Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD Last week Brent Bean II, Westfield City Councilor At-Large, formally announced his candidacy for mayor of Westfield, joining Michael Boulanger, director of Westfield's Emergency Management Agency, in the race.
In Bean's announcement speech given at the Westwood Restaurant he stated his commitment to the city and some powerful advice he received from his grandmother one morning while sitting down for coffee: "Shut your mouth and open your ears."
Since then, Bean said he has knocked on over 3,100 doors within the past two months in order to speak with Westfield residents and gain a complete knowledge of their needs and concerns.
"It's a learning experience knocking on doors because you actually hear what people have to say and I take that very seriously," Bean said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "I've learned a lot from my six years as City Councilor and I'm confident that I can be the leader that Westfield is looking for."
Not only did Bean say that his experience as a City Councilor over the past six years and Council President in 2004 will help him to understand the needs of the city as the mayor but by speaking with citizens directly he has learned of their individual struggles.
Bean said accountability is the motto for his campaign and administration, as he believes the office of the mayor must be accountable to its citizens.
"I think I will be able to restore some of the confidence within city government," he added.
Bean stated many of his campaign issues including the continuation of funding for the Police and Fire Departments so that they may be kept up to date with vital training.
He said he is also looking to further the economic development of downtown Westfield with the $10 million Falcone retail project as well as the furthering of the Columbia Greenway Rails to Trails Project, which will bring more economic spin-off into the area.
Bean stated his commitment to the $60 million Great River Bridge Project, as sometimes projects such as these can be slowed up due to federal and state funding, but he is committed to seeing the project's completion.
He said that he is looking to build a state of the art Council on Aging facility that would be the "envy" of Western Massachusetts. He added that the project had been promised long before him and that he is committed to providing the seniors with a quality resource center.
Bean is a longtime resident of Westfield and is currently employed at Westfield State College as Staff Associate of Government and Community Relations Coordinator.
"For me it's a dream [to become mayor] and it's an exciting time for Westfield," Bean said. "To be a part of that, to help navigate this city, I believe I have the leadership qualities to do that."
On election day Westfield residents will also have the opportunity to vote for one other mayoral candidate: Michael Boulanger, the current director of Westfield's Emergency Management Agency, part time Westfield Police officer, retired colonel and former Base Commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air Force Base.
"I've no aspirations to go beyond mayor," Boulanger said. "I just want to help the city. Because of all my years of leadership in the military I believe I can help bring some change to the city with fresh ideas."
Boulanger said that he is looking at many positive changes for the city including the "rejuvenation" of the Multimodal Transportation Center slated for construction in downtown Westfield. He added that he is eager to see the Senior Center built as part of the project but that he would also like to see the hotel component of the Multimodal Center regained.
As the director of the Emergency Management Agency, Boulanger said he is committed to public safety and as such would like to see the implementation of an emergency notification system and a siren alert system. He added that the city is susceptible to flooding and other safety hazards given its location next to the Westfield River.
Like Bean, Boulanger said that he is looking for accountability from city government, specifically when it comes to the use of taxpayer's money. He added that there has been an abuse of city vehicles and that "there's been a waste in some areas of spending and a little bit of belt tightening is needed to eliminate waste spending."
Boulanger said he is also looking at ways to attract new businesses into the downtown area. While organizations like the Business Improvement District are doing everything they can to improve the overall look of the area, he said, "there needs to be another catalyst" in luring businesses downtown.
He also said he has spoken with Shirley Alvira, the superintendent of Westfield Public Schools, in order to find ways to balance the school budget and get the school system out of its yearly deficit.
Boulanger stated that he will work towards increasing the city's revenue streams by bringing in big and small businesses rather than raising the taxes.
As a 30-year resident of Westfield and father of two who were born in the area, Boulanger said he has an emotional attachment to the city and is eager to role up his sleeves and get to work.
"I feel that I have a lot to contribute," he said. "I'll work hard for Westfield and do the best that I can."
For more information on this year's elections including polling stations and all other candidates for City Council and School Committee call the Westfield City Clerk's Office at 572-6235.