Pepe makes bid for Springfield mayor
Date: 5/2/2011May 2, 2011
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing EditorNEWS ANALYSIS
SPRINGFIELD School Committee member Antonette Pepe officially started her campaign to be the city's first four-year-term mayor last week with a well-attended rally at the John Boyle O'Reilly Club.
The room was filled with more than 100 supporters and with one other candidate for mayor, City Council President Jose Tosado, who came to wish Pepe well and to undoubtedly check out the level of her support.
Pepe, known for her willingness to speak her mind, didn't mince any words and took square aim at Mayor Domenic Sarno in her speech.
"My record shows I always respond to the people I serve. I definitely don't make promises I can not keep," Pepe declared, a clear jab at Sarno's promise to eliminate the trash collection fee, something he has not yet accomplished during two terms in office.
"Political favors, closed door deals, and all the other things that don't serve the people's interest are over," she added, undoubtedly a reference to the much criticized 20 year-lease at the former Federal Building to house the School Department, a location that was determined without a bidding process.
"Let's face it, Springfield is not currently being run efficiently and yet the current mayor wants four more years. If he couldn't get it right the first two times, the third time won't be a charm," Pepe said of the current financial crisis, which has compelled Sarno to call for wage freezes and furloughs.
Her co-campaign chair, Teresa Regina, former interim Springfield school superintendent, explained she has known Pepe since junior high school. Pepe's life was not an easy one, Regina said, as she ran away from an abusive home.
"She believes that anyone can overcome adversity with hard work and persistence," Regina said.
A lifelong resident of the city, Pepe has been married to Russell Pepe for 49 years. They have three children, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Pepe earned her GED at age 30 and attended Springfield Technical Community College and Western New England University. She worked as a paraprofessional in the Springfield schools from 1991 to 2004 and was union president for the paraprofessionals for 12 years.
She was first elected to the School Committee in 2004 and has become known as a strong advocate for improving vocational education.
Pepe was also the driving force to establish uniforms for the public schools.
If elected, Pepe said she would use the city's transportation nexus Springfield is at the intersection of two interstate highways and the Amtrak northeast corridor, as well as being the home of the nation's largest privately owned bus company as assets to promote economic development.
She said she would examine the grants obtained by the Police Department to assess if they are being used to their potential to address "gangs, drugs and violence."
Drawing another comparison between herself and Sarno, Pepe said she would work directly with the City Council to resolve issues. Sarno has often been criticized by councilors for not involving them in decisions.
After her speech she told Reminder Publications, the city has to live within its means and Sarno's effort to close the $5.4 million gap is "on the back of employees and residents."
For more information on her candidacy, go to www.pepeformayor.com