New health, human resources directors appointed in Amherst 

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2020 1:58:52 PM

AMHERST — A human resources director with extensive experience in higher education and a health director who has been at the forefront of Hadley’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been put forward for appointments by Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

Donna-Rae Kenneally, who has worked at Western New England University in Springfield as the associate director of human resources and Title IX investigator, would replace Evelyn Rivera-Riffenburg. Rivera-Riffenburg left in June for a human resources position with the Chicopee schools after being in the Amherst position for just over a year.

Emma Dragon, a member of the Hadley Board of Health and a registered nurse in the emergency department at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, in the public school system and with the Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team, would take over as health director for Julie Federman, who retired following more than 10 years in the position.

Both appointments are subject to review by the Town Council.

Bockelman said in a statement that Kenneally brings experience in all department functions, including recruitment, compensation, labor relations, and training and development initiatives.

“I expect that Donna-Rae will bring fresh eyes and a dynamism to go along with her dedication to building an inclusive culture to her work for the town,” Bockelman said.

Kenneally’s 17 years at the university have also included work as benefits service representative, coordinator of business and administrative services, and manager of benefits administration. She also served as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Law.

The Human Resources Director Screening Committee, which recommended Kenneally, included Finance Director Sean Mangano as its chairman, as well as Maria-Judith Rodriguez, chief human resources officer at Amherst College; Catharine Porter, a member of the town’s Personnel Board; Town Clerk Shavena Martin; Amy Rusiecki, assistant superintendent for the Department of Public Works; and Police Capt. Gabe Ting.

Bockelman cited Dragon’s professionalism and ability to work with other departments, being a strong advocate for her patients and having compassion and the ability to listen to other’s needs.

“I especially appreciate Ms. Dragon’s outreach to vulnerable populations, person-centered answers to important questions, and valuable experience in local government,” Bockelman said.

Dragon has earned certifications in emergency management and public health and was recently appointed to the Massachusetts Local and Regional Public Health Advisory Committee. As a member of Hadley’s Board of Health, Dragon has tracked COVID-19 cases in the community and enacted a face-covering regulation to stem the spread of the virus in the commercial district.

The Health Director Screening Committee included Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek as its chairman, as well as Jeff Harness, director of community health and government relations at Cooley Dickinson; Merridith O’Leary, Northampton’s director of public health; Jennifer Moyston, administrative and human resources Assistant; Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson; and Senior Center Director Mary Beth Ogulewicz.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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