Citing cost, councilor petitions Holyoke to forgo special mayoral elections

  • Holyoke City Hall, photographed Sept. 12, 2019. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/28/2021 7:25:37 PM

HOLYOKE — City Councilor Michael Sullivan has filed a home-rule petition that would do away with the requirement that a special election be held to fill a mayoral vacancy in 2021.

Sullivan’s home-rule petition comes in the wake of the news that Mayor Alex Morse has been selected as the next town manager of Provincetown, and is negotiating a contract with that community. As such, Morse is expected to resign as mayor of Holyoke this year, which would trigger a special election if this was done with more than six months left in the year.

The special election process would likely require two elections: One to narrow the field to two, and the other to decide the race. With no special election, the City Council president would serve out Morse’s term until a new mayor is sworn in following the general election in November.

Sullivan asserts that such an election process would cost approximately $100,000, and he told the Gazette that the city is having difficulty with things such as trash collection and giving raises to library workers.

“We’re having a hard time just doing normal stuff around town,” Sullivan said.

He also pointed to the public health implications.

“Is it worth it really for those extra couple of months to put people’s lives at risk too?” he said.

The home-rule petition will come before the City Council at its Tuesday meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. and be held over Zoom. Should the city pass the home-rule petition, it would have to be approved by the Legislature to become law.

Under the current law, the Holyoke City Council president becomes mayor in the case of a vacancy, and Sullivan’s home-rule petition would not change that. Todd McGee is the current president.

Sullivan said that he is coming to a decision on whether or not he runs for mayor in the next few days, but that this has no bearing on his decision to bring forward the home-rule petition.

“The city’s hurting for money,” he said.

So far City Councilor Rebecca Lisi and School Committee member Devin Sheehan have announced their candidacies for mayor, with the general election for mayor set for November of this year.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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