Greenfield preps for leadership transition

VIRGINIA DESORGHER

VIRGINIA DESORGHER

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-28-2023 5:01 PM

Modified: 11-28-2023 5:55 PM


GREENFIELD — After knocking on the doors of upwards of 2,200 homes and ultimately garnering a majority of the vote, mayor-elect Virginia “Ginny” Desorgher is gearing up for her first four-year term at the city’s helm.

“I think it will be an interesting and good year, moving forward,” Desorgher said of the forthcoming transition, speaking both about the mayoral role and the newly elected members of City Council.

Earlier this month, Desorgher, 71, defeated incumbent Roxann Wedegartner, 77, for a four-year term with 3,104 votes to Wedegartner’s 1,144 votes, according to unofficial election results.

“I think they just wanted some representation,” said Desorgher, of voters who supported her. “I think that’s one of the reasons I got elected; if everybody feels heard, that’s a big thing.”

Desorgher, who currently represents Precinct 3 on City Council, has scheduled the swearing-in ceremony to take place at the John Zon Community Center on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, at 10 a.m.

In the meantime, the mayor-elect said she is beginning to speak with department heads, as well as the Department of Human Resources to work out the logistics of the transition. Heeding the advice of At-Large City Councilor Christine Forgey, the city’s first mayor, Desorgher said she plans to surround herself with people she can trust.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Starbucks plans Mohawk Trail shop in Greenfield, Friendly’s to close
Greenfield Police Logs: Feb. 13 to Feb. 22
My Turn: Biden’s record and accomplishments are extremely positive
Former Greenfield police chief warned of legal action over raise
Maeve M. Sherry: Push back on the CDC’s Covid-19 isolation policy
My Turn: A terrible report card for Greenfield High School

Wedegartner said on Monday she has set up a date in December to meet with Desorgher, during which she’ll share with her information and updates on ongoing projects and other matters, including legal cases. It also will be an opportunity for her to meet with a few key city employees, particularly those who work in procurement.

“I would like for us to work together,” Desorgher said of the transition.

Precinct 6 Councilor Sheila Gilmour, who served as City Council president in 2022, said she is looking forward to the transition in leadership, both at the legislative and executive levels. Reflecting on the last few years, Gilmour said she expected to have worked more closely with the mayor’s office but instead sensed “a very clear divide.”

“I feel like now we’re going to ... turn a new corner,” said Gilmour, who has two more years left in her term. “I’m really excited for everyone to come together as neighbors and focus on what’s good for all of us.”

Amy Proietti, chair of the School Committee, which the Desorgher will serve on come January, said she’s open to working together to ensure a smooth transition. As for the future, she hopes the incoming administration will be an advocate for more school funding.

“We work all the time at the state level to make changes to that,” she said. “I also hope the city is looking very, very carefully at how we can increase revenue, which is always a thing we’re talking about in Greenfield. ... I’m open to any thinking around how we can be a part of that. I see where a mayor and a council get pulled in all different directions trying to make ends meet with the budget, and I see how much is related to the schools, so I have some empathy there, but we also have to do right by our students and prioritize the schools.”

Wedegartner said one of Desorgher’s more immediate projects will likely be to engage in union contract negotiations for public safety employees. Other ongoing projects include the Main Street redesign, she said, and the new fire station on Main Street, which — barring unforeseen supply chain issues — is nearing completion.

“The work is ongoing, no matter what,” Wedegartner said.

Though Desorgher declined to go into detail, citing legal ramifications, she noted there are a number of ongoing legal cases that she is interested in taking a more active role in during her first six months as mayor.

In general, however, one of her goals is to make sure “the tax burden is equitable” between residential and commercial property owners. To do that, she said, the city will have to look at how it taxes its commercial and industrial properties. She also hopes to make the downtown a more attractive place for new businesses and cultural events.

With about five weeks left of her four-year term, Wedegartner said she has “plenty of work” to continue before her departure. Her future plans are unclear, with Wedegartner saying she “has a little time to figure that out” but that she’s “not going anywhere.”

“That’s the nature of the beast,” Wedegartner said, referring to the post as a 24/7 position. “I’m committed to doing that work and getting things … to a certain point between now and Dec. 29. I will leave … and everybody will know ‘this is going to be picked up again in January.’”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.