Briefings: In Westside, The Will of the People Is No Contest…
Less than two years after defeating a popular state representative, West Springfield mayor William Reichelt is ready to win reelection on a walk. Ballot papers were due today and few races are contests. The mayor’s race is not among them. The incumbent is the only one running for the top job of the much smaller Springfield west of the Connecticut River.
West Springfield, a city that still calls itself a town, has only had four mayors since creating the position nearly two decades ago. Last year voters decided to make his—only men have been mayor so far—term four years. Though more affluent and indisputably better off than its bigger much bigger namesake, West Springfield has challenges. Yet, Westside seems content to stay the course with its 31 year-old mayor solving them.
A lifelong resident, former Abercrombie & Fitch manager and now attorney, he worked as Town Counsel under Mayor Edward Sullivan. When Sullivan retired after one term, Reichelt joined a three-person field as a relative unknown.
In his first campaign, Reichelt towed an almost radically centrist line, avoiding West Springfield’s partisan nerves on either side. After former mayor Gregory Neffinger was liquefied in the preliminary, Reichelt outworked State Rep Michael Finn and won.
Minimal name recognition proved to be barely a hindrance, while age was essentially a non-issue. With the mayor to the north, Holyoke’s Alex Morse, three years younger than Reichelt, voters ignored the first-time candidate’s relative youth. Finn, who once served in town government, bested Reichelt on some technical points during the campaign, but it was not enough.
As mayor, Reichelt has kept the same nonpartisan profile, focusing on nuts and bolts issues. Like many of the Valley’s Millennial pols, he churns out tweets and Instagram photos arguably bridging the gap between government and governed.
If nothing else, his tenure has scared off competition. West Springfield politics are not the blood sport Holyoke’s are nor feature opaque intrigue as in Springfield. Though, it is competitive. Neffinger’s reign was ended by a grand coalition that elected Sullivan. Sullivan’s tenure hardly pleased all. Had he not stepped aside, he may have faced a strong challenge.
At Reichelt’s kickoff at the Dante Club a few weeks ago, many Westside political powers that be were on hand. Town councilors and Reichelt’s one-time foe Finn joined other area pols to wish the mayor well. The fissures that developed after Sullivan’s two years have not followed his successor or at least have not yet.
William Reichelt with supporters on preliminary night, 2015. (WMassP&I)
West Springfield’s charter writers developed a particularly strong mayoralty. Thus, Reichelt neither needs the Town Council nor risks its ire as much. Still, running unopposed, he can spend political capital supporting newcomers as he did last week, backing Sean Powers’s at-large Council bid.
Barring a truly blessed write-in campaign, Reichelt has four years ahead to etch his legacy into Westside. Like many local mayors, he has shown little interest in spring boarding to something else like an appointed post. Reichelt shall seemingly remain Westside for the long haul.