|By G. Michael Dobbs|
INDIAN ORCHARD It's up to the "wisdom of the public" what out-going State Senator Brian Lees's next career move will be.
Ending months of speculation on what he will do when he leaves office, Lees announced Thursday that he would ask his supporters to write in his name on the Republican ballot in the Sept. 15 primary under the position of Hampden County Clerk of Courts.
If he receives 1,000 votes he will then be the Republican candidate on the November ballot. Lees would either face incumbent Clerk of Courts Marie Mazza or Assistant District Attorney James Goodhines in November.
He said he made the decision until several weeks ago and he acknowledged he didn't have much time to campaign for those 1,000 votes. There are only three Republican primaries for his state senate position along with two state representative contests in Hampden.
Lees said he hopes independent voters will select a Republican ballot to vote for him, forgoing the opportunity to cast a vote in the hotly contested Democratic gubernatorial election.
In his speech, Lees said, "Today I am again seeking the wisdom of the people of western Massachusetts as I announce my intention to take the necessary steps to run for Clerk of Courts in Hampden County. Over the past several months many people have encouraged me to seek service in another office. I've listened to these urgings earnestly and intently. I've been encouraged to run for mayor of Springfield and many have discussed with me the possibility of serving in the Clerk of Courts positions in Hampden County."
Lees is not an attorney, but he said, "serving and serving others is at the core of who I am."
"And while the current problems in the Clerk's offices have been well publicized, I want to make it clear I would not be running against anyone. I would be running for the office because of what I think I can bring. My relations with other elected state and local officials, my ability to work effectively with both parties in the Massachusetts Legislature and my leadership experience in the Senate lead me to believe I could be an effective advocate for the people of Hampden County and be a competent, accessible leader in the Clerk of Courts office."
Lees was referring to the on-going lawsuit again Mazza over her firing of an assistance clerk and to Goodhines's charge that Mazza has not built up a relationship with legislators that would have brought additional state funding to the Clerk's office.
Lees said that he would improve morale in the office, as well as update technology, and makes the offices more accessible to the public.
Lees said he could have made more money as a lobbyist, but wanted to continue in public service.
He said that he would serve a full term of six years, which would prevent him from running for mayor of Springfield at the end of the present term. Lees is currently an East Longmeadow resident and would have to establish residence in the city before such a campaign.
When asked if he was running for this seat to improve his state pension, Lees said there is a "slight" increase in the salary. His state senate position pays him $78,00 and the Clerk of Court job would pay him $110,220. Money, however, was not his motivation.
If he doesn't get the 1,000 signatures to land him on the ballot, Lees admitted there is "no Plan B."
Republican State Representative candidate Robert Collamore attended the press conference and pledged Lees that he would deliver 100 of his supporters to Lees's effort.