Updated at 2:45 a.m.
An incumbent mayor went down in Westfield, and Holyoke elected its first Latino mayor. Voters cast ballots in local elections Tuesday, with six contested mayoral elections across western Massachusetts.
Joshua Garcia made history and will become the first Latino resident to lead Holyoke. Garcia, the town administrator in Blandford, beat his opponent, City Councilor Mike Sullivan, 56% to 44%. The margin of victory was more than 1,000 votes, according to unofficial results.
“The biggest challenge is going to be dealing with this budget,” Garcia said. “I’m very aware of the political culture and political climate in our city. And it’s not politics — it’s just merely good governance and responsible management. And I think that’s a ground of which we can build from.”
Garcia, who is Puerto Rican and grew up in Holyoke, said he was humbled by the victory, and will continue to remind his constituents they are all Holyokers.
“I know there’s Holyokers in here that’s been around much longer than I have, that remember where we were when you talk about the migration of the Puerto Rican population in our city, and how the Hispanic community was treated at that time,” Garcia told supporters Tuesday. “Tonight is a sentiment of how far our city has come.”
Almost 54% of Holyoke’s residents are Latino, according to the census, with about half the city stating they are of Puerto Rican descent.
Among Garcia’s supporters is Aaron Vega, a former city councilor and state representative. Vega (currently a member of the NEPM board) said this current generation of Latinos is stepping up to lead the city.
“We’re now talking about a third generation of Latinos, predominantly Puerto Rican here, and this is their home now. I think it’s taken a generation or two to adopt this,” Vega said. “And Josh is that generation. They’ve gone to school here, they’ve been engaged here, and now they’re now they’re taking ownership and taking leadership.”
For his part, Sullivan said Garcia won “fair and square.”
“As far as Holyoke politics go, I think this was one of the cleaner races in history, and I congratulate Mr. Garcia and wish him the best of luck,” Sullivan said.
Garcia will be sworn in November 15. The city is currently led by an acting mayor, Terry Murphy. Former Mayor Alex Morse left the job earlier this year to become town manager in Provincetown.
Westfield Mayor Don Humason was defeated after a single two-year term, falling by about 10%, or 868 votes, to Michael McCabe, a former police captain. The race was a rematch from 2019, when Humason narrowly won.
McCabe said one of his first priorities will be improving the city's pandemic response.
“I think that we can get our numbers to a better spot than where they are currently,” McCabe said. “I would like us to be a healthier community all across the board. I think we can get there.”
According to the latest state data, just over half of Westfield residents are fully vaccinated, well behind the rate for the entire state.
For his part, Humason said he feels like he's leaving the city in better shape than when he was elected.
“We have a lot of new businesses opening here – we've got a hyper data center that’s interested in coming to the Northeast and locating here in the city of Westfield,” Humason said. “We’re building a new school. We’ve got a master plan committee about to really take off.”
As for his future, Humason said he's not ready to rush back into a job in politics. He said he wants to see what other opportunities might be out there. Before becoming mayor, he served as a state lawmaker for more than a decade-and-a-half.
The mayoral election in North Adams was also historic. For the first time in its history, the city elected a woman to serve as mayor. Former city treasurer Jennifer Macksey defeated planning board member Lynette Bond.
Macksey and Bond focused on many of the same issues during their campaigns, such as the need for an updated public safety building, and improved water and sewer infrastructure.
But while Macksey has lived in North Adams most of her life, Bond has lived there for about 12 years. Bond said she wishes she had campaigned more.
“I learned a lot about this community and going door to door and talking with voters,” Bond said. “I wish I would have just done that a little bit more because, you know, I am a newcomer.”
But Macksey, who is vowing to make City Hall more transparent, said this election was not about “old vs. new.”
“I don't think so,” she said. “It's about moving the city forward, and [voters] felt that I'm the right person to do that.”
Macksey won by about 200 votes. She said she's proud of every single one of them.
The incumbent mayor of North Adams, Tom Bernard, did not seek another term.
In another open seat, Northampton elected Gina-Louise Sciarra to succeed David Narkewicz as mayor.
Sciarra, the current City Council president, earned 70% of the vote against transportation analyst Marc Warner.
A major issue in the race was a 10% budget cut passed by the council in 2020. Sciarra defended the cut but Warner called the decision hasty.
The incumbent mayor of Agawam, Bill Sapelli, easily beat back a challenge from Charles Alvanos, who runs a financial planning business. Sapelli won 78% of the vote.
Easthampton’s mayoral election was a relatively sleepy affair, with none of the challengers to incumbent Nicole LaChapelle raising any money, according to state reports. LaChapelle won more than 65% against two challengers on the ballot, Eric Berzins and Keith Routhier, and a write-in candidate, Donald Torrey.
Nancy Cohen, Adam Frenier, Jill Kaufman and Sam Hudzik contributed to this report.