Holyoke at-large council race draws mix of hopefuls 

  • This combination image shows five of the 11 Holyoke City Council candidates competing for six at-large seats. They are, clockwise from upper left, Michael Sullivan, Wilmer Puello-Mota, Jordan Lemieux, Deborah Aloisi and Peter Tallman. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • Holyoke City Council at-large candidates Michael Sullivan, top left, Wilmer Puello-Mota, center, Jordan Lemieux, top right, Peter Tallman, bottom left, and Deborah Aloisi, bottom right. They are five of the 11 candidates competing for a six at-large seats on Nov. 5, 2019. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • Holyoke City Council at-large candidate Michael Sullivan. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Holyoke City Council at-large candidate Wilmer Puello-Mota. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Holyoke City Council at-large candidate Jordan Lemieux. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Holyoke City Council at-large candidate Peter Tallman. —SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Holyoke City Council at-large candidates Deborah Aloisi. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/30/2019 11:13:32 PM

On Tuesday, Holyoke residents will vote to fill six at-large seats on the City Council. This is the second election since voters decided in 2015 to reduce the number of at-large seats from eight to six.

There are 12 candidates on the ballot competing for those seats, though only 11 are actually running; in a Facebook post, candidate Michelle Trousil said that she has withdrawn from the race but did so too late to have her name removed from the ballot. Among the 11 candidates are five incumbents, after current Councilor Daniel Bresnahan opted not to run for re-election. Today we are publishing profiles of five candidates — two incumbents and three challengers — and on Friday we will publish the remaining six.

Peter Tallman

Peter Tallman, 62, is a retired letter carrier who spent 37 years working for the Holyoke Post Office. He spent three years on active duty with the U.S. Army and recently retired from the Air National Guard after 23 years of service.

A city councilor at large since 2001, Tallman said he is proud of the constituent service he has been able to provide during his time as an elected official. He also said he has been a strong supporter of the city’s public safety departments.

If elected, Tallman said one of his priorities would be dealing with vacant lots and abandoned buildings and attempting to get them back into use. He also said he will try to give any new businesses the best possible tax incentives to expand in Holyoke, noting that downtown has lost “a lot of businesses.”

“The business community is a major part of our tax base,” he said.

Tallman said that when looking at the city budget in the coming years, he would like to make departments more efficient. If a department has not filled an open position for six months, for example, he said he would see if that department could be downsized.

Regarding the divisive issue of whether to build two new middle schools, Tallman said he is still undecided as to how he will vote. He said the city will have to invest in its schools — either by approving new schools or renovating the ones that already exist.

In the coming years, Tallman said he wants to see Mayor Alex Morse and City Council put together a five-year capital proposal in order to plan ahead and set money aside for necessary expenses.

“I think a lot of people want to see better roads and better sidewalks,” he said. “That, I think, will be one of my focuses in the two years to come.”

Tallman said his experience on the City Council sets him apart from other candidates. He said he is approachable and that people feel comfortable talking to him. 

“Being a letter carrier for 37 years … I delivered in almost every area of the city,” he said, adding that, over time, he has heard residents across the city express their needs. “I feel comfortable as an at-large city councilor to be able to address those needs and to know first hand what building or what house or what piece of property is being talked about.”

Jordan Lemieux

Jordan Lemieux, 62, is a retired Holyoke firefighter who spent 32 years working for the city’s Fire Department and served as a vice president in the state’s firefighters union. A lifelong Holyoke resident, he is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in active duty and with the National Guard.

Lemieux said he is a graduate of the city’s public schools, as are his three kids. His oldest son is a third-generation member of the Holyoke Fire Department, and his daughter is presently going back to school at Holyoke Community College. 

“We’re very rooted in Holyoke, and it’s just a great town,” he said. “It just has to get back going.”

If elected, Lemieux said he wants to focus on bringing new businesses into the city — specifically to downtown.

“We have to get the tax base going, to get an influx of revenue coming into the town,” he said.

To do so, he said he would want city officials to sit down with developers and offer them tax breaks or other incentives if they commit to the city for a certain period of time. He pointed to Easthampton’s continued development of its mill buildings as a model he would like to see emulated in Holyoke.

Lemieux also said the city needs more low- or moderate-income housing, and that it needs to better address buildings that have been vacant for years.

As a lifelong resident of the city, Lemieux said he would bring deep knowledge of the city to the City Council. 

“I feel I bring a ton of experience, both with the knowledge of the history of Holyoke and my ability through union negotiation to be able to broker with people, work with developers and bring development into this city,” he said.

