Smith, Quinlan square off for Northampton’s Ward 1 council seat

  • Michael Quinlan SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Andrew Smith SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/29/2019 3:51:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In May, longtime City Councilor Maureen Carney announced that she would not seek reelection, leaving the Ward 1 seat up for grabs. Andrew Smith, a municipal vulnerability preparedness coordinator for the state, and Michael Quinlan, fine wine manager at Table & Vine, are running for the post. The election is next Tuesday. 

Andrew Smith

Smith works for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs as the municipal vulnerability preparedness coordinator for the greater Connecticut River Valley. Until recently, he was the director of conservation and sustainability for the city of Holyoke.

“I want to run for City Council because I have a background in planning and I understand how land-use rules and regulations affect whether a town grows or contracts,” Smith said.

Smith, 40, hails from the southern part of the country and has lived in West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. He came to the Valley for graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 2016, he ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on the City Council.

Climate change is an issue he’s focusing on. “It’s my number one thing I’m passionate about,” he said.

But because he works for the state on climate change, he said he can’t use it as a campaign issue “because it would create a conflict of interest between the citizens of the Commonwealth, as a whole, and the citizens of Northampton in particular,” he explained in a post-interview email. “The technical term is ‘divided loyalty.’” Due to his job, there may be some restrictions on what he can and can’t do on the council related to climate change. 

“My first duty will be to the people of the commonwealth,” he wrote. “My positions will be reflective of that until I get further clarity.”

Smith did detail his ideas for supporting local businesses. In downtown Northampton and Florence, Smith would like to see zoning allow for food trucks. Starting a business downtown is expensive, he said, particularly for those who are lower income.

“I want to remove some of those barriers to allow microenterprise in the city,” he said. “I think it’s detrimental to the city to prevent people who have an interest in becoming a presence downtown in becoming a presence downtown.”

Smith said housing is a major issue he will address. He wants to change zoning currently restricted to single-family homes to include multifamily housing. “That way you could increase the housing stock,” he said. Minneapolis, he pointed out, recently got rid of single-family zoning to increase housing density and decrease housing segregation.

Because he works for the state, Smith said he can’t accept the $9,000 City Council stipend. “I’m not doing it for money or anything other than trying to make the city a better place,” Smith said. He suggested the possibility of putting the would-be stipend money into an account to pay for child care at meetings.

Smith has three young children. “I do want to have child care available at city meetings,” he said. “I’m not the only one who wants that.”

Michael Quinlan

Quinlan, 48, is the fine wine manager at Table & Vine in West Springfield. He has lived in Northampton for most of his life.

“I love the city of Northampton, and I’ve been really inspired by the people of Northampton and the way Northampton always seems to be a leader on so many issues,” Quinlan said, giving the example of strong public schools.

Currently, Quinlan serves on the city’s Whiting Street Fund Committee, a group that makes recommendations to the mayor on how to distribute funds to nonprofits that serve the city’s low-income residents.

In 1976, his father was hired as a teacher at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, a job that he said allowed his parents to become homeowners.

Of the Northampton Association of School Employees (NASE), he said, “That union means a lot to me. That put my parents on a different trajectory.”

“I would advocate for as much school funding as possible,” he continued. “The City Council doesn’t have the authority to add to the school budget. However, that said, I would be a fierce advocate for that.”

Like many other candidates in city elections this year, he has ideas for how Northampton can address climate change and other environmental issues. He’d like the city to get rid of Styrofoam and plastic straws, for example. “I think a ban is the way to go with those things,” he said.

He also suggested that the city transition its fleet of vehicles to electric cars, which can be cost-effective in the long run, he said. “If we’re serious about this, Northampton can put its money where its mouth is and invest in the proper vehicles.”

Quinlan said he recognizes that people are talking about issues like vacant storefronts downtown. For instance, 50 Main St., the former home of Spoleto, has been vacant since 2012. “I don’t know what the owner is asking for in rent, but it’s been empty for seven years,” Quinlan said. “Clearly, not market rate if no one will rent it.

“That said, as a city councilor, the best you can do is continue to hope and field calls from possible business owners that want to move into town and hook them up with the realtors and try to make it work.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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