For voters in Greenfield, police and schools define campaigns for mayor
In Greenfield, Massachusetts, voters on Tuesday will decide between incumbent Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and City Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher.
One of the central political issues in Greenfield in recent years has been the city’s police department. And it’s been a defining issue in the race for mayor, as well.
“This is one of the things that I thought showed a total lack of good judgment by the current mayor – was the handling of the whole police situation,” DeSorgher said during a recent interview on NEPM’s The Fabulous 413.
DeSorgher, a former emergency room nurse, has served four years on the City Council and previously sat on the Planning Board. She took issue with Wedegartner’s decision last year to reinstate the city's police chief, Robert Haigh, after a jury found he’d discriminated against a Black officer in the department.
Following the verdict, the City Council cut $400,00 from the police budget, which Wedegartner has called “the height of irresponsibility.”
The city, through its insurance company, has appealed that verdict. Wedegartner said it will be up to the winning candidate to make any further decisions about Haigh’s employment — once that appeal is completed.
“And I still am very proud of this police department and how far they've come in terms of how they interact with the community,” she told The Fabulous 413.
Wedegartner – interviewed at a coffee shop in town – is running for a second four-year term as mayor. She previously served on the School Committee for six years and the Planning Board for 16.
Established elected officials have thrown their weight behind Wedegartner, including Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll.
On the campaign trail, the mayor has highlighted her economic development work.
“I believe my record is very strong. It's very good,” Wedegartner said. “There's many things such as downtown redevelopment such as increasing the tax base.”
DeSorgher, meanwhile, has drawn endorsements from the local unions representing teachers, nurses, grocery store workers and bus drivers in Greenfield. She’s betting on voters who want change in the city.
“The people of Greenfield are hungry for someone with values and integrity, and somebody who is listening to them,” she said.
The candidates have also sparred over a $1.5 million cut Wedegartner made to the School Committee’s proposed budget this fiscal year. That meant the schools budget increased by 3% instead of the proposed 10.35%.
With enrollment and state funding down, Wedegartner has said city leaders had to make tough choices. She said DeSorgher, as the head of the Council's Ways and Means Committee, worked to decrease other departments’ budgets to offset those cuts to the schools.
“We have to make the hard decisions at the end of the day,” Wedegartner said. “And I'm not 100% sure that my opponent understands that you can't consistently cut other departments in order to fund one specific department.”
DeSorgher defended her work, and said shorting the school budget showed poor judgment on the mayor’s part.
“The children are our future,” she said, “and it was shocking to me.”
While incumbents usually outraise their challengers, both Greenfield candidates have raised significant money during this race.
According to state campaign finance records, DeSorgher and Wedegartner have each pulled in more than $17,000 in campaign cash this year.
Polls are open in Greenfield on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.