Considering the possibilities for City Council’s new leader


Published: 12/6/2019 9:10:41 AM
Modified: 12/6/2019 9:10:29 AM

Greenfield’s election season may be in the books, but there is still one important race yet to be decided.

January brings to an end At-Large Councilor Karen Renaud’s term, and with it, her two-year stint as City Council president. That leaves the incoming council with the task of choosing a new leader, which may not be an easy decision given the number of potentially strong candidates.

Let’s consider a few of them.

Penny Ricketts

As the current sitting Council vice president, it would appear Ricketts would have the inside track to succeed Renaud. She certainly has the qualifications and seems to want the job, but there are concerns, mostly related to her health. Ricketts was sidelined by a pretty serious medical incident this past year from which she is still recovering. Her comeback has been nothing short of amazing given the severity of that setback, but there may be questions as to whether she can step into that position at this point in her recovery. By her own admission, Ricketts struggled the few times she had to fill in for Renaud this past year, and nothing is more important than her health. Still, she may have the inside track should she choose to pursue the job.

Ashli Stempel

Long one of the council’s rising stars, Stempel has developed an impressive resume in her short time in her position. She’s chaired the Ways and Means Committee during what was not an easy budget process last year, and currently chairs the Economic Development Committee, which is where her passion seems to lie. She’s got all the tools to do the job. The question is, does she have the time? Stempel works in Boston which is not the easiest commute in the world, one which has caused her to miss a number of key meetings, which won’t be an option if she is president.

Sheila Gilmour

Gilmour’s profile has definitely risen since her recent run for mayor. She didn’t win that election, but certainly set herself up as arguably the council’s leading progressive voice. She hasn’t expressed any real interest in the presidency, at least not publicly, but could be a strong candidate for the vice presidency. Either way, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming term.

Otis Wheeler

He hates it when I bring it up, but outside of Ricketts, Wheeler’s is the name which most often gets mentioned as a potential council president. He did some solid work this past year as Ways and Means chair, and clearly has the respect of every member of that body. I’m not sure if he wants the job, but is going to be in the conversation for a role in the leadership moving forward.

Dan Guin

It would be unusual for a freshman to be elected to the council presidency, but Guin is no ordinary first-year member. Not only has he done the job before, but he comes in as probably the most experienced member of a body desperately in need of it. While there is no doubt he could do the job from day one, I don’t believe the votes are there to elect Guin to the presidency, but look for him to swing a heavy bat come budget time.

Christine Forgey

Another long shot, but certainly not because of lack of experience. As Greenfield’s first mayor, Forgey brings a unique perspective to her new position, much like former Town Manager Norman Thidemann did when he joined the first City Council of the mayoral era back in 2003, which, coincidentally, was Forgey’s first year in the corner office. Like Guin, Forgey brings a truckload of experience to the table, and will likely be a leading voice on the council, though probably not in the presidency this time around.

Though it may end up being a tough decision, the fact that there are this many potential candidates for the presidency is good news for a city badly in need of stable leadership to make what will likely be some challenging financial decisions over the next couple of years.

Chris Collins has been covering Franklin County politics on various platforms for the better part of two-and-a-half decades. He can be reached at

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