a run.

Sullivan filed the home rule petition to avoid a special election, citing the high cost of elections and also public health concerns.

In addition to doing away with the special election requirement for this year, the petition would also allow the City Council to select an acting mayor from among its members and permit whoever is elected in November’s general election to be sworn in once the vote is certified.

Under the city’s charter, the City Council president becomes acting mayor when there is a mayoral vacancy. However, City Council President Todd McGee expressed a desire not to serve in the position because of a potential conflict of interest with his employer, and because he would be making a full-time salary for part-time work.

“That’s not who I am,” he said. “We need a full-time person in there, to deal with every issue that we’ve already discussed and who else knows what’s going on.”

McGee works at the MassMutual insurance company in Springfield.

He did say, however, that he would be willing to serve as acting mayor for a short period of time.

The home rule petition was signed by Morse on Wednesday and will now go to the Legislature.

“Hopefully, there’ll be a quick turnaround,” said state Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield, who represents Holyoke.

At Tuesday’s meeting, there was a debate about whether the home rule petition should just include canceling the special election, and not the other provisions.

“I encourage my colleagues to keep it simple,” said City Councilor Linda Vacon.

However, this was met with opposition from City Councilor Joseph McGiverin.

“We have a unique opportunity with the language before us,” he said. “If the state disagrees with what we’re petitioning they can amend our petition.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com

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