Courting 36 Court: Whitfield Says She’s Got Springfield’s Numbers…
Courting 36 Court Street is a series of quick interviews with Springfield’s at-large candidates. **All interviews are edited and condensed for length.**
Tracye Whitfield says she knows her way around Springfield’s fiscal books, the oversight of which is among the Council’s duties. She’s a first-time candidate, but she’s spent a lot of time in Council meetings for her job. Whitfield’s points her love of the city is what brought her into the city’s political arena. Now working in workforce development, she argues her mix of passion and skills are the right fit for one of the city’s at-large Council seats.
WMassP&I: Tell us how you decided to get into this race
Tracye Whitfield: So basically, I used to work for the city I went to a lot of city council meeting, working in the Finance Department. I simply just love our city and I love the opportunities that we have in our city, our seventeen neighborhoods and our world-class parks. But most importantly, I love our residents. I’m gonna take a leap of faith because I know the financial side so well and I know I have a huge impact on the community and I’m going to jump in and run.
WMPI: What did you do for the Finance Depart?
TW: So I was a financial analyst. I worked on $50 million budgets and I worked with department head to do their budgets. Then we would go through budget cuts to come up with the final departmental budget. I helped them stay within their budget guidelines throughout the year and learned a lot about the different programs that’s offered in the city and about the police and fire departments. I worked on DPW’s budget so I know a lot about the trash and the snow items. These are like a thorn in some people’s sides however it is needed.
WMPI: The Mayor has often spoken about Springfield having revenue problem, not a spending problem. Do you have any ideas to bolster the revenue side?
TW: It’s mostly economic development. We’ve got to continue to seek out small businesses because small businesses bring in the revenue, they add to the tax base and they also give jobs. Once people have jobs, they can enter home ownership. That’s something else I’ve championed. Home ownership, small businesses, these will bring a lot of revenue to the city of Springfield. Large businesses as well, like MGM and CRRC. If we keep bringing in businesses like that we will be out of a revenue problem soon.
WMPI: What do you do now?
TW: Now I work in workforce development for STCC and HCC. It’s a collaboration called training and workforce options [TWO]. I do contract training for different organizations. I analyze their needs for training for their incumbent employees and then I customize training plans for them. We do the training on site or we can do it at STCC. A lot of times it is for new hires, but it is also for existing employees. We give workers the skill sets they need to move up the ladder. We can then bring our interns into get those lower level jobs.
WMPI: Is that something [workforce development] something you’d like to work on while on the Council?
TW: Absolutely. Training is very important and a lot of times people can’t afford it. There must be more funding coming to the city of Springfield to train people. Once we get folks to work, they become proud citizens of the community. They want to purchase homes, they can afford automobiles and it takes them off the street. I also advocate for career exploration. A lot of times people go into careers they necessarily don’t like, but there’s a lot of workforce options out there. I focus on manufacturing, IT and general business. There are so many opportunities. I encourage folks to look at advanced and precision manufacturing. The median income [in those jobs] is $70,000.
WMPI: What are some of the Springfield Institutions which you like to visit/patronize?
TW: As far giving back to the community, I love working with the youth at MLK Community Center. I currently do a Saturday morning reading program. Every Saturday at 9:00 we provide breakfast for the youth and we read stories to them. They also have an opportunity to read stories. They get to improve their public speaking skills and they get over their shyness at an early age. I try to support all the local businesses. I love to frequent Towersquare and the Art for the Soul Gallery and going to the plays that they have at AIC. There’s so much to do in Springfield. When folks say there’s nothing to do, I say there’s too much!
WMPI: What political figure in the area would you try to emulate if elected?
TW: I think Richie Neal had a big impact on the community. I like his style and how community focused he was. When I was in second grade, I went to Bowles School, Richie Neal came by. I think he might have been mayor at the time, but it was wonderful to see him. I had never seen a political figure and I never forgot that moment. But you know my heart lies with Barack Obama. Because he has so much grace and poise and he’s so calm. I know he didn’t make every decision right, but for the most part he did. He brought us out of a recession, which he didn’t create. I like to emulate him and his calm demeanor. He’s just great.
WMPI: Anything else you’d like people to know?
TW: I just want people to really look at the candidates. See what their history is. See what their skill sets are. Don’t just vote on name recognition. Make sure you get out and know who the candidates are. September 19 is an important election [date]. For us to move forward we have to make it through the primary election. But look to the people who are out in the community. I do a lot of work in the community. You can look me up on Google or Masslive and you will see that I am out here doing work. Residents really want to make sure that they’re researching their candidates…and make sure their candidates know the budget!
*Interview conducted on 8/29/17 at Springfield Central Library