Briefings: Long the Vanguard to Others, Wingard Pursues Local Office…
AGAWAM—For many years now, Corinne Wingard’s home was a center of politics in the Pioneer Valley. Candidates would come to her house to meet activists or canvassers fan out from there to knock on doors. Now the tables are turned. Folks are coming out to knock on doors for her as a candidate in her hometown’s Council race this year.
“I always said I would never run for public office,” Wingard said of her bid to join the town council here. But she entered the race nonetheless because, she explained, “I think there are things that we need to change.”
Agawam, while formally calling itself a town, switched over to a city form of government some years ago. All eleven members of its all at-large Council are seeking reelection this year, making a bid like Wingard’s and her seven fellow challengers’ all the tougher.
Her family has deep roots in the town. Although she lived in Hartford for some years, Wingard grew up in the town and her home has been in her family for decades. During an interview at a campaign event, she said that while she had long not imagined herself to be a candidate, she views public office as public service.
Wingard cited her mother as her inspiration who was the town nurse many years ago. Her mother, “got up in the middle of the night” to administer medication to a cancer patient, Wingard remembers. “If you’re elected, you are also a public servant and you are there for the good of the people.”
Wingard, a member of the Democratic State Committee, drew some high-profile supporters at that event including John Walsh, the former party chair, and David Bartley, the party’s nominee for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire senate election. Despite being a player today in the party, Wingard only got into partisan politics less than 10 years ago after hearing Deval Patrick speak.
Before that, particularly when she lived in Hartford and served as the President of the Asylum Hill Civic Association, she eschewed electoral politics. “It’s kind of funny,” she remembers, “local politicians were the enemies,” noting the irony of her now seeking local office.
Whatever her personal political leanings, Wingard’s campaign for town office is neither partisan nor ideological. “Our town elections are nonpartisan and that‘s how I think they should be,” she said.
Her platform leads off with a call for a performance audit of the city’s departments and operations. Unlike a traditional audit, it is less about fraud and more about identifying and considering the ways the town uses resources and delivers resources. “It should look at how the town is spending money. Is it effective, is it efficient?” Wingard said.
Other components of Wingard’s platform conform to the needs of any community regardless of politics. Her issues from funding schools to caring for seniors or branch out a bit further like access to services for condominiums. Undercutting any preconceived notions about her political affiliations, Wingard, herself a retiree, calls for taxes to remain low in the town, especially for those with fixed incomes.
Some of Wingard’s proposals are not just about policy. She also wants to improve the communication between the town government and residents to strengthen the dialogue between the two. She proposes both bringing the town paper into the mix with a column written by herself and/or other councilors.
She also suggested instituting meet and greet events with councilors held at town facilities like at the Agawam golf course to connect residents further. “Every councilor who wanted to come could come. Every citizens who wanted to come could come and” Wingard explained, the two groups could, “just talk to each other.”