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Knapik to set new precedent for government relations

Date: 11/11/2009

By Katelyn Gendron, Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD Mayor-elect and Ward 2 City Councilor Daniel Knapik plans to set a new precedent for cooperation and teamwork over the next two years.

Knapik told Reminder Publications he believes his service on the council will lend itself to a smooth transition into the mayor's office and a renewed effort on behalf of constituents. Knapik beat Mayor Michael Boulanger in last week's election by 458 votes.

"Mike Boulanger was not a good communicator," he said. "I've already told my colleagues [in city government] that I understand how Westfield government works and the mayor is successful when the mayor can share with the council his or her vision . being on the council has taught me that you also have to share your vision with your colleagues."

Boulanger disagreed, adding he believes the city is moving in the "right direction."

"[My service as mayor] is always something I will be proud of," he said. "We saved a lot of money and had no layoffs [during the budget process] as well as [secured] some substantial growth in industry and small business and downtown revitalization.

"I'm going to walk away with my head held high," Boulanger continued, adding he's unsure if he will return to city government in the future. "I worked with some dedicated people over the past two years who wanted to help the city move forward but I've gotten a lot of resistance and I'm not used to that. It was a steep learning curve for me."

Knapik said he's ready to hit the ground running in January. "I'm setting up meetings [with those in city government]. It's not going to be a steep learning curve for me," he added.

Knapik explained a top priority will be the budget. "[City Councilor and Chair of the Finance Committee John] Liptak gave me a report [citing] that the budget is even worse than what I campaigned on," he said, adding there could be significant shortfalls next year.

Reelected Ward 5 City Councilor and member of the Finance Committee Richard Onofrey Jr., agreed. He added he will request placement on the committee again next year, citing his much-needed experience during the current economic crisis.

Seven uncontested city councilors at-large including incumbents Brian Sullivan and Nicholas Morganelli Jr. as well as newcomers Patti Andras, Brent Bean II, John Beltrandi III, David Flaherty and Gerald Tracy will join Onofrey next year.

Incumbent Ward Councilors Christopher Keefe, Peter Miller Jr., Mary O'Connell and Christopher Crean will also return to the council chambers along with newly elected Ward 2 Councilor Jim Brown.

Brown noted his previous experience on the License Commission will help him make the transition to the City Council. He said his priorities will be sidewalk and road improvements for Ward 2; downtown revitalization; and continuing the strong relationship between Westfield State College and the city.

Knapik and the new members of the council will begin official work in January following an inauguration ceremony in January.