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Boulanger spotlights change

Mayor Michael Boulanger sat at a table in his office last week to review each department's fiscal year 2009 budget proposals. "I just have to try and find more money," he said of the difficulty trying to balance the budget. Reminder Publications photo by Katelyn Gendron
WESTFIELD Mayor Michael Boulanger has made a new home for himself at City Hall.

In an interview with Reminder Publications Boulanger reflected on his first few months as mayor. "The days are long, tiring, exhausting even, but the challenges and the issues are exciting and rewarding when you are successful," he said.

He added, "It's very much like commanding [an Air Force] base. It's what I enjoy and I enjoy the challenges of problem solving, having a positive impact and making things better if I can."

Inside his office everything is perfectly in its place, no doubt the rigid training of an airman. Over a dozen folders are strategically positioned across a long table, each detailing a facet of the city's fiscal year 2009 budget (FY09) his latest of 50 other projects in progress. A Boston Red Sox mug sits exactly in the center of his desk, the bright red and white logo facing visitors. Reminders of his past life as a colonel and pilot in the Massachusetts Air National Guard can also be seen throughout his office as well as family photographs, reminding him of what waits at home, should he ever leave the office.

When asked if there have been any surprises since taking his new post, Boulanger replied, "It's everything I expected." He added, however, that he did not expect so many vacant positions at City Hall but that he has been excited to bring in new personnel with fresh ideas.

Boulanger noted his accomplishments working with the "superb" City Hall staff over the first few months, such as increasing electronic communication versus paper interoffice memos; his stricter policies with regard to employees' city-issued vehicle and cell phone usage; the recently conducted charrette at Westfield State College to implement a roadmap for the revitalization of downtown; and the recent acquisition of a city-wide electronic emergency notification system.

"There is no shortage of this to be accomplished," Boulanger wrote in a document detailing his first 100 days in office. "Suffice to say that we're setting priorities with education and technology improvements in our schools on the top of the list. Also, we are drastically in need of infrastructure and building improvements, traffic congestion adjustments, parking improvements, river levee maintenance, transfer station improvements, and we need the right personnel in the right jobs to make it all happen."

Boulanger said he is working diligently to accomplish all of his goals and is taking a close, frugal look at the FY09 budget. "It's challenging, certainly," he said. "State aid has been reduced and now we need to do some belt tightening and that is a difficult process." Boulanger noted the importance of making department heads responsible for their spending.

He said he is also making concerted efforts to be available to his constituents on a regular basis, including public office hours. Boulanger added that he enjoys this forum for residents to speak about their greatest concerns.

He said he is appreciative of the support city residents have given him and that he looks forward to many more long days at City Hall throughout the remainder of his term.