Wilmer Puello-Mota

Wilmer Puello-Mota, 23, is a graduate of Holyoke Public Schools who said he likes to tell people that at a young age he learned to speak English while attending city schools, after relocating from Puerto Rico. He graduated Holyoke High School at 17, joined the Air Force and was deployed to Afghanistan and Qatar.

Puello-Mota recently joined the Air National Guard and is currently stationed at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield. He lives and owns property in Ward 2.

Puello-Mota said he plans to advocate for “financial responsibility” if elected to the City Council. He said he is opposed to the ballot question asking voters to approve a debt exclusion to build two new middle schools and that he is aligned with current City Council members Daniel Bresnahan, David Bartley and Linda Vacon.

“I see them as fiscally responsible,” he said of those city councilors. “I think there’s a lot of financial waste going on ... and I think the middle schools are a good example of that.”

If the ballot question doesn’t pass, Puello-Mota said the city has to figure out a path forward — possibly by using space in Dean Technical High School. Another priority for Puello-Mota is making sure public infrastructure, such as the city’s old water pipes, is maintained.

As the youngest candidate in the race, Puello-Mota said he has the energy and drive to do the job. He said that as a young person, he is quick to respond to messages. 

“You’re getting somebody who is willing to learn — because I don’t know everything,” Puello-Mota said. He noted that he has risen to a leadership position in the armed services as a staff sergeant. “At 23,” he said, “that’s a pretty big deal.”

Puello-Mota said he hopes to bring his own personal experiences in Holyoke to the City Council. He said he was raised by a single mother in the city’s apartment buildings, and that gives him an understanding of many young people in the city. 

“It’s the same situation that a lot of these other kids are going through, and that’s something that I definitely want to help these guys with,” he said.

Michael Sullivan

Michael Sullivan, 66, is a contractor who describes himself as the “semi-retired” head of Max Salvage & Maintenance, Inc., a company he built after running his own graphic art supply business, Berkshire-Westwood, for three decades.

Sullivan said he is currently in an architectural preservation and design master’s program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He said that his education, together with his contracting work, give him a unique perspective on Holyoke’s deteriorating buildings.

Running for his third term on the City Council, Sullivan said he is proud of getting a home-rule ordinance passed that allows the city to fine people $5,000 for illegal dumping. He also fought to post signs in the city to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers, adding that he has tried to find help for panhandlers “that are willing to accept it.”

Bringing well-paying jobs to the city is a primary focus for Sullivan, he said, adding that there are many ways to do so.

“First of all, we have to figure out a way to lower the commercial tax rate,” Sullivan said, adding that the city has the highest commercial tax rate in the state. “That right there is the number-one obstacle to attracting new businesses to Holyoke.”

Sullivan said the city has to do a better job of marketing what it has to offer to businesses — green, low-cost energy, good rail connection and a location at the intersection of two major highways, for example.

Sullivan said he and fellow City Councilor Terence Murphy have proposed a $2 million program to tackle blight and abandoned buildings in the city, which he said would make a significant impact in opening up parcels of land and buildings for development.

Some buildings, Sullivan said, can have remediation work done, which would make them more attractive to prospective buyers. And if nobody buys the building, that remediation work makes demolition cheaper.

“The biggest thing that sets me apart is my knowledge and understanding of the infrastructure needs of the city — how we’ve gotten to the point we’re at today and what we need to do to get out of that situation,” Sullivan said.

Deborah Aloisi

Deborah Aloisi, 47, works as a substance abuse clinician. She said that as an independent social worker, she brings the knowledge of a small business owner to the table.

A resident and homeowner in Holyoke since 2007, Aloisi said she wants to ensure that property owners are being taxed fairly.

“I’m not for more tax overrides just to build another building or solve another problem,” she said. “I think that’s unsustainable.”

Aloisi said local businesses are central to the “local, sustainable, taxable economy.” She said that improving the local tax base will allow the city to better fund the Police Department, Fire Department and Department of Public Works, which she described as currently underfunded.

To encourage more local business growth, she said she wants to see the city develop an incubator system for small businesses. She said that would draw new people to the city and encourage current residents to start new businesses.

Aloisi mentioned “side-street mechanics” as the kind of business she would like to see aided by the city. Helping those people open their own shop is an example of the work she hopes to do.

She also wants to help young people find employment in the city after they graduate. She mentioned connecting recent graduates with mentors at local businesses or unions as a way she might get that accomplished.

Describing her politics as “not far-right and not far-left,” but rather “dead center,” Aloisi said she is a big believer in facilitating conversations between people who have knowledge on a subject but who normally don’t talk to each other.

“I believe in making a fair wage, I believe in unions … and the whole American dream that you can own your own business and you can own your own home,” she said. “I want to get out of the mentality that we’re looking for other people to solve our problems.” 

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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