I Didn't Take The Job To Be Important

No, I didn't take the job to be important. I took it because I thought I could do a good job for the voters and taxpayers of Westfield.

Eight years ago, I ran on business sense and common sense, and I think I've kept my commitment to the City. So it's time to move on, and I'll be leaving office in January. New Year's Day, to be exact, when the new legislature is sworn in.

Later, perhaps, I'll make a list of what I've accomplished. Not alone, but with the cooperation of Senator Mike Knapik and many others in the legislature, as well as Mayor Rick Sullivan. Bridges and roads and new schools, money for Westfield State, Western Mass Hospital, Holyoke Soldiers Home. The expanded detention center. And, this week's $6-million grant from the Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission, which I shepherded from the Long Term Debt Committee until it's arrival in Westfield. All of that, and more.

But, today, I'll answer some of the editorial writers and political pundits who lament the lack of candidates for House seats. Oh, these folks are right'not enough people are running for office. There's a dearth of candidates. (And, Westfield is lucky to have had three men in contention for my seat.)

This year, 62 percent of the legislators in Massachusetts do not have opponents in either the primary or general election.


Many reasons. For example, most representatives could earn a lot more money in business than in politics. Dedicating your life to public service is indeed personally rewarding, but not financially rewarding.

Most people won't run. They'd rather complain about the political situation than do anything about it. The majority of people don't even vote (18 percent in Hampden County in the recent primary).

You can't run without money. And no one will contribute unless you ask. Most of us dislike asking, but we have to. Especially if we oppose taxpayer funded elections.

There's a lot of cynicism out there. People think that we cheat, lie and steal.

It takes a long time to get anything accomplished in the legislature, or even work your way up to an office with a door and hopefully a window.

I can handle all that. I beat four other candidates the first time I ran. I've always raised enough money to fund a winning campaign. I've gotten major legislation passed. Heck, I even have a great office (with window and door). And I know that I don't cheat, lie or steal.

I've learned a lot in eight years. And discovered that I really like to help people, which is the biggest part of the job. Solving problems people have with the various state agencies, be it Fast Pass or the Department of Revenue.

But, frankly, what bothers me, what I cannot stand, are unprovoked attacks on my personal credibility. Statements that are unwarranted, misinformed, dishonest, and uncalled for. That have nothing to do with my ability to do the job.

Examples. Abbreviated. And not the worse I've heard.

You moved your radio station out of Westfield.

Yes, we moved the offices to Springfield. But, the biggest part, the taxpaying part, is on a 20-acre site on the north side. The one with three 305-foot antennas, in the industrial area. And it's 20 acres that won't be developed.

You sold your radio station.

Yes we did. Four years ago. A business decision; not a political decision. There's just no future for locally owned and operated stations in this day and age. And, no, l don't listen any more either.

And, worse.

(You) are selling your house.

Yes, it is on the market. We've lived in the same house for more than 20 years. The Saint Bernard died about 15 years ago and shortly thereafter, the kids (in mid-30s now) left home, too. Two of us do not need a large house. And, frankly, it's none of your business if we downsize.

Cele Hahn brought all the refugees to town and gives them everything.

No, Lutheran Social Services brought the refugees to Westfield under an agreement with the Federal Government. They get what the Federal Government decides, not the state government. Do not blame me if they learn English, work hard, and buy things you'd like to have.

If it weren't for Cele Hahn we wouldn't have any homeless in Westfield.

Oh no. You would indeed have them. They were here long before I became the Representative. Under bridges, in fields, riding buses, in doorways. Your local legislators merely got the Samaritan Inn state funding to augment local funding.

I tried to talk to Cele Hahn, but only received a form letter.

No, I don't think you got a form letter. I don't send form letters to anyone except to those on the long list of college grads, honor students and sports stars.

And, from my all-time favorite letter:

God loves sinners, even you.

Well, I can take the barrage of unwarranted criticism. (And I truly respect those who have the courage of their convictions to talk about our differences in a civilized manner.) It's not why I'm retiring from the job. But the constant criticism from the city's cynics, and those with a lot of misinformation, makes many people think twice about running for any office.

And, frankly, it hurts.

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