Neffinger elected West Side’s second mayor
Date: 11/15/2011Nov. 16. 2011
By Debbie Gardner
WEST SPRINGFIELD Mayor-elect Gregory C. Neffinger sounded hoarse, and a bit tired, when Reminder Publications
reached him by phone the morning following his defeat of challenger Gerard B. Matthews.
“After a late night last night, I’m almost recovered from the last two or three days of campaigning,” Neffinger said, adding that he’d received congratulatory calls from several members of the Town Council as well as from various town department heads that morning.
“[Sen.] Scott Brown [also] called me last night to congratulate me,” he added, saying he had met Brown during a tour of The Big E this fall. “I told him the next time he comes back to The Big E the mayor of West Springfield is going to give him a tour.”
According to information provided by the Town Clerk’s office, Neffinger defeated Matthews by a total of 2,940 votes to 2,171 to become West Springfield’s second mayor, with a little more than 31 percent of the town’s registered voters participating in the election.
“Fifty-eight percent of the vote is a pretty wide margin,” Neffinger said, referring to the final vote tally. “I think it’s an indication that the people are ready for some changes in town.”
Still, it was a victory Neffinger admitted he worked hard for, and one that he said drew on the lessons learned in his unsuccessful run for state representative in 2010.
“When I ran for state representative, most people didn’t understand what the role of a state [representative] was, there were not a lot of issues people recognized,” Neffinger said. “The mayor’s race is a total issue-driven race … I was going door to door.”
He said he “knocked on probably 15,00 doors” during his campaign to be West Springfield’s mayor.
“I said I was Greg Neffinger and I’m running for mayor [and] is there something you would like to talk about?” he explained. “Most people had an opinion.”
The two biggest issues concerning the residents he talked to were “property taxes and [town] spending,” Neffinger said. “People thought that West Springfield was a conservative town. When they saw the spending going up year after year, they were unhappy with it.”
Another big concern Neffinger said he heard over and over was the state of the local economy.
“I said I was going to be a pro business mayor and work to find ways to streamline the dialogue between businesses and the town” to help promote more business growth for West Springfield,” Neffinger explained.
He also heard concerns about the tornado damage still evident in the Merrick section of town, with people asking, “Is this going to be taken care of quickly or will this be a lingering problem?” People also wanted to know if the mayor would be assessable when they have concerns.
“Hopefully I won’t have to knock on doors, people will feel free to come to me and tell me what the issues are in town,” he said, adding that he plans to be “out and about the town; people can see me and talk to me.”
One of recent issues Neffinger said he’s hoping to get involved with quickly is the extended power outages that gripped the town following the Oct. 29 storm. Like so many of his constituents, Neffinger said he was left without power and computer access leading up to the election, and “virtually lived” in his campaign office to try and keep tabs on his campaign.
“I hope to meet with Western Massachusetts Electric Company and talk about what went right, what went wrong and what we can do to improve it, [before the next major weather event],” he said.
Neffinger noted that his career as an architect, which, he said means he is “trained in community building … not just individual buildings but how does an entire community interact together,” gives him an experienced perspective on not only projects such as the high school and proposed new library, but also the existing municipal buildings as well as the town’s infrastructure.
An active participant in the long-term tornado recovery group Raising Hope Together, Neffinger also hopes to continue working with the group “in a different capacity as mayor.”
For the immediate future, however, he’s concentrating on building a support team to ensure a smooth transition from the administration of the current mayor, Edward Gibson, to his own.
He said both Mayor Daniel Knapik of Westfield and Mayor Richard Cohen of Agawam have offered their aid in this area of administration.
“Both have gone through [mayoral] transitions and I plan to use their advice as to what kind of transition team should be set up,” Neffinger said.
He expected to have his team assembled in “three or four weeks.”
“There’s still a lot to learn,” he noted, adding, “I’m looking forward to serving the people of West Springfield and transitioning West Side into a new direction.” Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org