Francia Wisnewski announces her candidacy for Kulik’s seat

  • Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, pats Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura on the back after he delivers a keynote at the 49th annual GCC Foundation dinner. Recorder file photo/Joshua Solomon

For the Gazette
Published: 3/1/2018 11:14:07 PM

MONTAGUE — If elected to the Statehouse, Francia Wisnewski plans to be an advocate for local schools, farm workers, social services and transportation in the rural communities she would represent.

Wisnewski on Thursday became the fourth person to announce a run for the 1st Franklin District, following Rep. Stephen Kulik’s announcement last month that he will not run for re-election.

Wisnewski is a 17-year resident of Franklin County and has been involved with local politics for a number of those years.

“To me, this is an opportunity to help amplify the voices of my community,” Wisnewski said. “I have been in the trenches working with the people and I want to take this opportunity to take it up a notch.”

While Kulik’s announcement came as a surprise to her, Wisnewski said this opening provided an opportunity to run for a position she had thought about holding for a long time.

Wisnewski plans to continue the work of a “key legislator,” referring to Kulik. She would like to have “the same reputation he had in the community and to continue the collaboration with other legislators.” Wisnewski hopes to become even more visible to constituents in the communities, offering accessible office hours.

Her background comes primarily in education and social services, while holding several positions in local government.

Wisnewski is the chairwoman of the Hampshire and Franklin Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, is a member of the Montague Town Meeting and the Montague Democratic Committee.

She is the senior program manager at Raising a Reader Massachusetts for the Pioneer Valley, based in Springfield.

Before moving to Montague in 2016, she served two terms as the vice chairwoman of the Greenfield School Committee.

The Montague resident received her master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2008.

Access to child care and more specifically, universal preschool, is a big priority for Wisnewski. She said the financial barriers of child care can lead to a multitude of problems in the community, including making it more difficult for mothers to break the cycles of poverty.

She also sees access to quality and reliable transportation as an important issue, stating there are not enough bus routes or ridership in the district.

Wisnewski will push for access to good food, and in doing so, says she will support local farmers.

An immigrant and Spanish-speaker, Wisnewski says she could assist the growing Latino population in the region.

“We have one of the areas that has a lot of farm workers and Spanish-speaking areas,” Wisnewski said. “The nature of being an immigrant, bilingual — I can understand the issues of some of the community members who are non-native English speakers.”

Wisnewski also noted she believes she is the first Latina to run for this office.

She and her husband, Mark, a local business owner and a former Greenfield Town Council member, currently live in Montague. Her two children, Luke and Corin, attend the town’s public schools, Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School.

Wisnewski will be a panelist in a Sunday League of Women Voters of Franklin County forum, organized to encourage candidates for the upcoming election season. It’s a part of her work, she says, to advocate for women to be involved in local politics, even if they may feel they do not know everything about the positions they are applying for.

“I feel I understand my community and I’d be glad to continue this work at the State House,” Wisnewski said.

Wisnewski joins three others in the race for Kulik’s seat: Kate Albright-Hanna of Huntington, a former video director for Barack Obama’s 2007 presidential campaign; Natalie Blais, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce executive director and Casey Pease, chairman of the Worthington Democratic Town Committee.

The 1st Franklin District covers 19 towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties, as well as the town of Chester in Hampden County.

Primaries for the state election are Sept. 4.

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