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Joshua Garcia elected Holyoke's 1st Latino mayor

Joshua_Garcia_victory.jpg
Matt Szafranski
/
Western Mass Politics & Insight
Holyoke Mayor-elect Joshua Garcia acknowledges the crowd as he walks into his election night party with his wife and son.

Voters elected new mayors Tuesday in three cities in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.

It was a historic election in Holyoke.

Joshua Garcia got 56 percent of the vote to defeat City Councilor Michael Sullivan in the mayor’s race. Garcia will be the first Latino mayor in Holyoke where almost 54 percent of residents are Hispanic, according to the 2020 census.

“Tonight is a testament to how far our city of Holyoke has come,” Garcia said as he spoke to a crowd of exuberant supporters packed into City Sports Bar, just a few blocks down High Street from Holyoke City Hall.

He acknowledged others that blazed a trail for him.

“I know there are Holyokers here who have been around much longer than I have … and when you talk about the migration of the Puerto Rican population in our city and how the Hispanic community has been treated at that time.”

Latinos have been elected to the Holyoke City Council and School Committee (including Garcia) and represented the city in the state legislature, but had always come up short in past attempts for mayor.

Garcia, who is town administrator in Blandford, staked his successful campaign on a promise to bring his municipal management expertise to the mayor’s office.

“When we talk about the issues in our community that are impacting the quality of life from the conditions of our streets and sidewalks to the conditions of our public buildings to schools being in receivership and concerns around public safety, each of these are symptoms of a bigger problem and that problem is management,” Garcia said.

Speaking with reporters, he said his first task will be to address a $2 million structural deficit in the city’s budget.

“I am very much looking forward to getting Holyoke on a stronger path so that we can finally focus on the necessary investments our city has been needing for a very long time,” Garcia said.

Sullivan, who finished first in the seven-candidate preliminary election for mayor last September, conceded defeat minutes after the polls closed at 8 pm. He congratulated Garcia, thanked his supporters, and said he was proud of his campaign.

“By Holyoke standards this was a very clean race, not a lot of mud-slinging, and it’s time for us to come together as a community and get back to work,” Sullivan said.

It will be a quick transition for Garcia, who will be sworn into office on November 15th. He will replace acting-Mayor Terry Murphy, who took over when Alex Morse resigned last March.

Just over 30 percent of Holyoke’s registered voters cast ballots in the election, falling short of City Clerk Brenna McGee’s hopes for a 40 percent turnout for what was easily the highest profile election in the area this year.

In Northampton, City Council President Gina Louise-Sciarra won the election for mayor in a landslide over transportation consultant Marc Warner.

“I had the most amazing team that worked really hard building a grassroots effort for eight months and it feels very gratifying to see the results of that,” Sciarra said in an interview with WAMC News.

Sciarra will succeed Mayor David Narkewicz, who decided not to seek re-election after a decade in the office.

The city of Westfield is also getting a new mayor. Retired police captain Michael McCabe defeated Mayor Don Humason. It flipped the results from two years ago when Humason, a former State Senator, was elected mayor by fewer than 100 votes. This time, McCabe won by a margin of more than 800 votes.

Incumbent mayors in Agawam and Easthampton easily defeated challengers Tuesday.

Mayors in Chicopee and West Springfield both ran un-opposed for re-election.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.