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Mayor seeks third term to continue city’s progress

Date: 10/18/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD – Mayor Daniel Knapik seeks a third term at the helm of the Whip City.

He sat down with Reminder Publications to discuss his campaign.

Born and raised in Westfield, Knapik discussed the evolution of the city under his watch.

“There was a quiet pessimism among the natives,” Knapik said. “They used to say, ‘This is Westfield, you're not going to change anything.’ I felt differently about that. I believed that one person could make a difference.”

Knapik commented, “I have no regrets. I think my record and accomplishments speak for themselves.” He explained that the city had “seized up” and was at a stalemate where projects in the town were at a standstill, resulting in the deterioration of its infrastructure.

The mayor, sitting in his temporary office as the City Hall is being renovated, stated that the building was literally falling apart. He noted that the roofs were collapsing on schools, new firetrucks were needed and roofs were leaking on many municipal buildings.

The mayor said that a new platform truck for the Fire Department will arrive within the next few months, all of the leaks have been fixed and the City Hall is currently being completely renovated to bring its functionality into the current century.

Knapik cited the fact that the new senior center project is underway as one of his main accomplishments.

“Our city has a population of approximately 42,000 people, of which, 5,800 are children in preschool to twelfth grade and more than 8,000 are seniors age 65 and older. It’s symbolic of the era that we’re in. In the Northeast, our communities are getting older. We are in need of a modern facility,” Knapik said.

“I wake up every day to work for a better Westfield,” he said. “Westfield has always been a good place to live and it’s become an even better place to live.”

Knapik stated that he had help in restarting the progress of the city. He attributed the success of the community to the facts that since 1978 a Westfield native has represented the city as a state representative and that former mayor Richard Sullivan now serves as Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs.

Knapik said overall, the state government has been very supportive of Westfield’s ventures. “There’s no question that we are where we are because of them,” he said.

As for future goals, the mayor said, “There’s more to do, I can’t let my foot of the gas pedal.”

One of his main focuses is the re-accreditation of Westsfield High School. The state has advised the city what steps are necessary to bring the school up to code. According to Knapik, one of the main requirements is the construction of a new science and technology wing. The second improvement needing is an upgrade to the library.

Because these projects are in their infancy, cost estimates and proposed schedules are not available.

“As a city, one of the most important things we can do is provide quality education for our children,” Knapik said. He called Superintendent of Schools Dr. Suzanne Scallion a “game changer” for the school district. He noted that the school is now rated Level 2 by the state, up from Level 3.

The ongoing Elm Street Urban Renewal Plan is another project of Knapik’s term, and one that he would continue to oversee if re-elected.

“We’ve assembled the most productive and creative economic and community development team [in the city’s history] – to see the results, look around. Everywhere I look, there are fingerprints from the Economic and Community Development Departments,” Knapik said.

He named the opening of the expansion of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. and the runway project at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport as some examples of the city’s progress.

“If government spaces are well-maintained, private investors will care [and seek to establish companies within city limits],” he said. Knapik said that the recent renovation of Rocky’s Ace Hardware and City Hotel as examples of attracting private investment.

Knapik addressed critics by saying said overdue municipal issues from the past have been addressed and that costs money. He pointed out that despite maintaining what is “essentially a $100 million corporation,” the city is still “shedding debt from the past” in the amount of $5 million to $7 million a year and has only taxed to the full 2 1/2 percent once in his four years as mayor.

“I’ve guided the city through the worst economy since the Great Depression and we have a better credit rating [than before he was elected] and we’ve saved money. The city’s on track to a triple A credit rating. I don’t know how your heart’s beating without knowing how far we’ve come and how well we’re doing. There’s no other agenda than the people’s agenda,” he said.

Knapik said, “It’s [being mayor] is a big job, but I don’t shy away from the challenge. I’ve never been shy about what was in front of the city. What was not an option, was doing nothing.”

During his time as mayor, Knapik led the city through the June 1, 2011 tornado, the October 2011 snowstorm and hurricane Irene.

“We were on our feet faster than other communities,” Knapik said. “We came through with flying colors.” The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency recognized Westfield for its efforts.

“I’d like to think that what we've done is instill a new pride within the city, where residents can dream and we can fulfill those dreams together,” he said.

Knapik encouraged residents, “If you ever want to know what the issue is, give me a call or send me an email.”