Northampton seniors get new leader

  • Marie Westburg of Williamsburg is the new director of Northampton Senior Services. She will begin the new job April 30, pending City Council approval. Submitted Photo

@BeraDunau
Published: 4/3/2018 10:12:33 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After successfully growing the senior center in Williamsburg over the last seven years, Marie Westburg will bring her talents to Northampton this spring.

Mayor David Narkewicz this week picked the Williamsburg resident to be the new director of Northampton Senior Services.

Subject to approval by the City Council, she will succeed Linda Desmond, who retired March 30.

“I think I’ll be able to do a lot of the ideas that I have there,” Westburg, 49, said.

Westburg is the current director of the Senior Center/Council On Aging in Willamsburg, a position she has held for seven years. She is the mother of two teenagers.

“I’m just ready for a change,” said Westburg, who also noted that she applied for the same position two years ago.

Narkewicz said the city received 30 applications for the position, and that he appointed a screening committee to review them.

The committee consisted of two members of the Council On Aging, At-Large councilor William Dwight, a member of the city’s human resources staff, and South Hadley Council On Aging Director Leslie Hennessey.

“We conducted a full search process,” said Narkewicz.

After the committee eliminated a number of applicants, the mayor conducted interviews, before deciding to appoint Westburg.

Narkewicz said Westburg rose to the top based on her experience, broader background in social services and record of growing Willamsburg’s programs and securing grants. He also said that he got positive feedback about Westburg from both regional and Williamsburg officials, as well as people in the Council On Aging network.

The council on Thursday is expected to refer Westburg’s appointment to committee. Narkewicz said that an effort is being made to get her appointment approved by her scheduled start date on April 30.

In the meantime, Narkewicz said that his office is working with the staff at the senior center to accommodate the gap in leadership this month.

He also said that Westburg is set to do some interim transition work before her formal start date.

In taking the Northampton position, Westburg also turned down the position of senior center director in Belchertown.

Westburg said that she has a holistic approach to her work, and said that the efforts of a senior center should not be confined to its walls.

“It needs to branch out into the community,” she said.

She spoke about continuing the senior center’s work with the nonprofit Northampton Neighbors, which connects volunteers with seniors to help with such tasks as yard work and meal preparation, an approach that is designed to help people “age in place.”

Westburg said that she is excited to work with a larger staff, and to work with the mayor to make it as age-friendly as possible. She also spoke about doing more intergenerational programming.

“I think there’s a lot of things we can do that are intergenerational,” she said.

She noted the pen pal program between the school and seniors in Williamsburg, and said that she was interested in exploring a foster grandparent program. Additionally, Westburg spoke about four films the senior center produced in collaboration with the library as part of the “Cross Generational Conversations Project,” as well as the after-school program where seniors played chess, Dungeons & Dragons and music with children.

Westburg also said that she would look to bring in programs to attract younger seniors, as well as more cottage-industry type programs, such as sewing cloth bags.

Westburg said that she would consider staying as director in Northampton until her retirement.

“If they’ll have me that long,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com


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