CHICOPEE When Ward 2 School Committee member Shane Brooks recently declared himself a candidate for alderman-at-large, it wasn't a decision he had made overnight.
"I'd been considering it for a long time," Brooks said.
It wasn't until Alderman-At-Large Lucille Ouimette announced that she would be retiring from the Board, however, "that the seed was really planted" according to Brooks, a lifelong resident of the city.
"I wasn't going to run against one particular alderman-at-large," Brooks explained. "So when I found out about the vacancy, the opportunity arose, and I seized it."
Brooks said that serving in the position would be a opportunity for him to "give back to the city."
Brooks, who has spent four years on the School Committee representing Ward 2, said that he has "thoroughly enjoyed" his experience on the Committee.
While serving on the Committee, Brooks said that he has seen the Chicopee School System "pass many milestones," noting the completion of the new Chicopee High School, the groundbreaking for the new Chicopee Comprehensive High School, and the recent appointment of a new Superintendent as among these achievements.
Brooks said that his extensive experience with the School Committee's budget will assist him in making good decisions about the city's budget, adding that the Committee's budget represents over half of the city's overall budget.
If elected, Brooks said he would utilize the close relationship he has with School Committee members to foster a more closely knit working relationship between the Committee and the Board of Alderman.
"I would advocate to create a liaison to the School Committee, similar to the liaison to city government, so that there will be more contact with the School Committee other than the annual budget or occasional request for Medicaid funds," he said.
As assistant director of Adult Services at the May Institute in West Springfield, a non-profit organization that provides residential placement to those with disabilities, autism, or mental retardation, Brooks said he has extensive experience in negotiating contracts.
"I appreciate and understand the whole business of contract negotiation," he said. "It comes along with working with the state."
Brooks described his approach to city government as "comprehensive."
"We all want good jobs, good schools, safe streets and a clean environment," he said. "The city is full of enormous opportunities, but we could be doing more to create jobs and to restore the downtown area in order to reap the benefits of the local economy though our diversity and our commitment to succeed."
Lying within this comprehensive approach to city government is Brooks intentions to dedicate a great deal of time to constituent concerns.
To help achieve this, Brooks said he would host monthly coffee hours at various locations throughout the city to listen to residents' concerns and have "a meaningful dialogue to find solutions to these problems."
According to Brooks, a concern for the elderly rates high among his list of priorities for the city.
Although he said he has been aware of the needs of the city's elderly population for quite some time, a recent meeting with Sandra Lapollo, executive director of the Council On Aging, has helped to shed light on the role that the Council on Aging and the Senior Center plays in the community.
"It has given me an even greater, more intricate understanding, not only of the elderly's needs, but of how the Senior Center reaches out to the community and how meaningful they are to all sorts of folks," he said.
According to Brooks, more can be done with the city's stabilization fund to provide tax relief to seniors, as well as the working class.
Brooks also mentioned that he recently me with Delfo Barabini of the city's Veterans Patriotic Committee.
"I just really have a deep appreciation for what the veterans have done for us, and I want to have a better understanding of what kinds of challenges they have within the city," he said.
In regards to the controversial new Chicopee Comprehensive High School, Brooks said that "the value of a quality public education is immeasurable, but the costs associated with a poorly educated child are catastrophic.
"We need to focus our efforts on the most fiscally responsible way to complete the new CCHS project without jeopardizing the resources for learning that the students and our staff so richly deserve," he said.
A campaign kick-off is in the planning stages for early September, and Brooks said that his decision to run for alderman-at-large has already been "well received by a lot of folks."
"As a life long resident, homeowner and most importantly husband and father, I am very committed to the city and have a vested interest in helping it move forward," he said. "I seek this seat to try and make a positive difference for the citizens of Chicopee and their families."