Greenfield mayoral candidates speak on the issues at televised forum

  • Mayoral candidates, from right, Roxann Wedegartner, Sheila Gilmour and Brickett Allis field questions during a forum aired live from the GCTV studio Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mayoral candidates, from left, Brickett Allis, Sheila Gilmour and Roxann Wedegartner field questions during a forum aired live from the GCTV studio Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • About 100 people gathered at the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center to view a live-streamed mayoral candidate forum aired from the GCTV studio Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • About 100 people gathered at the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center to view a live-streamed mayoral candidate forum aired from the GCTV studio Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mayoral candidates, from left, Brickett Allis, Sheila Gilmour and Roxann Wedegartner field questions during a forum aired live from the GCTV studio Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 8/8/2019 10:06:25 PM

GREENFIELD — With a spectrum of opinions but the same singular vision, Greenfield’s three mayoral candidates shared their perspectives with a live audience Thursday night on important issues facing the county seat.

Candidates of the upcoming Sept. 10 preliminary election — Brickett Allis, Sheila Gilmour and Roxann Wedegartner — fielded questions for about an hour from Joan Livingston, the Greenfield Recorder’s editor-in-chief, on topics ranging from the proposed construction of a new $19.5 million library on the downtown strip to the city’s responsibility concerning the homeless.

The Greenfield Recorder organized the forum, which was aired live by Greenfield Community Television.

While their answers varied, all three candidates stressed their commitment to making Greenfield a vibrant and desirable place to live.

“In 1974, my husband and I made a decision that affected the rest of our lives. That decision was to move to Western Massachusetts from Texas — we’ve never looked back,” Wedegartner told a crowd of 30 who were gathered in GCTV’s studio on Main Street.

Throughout, Wedegartner painted herself as a candidate with a wide breadth of experience — repeatedly touting her six years on Greenfield’s School Committee and 16 years on the Planning Board — and a campaign platform “built on a clear-eyed practical plan.”

Allis, a City Council veteran of 19 years, pointed to his historical commitment to the city’s best interests and a lifetime lived in Greenfield.

“For 38 years I’ve been on this planet. For 38 years I’ve been in this town. For exactly half of those years I’ve served the people of this town,” Allis said. “I bleed green and white. I love this town and I love having the ability to make a difference.”

Many of Allis’ responses to Livingston’s predetermined seven questions harked back to a consistent message: fiscal responsibility.

“I’m just like you. I’m just like all the citizens of Greenfield who live paycheck to paycheck. I understand the overwhelming need for fiscal restraint,” he said in a closing statement.

For Gilmour, Thursday’s mayoral forum was an opportunity to highlight her hard-knocks upbringing and stress her desire to see the issues she cares about reflected in government — the importance of confronting climate change and of seeking out diverse voices to ensure everyone has a seat at the table, to name a few.

“My experiences have made me older and wiser, but I’ve never lost my compassion,” Gilmour said, noting that, before joining the military as an intelligence linguist, which allowed her to get a master’s degree in public policy, she was a single mother working at a gas station. “I’ve overcome every adversity. … Life has been really good to me and I feel compelled to work for others.”

Perhaps Gilmour’s most notable moment of the night came when Livingston asked about the city’s commitment to the homeless. Last year, when campers moved onto the Greenfield Common, Gilmour lamented that city officials moved them “without an exit plan” back into the woods. When a man and a woman were found dead in a tent earlier this year, Gilmour said she went into the woods and helped a number of homeless people move to campsites more suitable to the weather.

“This is an issue that we need to attack regionally. We cannot just solve homelessness in Greenfield,” Gilmour said. “It is the responsibility of the town to help those people whenever possible.”

On issues that had to do with economics, Wedegartner outlined a clear plan to bring new jobs and businesses into the region. The ideas she related included encouraging pop-up style stores and other creative businesses, inventorying vacant buildings to better understand which type of new businesses to entice and working with landlords to improve lease agreements.

“We have a real downtown. That’s something that many communities across America don’t have,” Wedegartner said. “Let’s invest and make it work. I look at the empty storefronts on Main Street as an opportunity to bring in something new, something fun.”

There were, throughout, several questions pertaining to historically controversial issues facing the city. When questioned about whether or not he supported building a new library, Allis said, “I remain open to a new library and I support the current library. What I need are facts and figures that make sense, so we know what it’s going to cost us.”

Notably, for many of Allis’ answers, he spoke without referencing his notes. In response to the last question of the night, which had to do with scrutinization from the media and providing answers to questions asked by constituents, Allis voiced his support for transparency.

“The media should have every right to them, as the citizens should have every right to them,” he said.

Live streaming at Hawks & Reed

While the mayoral candidates answered questions at GCTV’s studio, a viewing party was held at The Perch in the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center.

The room was full, with some attendees standing to watch.

Attendees had various reactions during the viewing — there were moments of cheering, laughter and even hissing. Following the live stream, residents and attendees spoke about their impressions.

Sarah Brown-Anson of Greenfield said she live tweeted the event so people who couldn’t watch could see what the candidates said.

“I came into the forum without holding judgment on any of the candidates,” Brown-Anson said. “I’ve decided to support one candidate now.”

Travis Drury of Greenfield said he came into the forum knowing he wasn’t voting for one candidate.

“I knew I didn’t want to vote for Brickett Allis, so it was a choice between the other two,” Drury said. “I didn’t know much about Roxann, so this was an opportunity to find out. Coming out, I’m supporting her.”

Rachel Roberts, one of the organizers of the streaming party, said she wanted there to be a live community event.

“I love this because there are people from all parts of the community who are here making connections,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t matter how you vote, we’re still a community and these are our neighbors.”

The free viewing party was provided by Hawks & Reed, LibraryYES and John and Phelicia Howland.

The preliminary election will be on Sept. 10 and the general election will be on Nov. 5.


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