Western Mass. delegation says it works as one voice for constituents

  • Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, left, and Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, attended a recent tour of the hemp growing operation at Long Plain Farm in Whately. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, speaks at the groundbreaking for the new Erving Public Library in March. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, with Jessica O’Neil, executive director of Just Roots in Greenfield, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new solar array installed at the nonprofit’s farm fields in March. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, left, sorts through food donations with volunteers during the 15th annual Fill the Belly Bus Community Food Drive earlier this month. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/15/2019 10:15:09 PM

They say they work well together, get along, respect each other, genuinely have a good time together and are on the same page when it comes to the issues facing Western Massachusetts.

Democratic state senators Adam Hinds and Jo Comerford, along with Democratic state representatives Paul Mark and Natalie Blais and Independent Susannah Whipps are the legislators that make up the Western Massachusetts delegation, and when asked, all of them say they are “a cohesive, dedicated team” leading the way to give their constituents the strongest voice possible in Boston.

“We are truly a team, even though we sometimes have different issues we’re working on,” said Comerford, D-Northampton. “Because of who served here in the past (former Sen. Stanley Rosenberg and Rep. Steven Kulik), Western Massachusetts expects — and should expect — a delegation that works as cohesively as possible. Western Massachusetts is definitely underrepresented in Boston, so we have to work smarter and more strategically.”

Comerford said she works with “extraordinary colleagues” who are smart and generous, and who have the best interest of the region in mind at all times.

“We are unified, and that makes us stronger,” she said. “We’re tireless fighters.”

Blais, D-Sunderland, agrees, saying she witnessed how closely Rosenberg and Kulik worked for the area and hoped the new delegation could do the same.

“It has exceeded all of my expectations,” Blais said. “I count myself very lucky to be working with this group of wonderful, smart people, speaking with one voice on so many important issues.”

Hinds said the delegation works closely on every issue that impacts local residents, really “drilling in on specific local projects or statewide issues that affect the region.”

“We have regular contact, meetings, briefings,” Hinds said. “We’ve worked on all types of issues, like rail links, transportation and broadband, for example. Big issues, especially, really require an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality.”

Hinds said working together means a stronger and louder voice that is more impactful.

“The good news is, we all get along as people,” he said. “We all love living and working here and enjoying the region, and that comes through in our day-to-day work. There’s a real element of trust and respect you need in this type of work. We appreciate each other.”

Mark, D-Peru, said the delegation, which welcomed two new members early this year — Blais and Comerford — immediately became a team. For years, the county and its residents benefited from an exceptional working relationship between Rosenberg and Kulik, who successfully advocated for many of the same issues for decades. He said the new team works in the same manner.

Mark said he’s enjoying being the senior member of the team.

“I have more experience than the rest of the delegation combined,” he said. “But they’re smart and so full of energy, so they’re getting up to speed quickly.”

Mark said sometimes he has an opportunity to help another legislator understand a legislative process or how to get the best bill filed, and he smiles.

“It’s really rewarding,” he said. “There’s no ego in this delegation. We’re all just there to do the best we can for the entire region.”

Whipps, I-Athol, said Mark has “set the tone” for the rest of the legislators.

“He’s the most senior, so he has mentored many of us,” Whipps said. “There’s not a lot of inter-party squabbling like there is in Washington, D.C. With so much division in government in this country right now, we work well together. Our constituents can look at us and be encouraged, hopeful.”

Whipps said when Rosenberg and Kulik left politics, she was a little nervous.

“We were losing a lot of institutional knowledge,” she said. “But Paul is a beacon. I’m amazed at how much knowledge he has, and he is sharing it with all of us.”

Whipps said all of her Western Massachusetts colleagues are incredibly smart, and Blais and Comerford “hit the ground running” when they took office in January.

“We all have a common goal,” Whipps said. “My colleagues have such big hearts. Our team should be a model for other legislative delegations. We are truly focused on the people in our districts.”

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