Northampton City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra to run for mayor

  • SUBMITTED PHOTO SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Gina-Louise Sciarra speaks during a meeting of the city’s Committee on Community Resources in the City Council Chambers during her time serving as Ward 4 councilor. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/2/2021 11:03:29 AM

NORTHAMPTON — City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra announced Tuesday that she’s running for mayor, two months after Mayor David Narkewicz declared he would not seek reelection.

In announcing her candidacy, Sciarra, 46, emphasized the need for an “equitable recovery” from the pandemic and highlighted addressing climate change, and racial and social justice as priorities of her campaign.

“Things have been tough, I know. But moments like this also come with great hope and possibility,” Sciarra said in a video announcement of her campaign on Facebook Tuesday morning. “I don’t know of any community that has brighter minds, is more committed, or has a bigger heart than ours. I know that we can help Northampton not just move past this challenging time, but also work together so that Northampton’s next chapter is about building an equitable recovery.

“We need our city to be a place where anyone, of any background or income level, is able to come here, stay here, work, be safe, raise their family and retire here. I am excited and ready to lead Northampton to that chapter.”

Sciarra was first elected to the City Council in November 2013 when she won the Ward 4 seat, serving three terms in that position. She was elected to an at-large seat in 2019 and was elected council president in 2020.

“I believe deeply in public service and in the power of government to serve the people, and I would say nowhere is that more direct and personal than local government,” Sciarra said in an interview Tuesday. “I would love to keep serving Northampton and working for the people of Northampton.”

A graduate of Smith College, she works as a communications manager at Pathlight, a nonprofit that provides services for people with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, and autism, and their families. She is married and has two daughters in the Northampton Public Schools. Before working at Pathlight, she was the capital campaign manager for First Churches of Northampton.

The Rev. Peter Ives, who was the longtime minister at First Churches, commended Sciarra in her campaign announcement. “She shows up, she listens to everyone’s ideas, she pulls us together, and she gets things done,” he said.

Active on council

In her eight years on the council, Sciarra cited her role in enacting several ordinances, including zoning standards that require more affordable housing units and open space for larger developments, stricter municipal campaign finance limits than those set by state law, and a prohibition on the use of facial recognition systems by police officers and other city officials.

She also has sponsored numerous council resolutions, including those in support of reproductive rights, immigrant protections, refugee settlement, and protections for transgender and non-binary people.

“I think we’re at a very important moment in terms of how we handle public safety. The goal is that everyone should feel safe here and feel served by public safety,” she said in an interview. She said the country has failed to fund social services and some of that work has fallen to the police.

“To me, it makes sense to move some of the many calls the police get to more of a clinical supporter, peer response system,” she said, giving the example of mental health-related calls.

She added, “I really appreciate the work that the Northampton Policing Review Commission is doing and I want to respect their process … I look forward to reading their final report.”

Although the city has been focused on dealing with the pandemic during the past year, it also must address climate change, she said.

“Keeping the city’s commitment to make all city buildings and operations carbon-neutral is essential, and we need to continue to push as an entire community to address the climate emergency.”

She noted the proposed resilience hub will be a key part of an equitable recovery from the pandemic. “The resilience hub is really exciting, and I’m just so glad we have prioritized it,” she said.

Anticipating face to face

Elizabeth Silver and Michael Aleo are managing Sciarra’s campaign, which will be mostly virtual amid the pandemic, though Aleo said in a statement that “we will do everything we can to make the campaign accessible to the public, using all of our technological tools, as well as safely bridging the digital divide.”

In her video announcement, Sciarra said, “I look forward to having an in-depth conversation with you about the very real issues our community is facing and how we can work together. Our campaign will keep safe physical distance for the time being but we will be socially engaged.”

Sciarra said she plans to do campaign events over Zoom and hopes that this summer and fall it might feel safe to go door to door.

Narkewicz announced earlier this year he would not be seeking reelection for a fourth term in November. “It felt like the right time for me to step away and allow other folks to be able to bring their ideas and energy forward,” he said in January.

He declined to comment when asked if he would be endorsing Sciarra.

Nomination papers for the 2021 municipal election are available April 2 from the City Clerk’s office by appointment and due by July 30.

All City Council seats are also up for reelection. “I’m just running for mayor,” Sciarra said. “My seat will be open.”

The municipal election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2. A preliminary election, if needed, would be held Sept. 28.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

This story has been updated.




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