AGAWAM – Mayor Richard Cohen reaches into a drawer on the left side of his desk. It’s filed neatly, but instead of documents or contracts, the drawer is home to dozens of thank you cards from residents in his seventh term.
“I empty it out at the end of each term,” Cohen said as he takes one note out. “These are what keep me going. While some people won’t be happy with what you do, there are those who are.”
Cohen now seeks an eighth term, only running against an unofficial candidate, William Clark, who is campaigning as a write in.
Though he is on the final stretch of his seventh term in office, his sixth consecutively, Cohen said the time has flown.
“Honest to God it doesn’t seem that long. When I’m not here, I’m not as relaxed … I look forward to coming in everyday, I really do,” Cohen said. “I don’t want to sound trite or trivial. I say this even in nonelection years. The happiest I am is when I’m sitting here because I truly enjoy doing the job of mayor for our residents.”
In his time sitting in the mayor’s seat, Cohen has a long list of initiatives and projects that he is proud of – Level 2 schools, a new School Street Park and a low split tax rate, to name a few.
While these accomplishments make Cohen proud of the work he and his department heads have done, they are have their sights set further.
“It takes work, but those are things we do every single day … the things we’ve accomplished I think are awesome. They’re great, but there’s still more to do,” Cohen said. “There’s always more to do, like in any business.”
Some of this work includes revamping the bridge between Agawam and West Springfield, redesigning the Rt. 187 intersection in Feeding Hills and making Wade Park a neighborhood park.
The town is looking into doing work at Wade Park using Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. The new School Street Park also used CPA funds, as well as state grants.
Putting an emphasis on parks, including a bike trail on School Street, helps create an outlet for the community, he said.
“It gives our kids and adults a place to go and have recreation, whether it be passive or active,” Cohen said.
Old projects will also take a spot in the forefront in the coming months, namely Games and Lanes and the Walnut Street Extension redesign.
Games and Lanes has been a hot-button topic in Agawam for years, and Cohen said the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is continuing testing. With a buyer lined up to clean and develop the property, the town is just waiting for the DEP to give the green light.
“Games and Lanes is an inherit issue and if I could say with a magic wand, ‘Games and Lanes be clean,’ it would have been clean when I took office. But it isn’t; it’s contaminated,” Cohen said. “People say, ‘Oh you’re not doing anything.’ I can show you what we’re doing. The files are voluminous, and we work on them on a daily basis.”
Fighting blight presents another area for Agawam to work on, Cohen said, but the ordinance passed earlier this year has helped to identify abandoned homes. So far, 10 of the properties are with the Attorney General’s office that could go into receivership.
Overall, however, Cohen said he is lucky to be in his position, but more so, he is happy with the people with whom he works.
“I’m very fortunate and pleased with the job that we do. Yes, we have our hiccups. We’re human; nothing is perfect,” he said. “I tell every department head when we meet, ‘Remember, satisfactory is not acceptable to me. I want above and beyond. I expect that and if I don’t get that, then we’re going to talk about it.’ And we do. I want you to take care of a problem before it’s a problem so we don’t have a problem … It’s truly very important that people’s needs are heard.”