Longtime Easthampton councilor Joy Winnie: The time is right for me to run for mayor

  • Joy Winnie

Published: 7/13/2017 10:08:29 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Cottage Street is full of life. People stroll down the sidewalk, peeking into shop windows. They go out at night for music and drinks. Some get a tattoo, eat ice cream or check out the local butcher shop.

But it wasn’t always as lively, and longtime City Councilor Joy E. Winnie, who announced this week her plans to run for mayor in November, remembers a time when the corridor was in a state of economic distress. Storefronts were vacant and boarded up. Those days were bleak and dreary, she said.

“I’ve watched the town grow into a city,” she said, adding there is still more growth to come, such as the plans to revitalize Union Street.

Winnie says there’s a “re-awakening” in Easthampton and she loves seeing the city thrive. Being a part of that process is what is motivating her to run for mayor after 21 years on the City Council.

Winnie said she was surprised when Mayor Karen Cadieux announced her retirement last week, but the news prompted her decision to run for the position.

“If Karen had run again, there’s no way I would have run against her,” Winnie said. “I think she’s done a phenomenal job.”

Running for mayor means giving up both her council seat representing Precinct 3, which she has held for over two decades, and her job as transportation supervisor for Northampton Public Schools.

It was a big decision, she said. Winnie considered running when former mayor Michael Tautznik left the post in 2013, but she wasn’t ready to leave her job. Now she’s ready.

“The time is right for me,” she said.

Winnie will likely face Nicole LaChapelle, an attorney who formally launched her campaign last month.

Winnie, 57, grew up in Easthampton. She attended Maple Street School and graduated from Easthampton High School in 1978. She remembers walking to the local drug store as a kid to get an ice cream float and buying the little pet turtles sold at W.T. Grant & Co.

“It was a great place to grow up,” she said.

But over the years the mills closed down and so did other local businesses.

She said things started to change for the better in 1996 when Easthampton adopted a city form of government, allowing a mayor to focus on major decisions rather than through a select board. Winnie was there as a city councilor from the beginning, learning the ropes.

For the first decade, Winnie served on the Finance Subcommittee. Tautznik said the first few years as a city was a learning phase. With the new charter, a fresh budget was proposed with detailed line items.

“I got my financial education from the ground up,” Winnie said.

She worked as a bus driver for over a decade before becoming the transportation supervisor for Northampton schools in the late 1990s. The skills she gained in managing finances paid off in the position, where she is in charge of a $1 million budget that includes driver payroll and maintenance costs for the buses.

She was vice president of the City Council for 10 years and president for one term. She’s served on the Public Safety Subcommittee for 21 years as well as on the Appointments Subcommittee and Rules and Government Relations.

“I’m very supportive of Joy,” Tautznik said. “Mostly because of her experience.”

For Tautznik, as mayor for 17 years, he knows the work the City Council has done for the city. The mill buildings were redeveloped, old rail beds were converted into a bike path and more parking is available in the downtown area.

Winnie pulled nomination papers Monday and is now in the process of collecting signatures — 100 are needed to be on the ballot.

LaChapelle, meanwhile, recently announced that she has raised $17,000 for her campaign. Winnie said that doesn’t bother her.

“I don’t feel that money buys elections,” she said, adding that the decision comes down to the voters.

LaChapelle said she’s excited the race will be contested and looks forward to the dialogue regarding issues in the city.

“I’m thrilled it’s going to be competitive,” she said. “Maybe other people will decide to run as well. The more the merrier.”

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.

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