WESTFIELD – Less than a week after Brian Sullivan was elected as Westfield’s next mayor, he was sworn in as acting mayor. Former Mayor Daniel Knapik officially resigned on the morning of Nov. 9, and Sullivan was sworn in within the hour.
The mayor’s office announced on Oct. 30 that Knapik had accepted a new post as director of Green Communities for the Department of Energy Resources. As City Council President, Sullivan was sworn in to finish out the rest of Knapik’s term before beginning his own full term on Jan. 4.
Knapik, in his new role with the Commonwealth, will allow him to work with towns and cities to “find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies,” according to a press release from his office.
The job in Boston will not interfere with his recent election to the City Council, according to his letter of resignation.
“I would like to thank you for the opportunity you have given me to serve as your mayor since 2010. I am appreciative of the confidence you have shown in me with my recent election to the City Council,” Knapik wrote. “I am looking forward to retuning to the City Council, where I started in city government in 2002. We have many good days ahead of us and together we will make Westfield an even better place to live, work and play.”
Attempts to reach Knapik were not returned as of press time.
Though Sullivan anticipated his first day in office being further down the line, when he heard on Oct. 29 that serving as acting mayor was a possibility, he was surprised but ready for anything.
“I didn’t have time to think. Actually, maybe it’s better that way,” Sullivan said. “There’s a limited role that an acting mayor can do anyway, so I’m going to take advantage of the time I have to sit down with every department head and discuss things for the end of the year so that when Jan. 4 does come there’s not that waiting period. We will be ready to go.”
In his capacity as acting mayor, Sullivan said he would still stay on the City Council for a complete 13 votes but is considering stepping aside as the council’s president.
Throughout the year, Knapik applied for town administrator positions in Walpole and Wilbraham and became a finalist for each town. Ultimately, he remained in Westfield, but Sullivan said those moments helped him prepare to take office early.
“It wasn’t such a shock because we know at any time that may happen, and you tend to pay attention to other things as you’re hearing that,” Sullivan said. “We have some work to do in the next month and a half that we can do, and I know the relationship with the City Council will be strong – the outgoing, as well as meeting some of the new councilors.”
Sullivan said the city can expect no drastic changes to come as he settles into the role as mayor but, instead, there will be some consistency between his office and Knapik’s.
“I’m really happy for Mayor Knapik. He’s starting a new chapter in his life too and he seems very enthusiastic and supportive of me. It’s been a great transition that way,” Sullivan said. “The city should know that the transition from his administration to mine has already been seamless. He’s offered his advice when I want it. He’s there if I need it, but his last words on his card that he left me were that it’s now my ship to sail and he’s there in a supportive role. It’s a really good feeling.”
From the beginning of his first day, Sullivan said the people in City Hall, his children and residents have been supportive in the quick change.
“The first few people in the office here that I saw just had smiles on their faces and were ready to get started and open up a new era and a new period of time. I appreciate that,” Sullivan said. “Everybody has been extremely supportive and energetic, and they understand the process so we’re going to take advantage of getting to know each other. It’s different being on the council and really involved with day-to-day operations, but now I’ll find out what that’s all about and be able to manage that.”
Sullivan has previously served as acting mayor in 2001, but circumstances were a little different. His brother Richard Sullivan, Jr., who served as mayor for seven terms, went on vacation, and as City Council president, he fulfilled his brother’s role for the week.
This meant rearranging his office, taking down his brother’s pictures and replacing them with his own and getting comfortable at the mayor’s desk. Sullivan joked about this time, saying he learned all he needed to know about serving as acting mayor.
“I’ve done this before, but now I get to keep the job,” Sullivan said.