Easthampton mayor appoints 11 to new community relations committee

  • Easthampton Municipal Building at 50 Payson Ave.  staff File photo 

  • Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle gives a speech inside INSA on the first day of recreational marijuana sales at the city establishment on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Behind her are, from left, City Council Member At-large Daniel Carey, Council Vice-President Salem Derby and Council President Joseph McCoy.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2019 12:43:59 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Mayor Nicole LaChapelle has named 11 people to serve on the city’s Community Relations Committee, a new municipal board tasked with creating a stronger sense of community in Easthampton.

The appointments were submitted to the City Council for approval on Wednesday night and have gone to a subcommittee for review on Jan. 16.

The committee will “proactively deal with issues that affect the quality of life for residents of Easthampton,” LaChapelle said in a recent interview. “Whether that’s housing, transportation services, or quality of schools.”

There will also be liaisons from all of the city’s major departments for the committee to assist with communication, according to LaChapelle.

Among the prospective members appointed by LaChapelle is Jon Norman, a counselor at White Brook Middle School.

“I am very focused on having our community become the best it can be,” said Norman, who has lived in Easthampton for 25 years.

Norman has coached for various youth sports teams in Easthampton and he said he has gotten to know many families along the way. He said he has heard about issues they want to see the city address, such as getting residents who feel disenfranchised more connected with the overall community.

“I joined to become more involved in the community,” Norman said. “If being able to have people to reach out to, and also be able to help the mayor understand what may be going on … that could be helpful.”

Abbie Goldberg, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, is also among the mayor’s appointees. Goldberg said her professional background includes research focusing on LGBTQ-parent families, adoptive families, and families with transgender children, as well as being a clinical psychologist, with training in group dynamics and managing conflict among group members.

“My interest is in bringing some of my professional skills, background and expertise to the city I love, live in, and care about,” Goldberg said. “Hopefully to support a more vibrant, engaged, and tolerant community.”

Goldberg said she has seen evidence of people in Easthampton coming together, but she still sees room for improvement for getting those who feel “unseen or invisible” more of a voice.

“I’m passionate about that,” Goldberg said.

Another mayoral appointee, Laurie Loisel of Northampton, will serve in her capacity as director of community outreach and education for Northwestern district attorney’s office should the city council approve her appointment. Loisel said the DA’s office tries to participate in community initiatives that help with preventing crime.

“My hope is that the committee can bring awareness to the issues that make people feel marginalized within a community,” Loisel said. “When people feel engaged their community is healthier.”

Loisel said the DA’s community outreach program also participates in a variety of drug prevention coalitions — such as Hampshire Hope and the Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition — to help prevent young people from misusing drugs and alcohol.

“We have educational events where experts talk about the impacts of substance abuse on the developing brain to educate parents and schools and help keep kids engaged,” Loisel said.

The other eight appointees are Armand Lapointe, James Vaillancourt, Margaret Kierstein, Mary Lou Splain, Alissa O’Leary, Jane Hamel, Rebecca Passa and Patricia Dougherty.

The Community Relations Committee grew out of an effort by LaChapelle and Police Chief Robert Alberti to foster greater communication in the city following last June’s focus group coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s City SPIRIT program.

Through the SPIRIT program, issues such as housing, transportation and lack of civic engagement were identified by a group of 40 representatives from businesses, faith-based organizations, local government agencies, as well as community-created Facebook groups.

Both Loisel and Goldberg participated in the SPIRIT focus group last June.

Part of the committee’s duties will include advising and making recommendations on community issues relating to health, safety, community involvement and equitable treatment of Easthampton residents, according to a letter LaChapelle penned to the city council.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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