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East Longmeadow voters make history by electing council

Date: 6/10/2016

EAST LONGMEADOW – The ballots have been cast, the results are in, and residents have chosen seven people to lead the town into the future on the first-ever Town Council, many of whom have previous experience in town government.

The top two vote getters in the June 7 Special Town Council Election were Kevin Manley and Paul Federici, both of whom currently serve on the Board of Selectmen.

Manley received 2,129 votes and Federici gained 1,832 votes. Former Birchland Park Middle School Principal Kathleen Hill came in third place with 1,517 votes. These councilors will serve three-year terms.

Coming in fourth place was former Planning Board member and Selectman Donald Anderson with 1,447 votes and Appropriations Committee Chair Eric Madison came in fifth place with 1,030 votes. Both will serve two-year terms.

Newcomer Michael Kane, a business owner and a reserve officer serving in the Hampden Police Department, received 980 votes and Joseph Ford, who has a background in business administration, gained 975 votes. Kane and Ford will serve one-year terms.

A total of 32 candidates ran for the seven seats on the council. Councilors will be sworn into office on July 1.

Town Clerk Thomas Florence said the voter turnout was high at about 31 percent, which amounts to approximately 3,500 voters out of the town’s population of 16,000.  

“For a local election that’s very good,” he explained. “Again, we have 32 candidates who showed great support for each candidate. It was about 500 [votes] less than what we had for the April 12 Town Election, about 5 percent less.”

Florence urged candidates to “keep your [lawn] signs handy” in the future due to an election for council seats set to take place next year and the following two years after that.

Manley, who was elected as the last selectman during the April 12 Town Election, said he believes he’s made the history books.

“I’m the last selectman and probably the shortest ever serving and now I’m on the first Town Council,” he noted. “It’s an exciting opportunity. I advocated for change in government even as I was running for selectmen ... It wasn’t like I just wanted to be a selectman to be a selectman and I was going to pick up my stuff and run home when the public spoke. That’s what they want. I was glad to be able of some service during the few months that I was in the selectmen position and I’m hoping to offer that same insight, motivation, and drive to serve the people living in the community.”

He added he believes the council should investigate creating a 24-hour operation for the Fire Department. It currently works on a 12-hour operational basis.

“If we could also look at the feasibility of having a town ambulance; it has the potential to be a revenue generating thing,” Manley explained.

Hill said she believes the council’s charge to find a Town Manger for the community should include a national search.

“[We should] find a candidate with a background in public policy, municipal government, and properly credentialed to move forward,” she added. “There is no room for mistakes as we undertake a whole new government. There’s no margin of error as far as I’m concerned and we have to do this carefully with every detail we can put to it and do it right the first time. We owe that to the citizens of East Longmeadow.”

Madison said he also believes the council needs to hire a town manager who his “right and appropriate for the town.”

He added, “That’s probably the number one priority for the council, but I also think restoring the people’s faith in town government is a high priority for me as well.”

Kane said he’s looking forward to helping put the town “back on track.”

He said he believes town manager candidates should be vetted by thorough background checks.

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