And Billy Makes 4; Glidden Joins Holyoke Mayoral Campaign Family…
UPDATED: 4/20/21 1:30PM: To include responses from candidates on Glidden.
HOLYOKE—After months of a silent campaign that had included a lead in the fundraising race, William Glidden is formally in. At COVID-compliant backyard gathering here, Glidden former Alex Morse aide, declared his campaign for mayor. Pledging to bridge the city’s political divides, he telegraphed an agenda rooted in effective and compassionate government.
Weeks after Morse left office for a gig in Provincetown, the battles from his near-decade in office haunt City Hall. Although a longtime member of the former mayor’s inner circle, Glidden’s deep ties across the city could give the first-time candidate an edge without alienating the core Morse base. Glidden acknowledged some of this family history, which his host/warm-up act Joseph O’Hare had just laid out.
“I’m here today because of the sacrifices Joe talked about borne by my own family, and by countless others, people who did what little they could to make the world a little freer, and more generous people who, with all their flaws and limitations, nonetheless, tried to build something lasting,” Glidden said.
“That is what democracy is all about too. That’s why we get involved in politics and that’s why I’m here to announce my candidacy to be mayor of the city of Holyoke,” he said.
The race already features two at-large city councilors and an at-large School Committee member. Councilor Rebecca Lisi and School Committee member Devin Sheehan launched their bids in January. Councilor Michael Sullivan—no, not the former mayor—confirmed his campaign last month, though has not made public announcement. Two others have pulled mayoral papers, but have not taken any other affirmative action.
Glidden, who turns 29 next week, joined Morse’s administration as a special assistant in 2014 after graduating from Williams College. He served in the office through 2016 when he moved to New York. There he worked for a housing and mental health nonprofit, though from the Big Apple he consulted on Morse’s 2017 reelection campaign. To hone his wordsmithery, he later pursued an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College.
Morse’s December retirement announcement surprised few. At that time Glidden had been splitting time between cities during the pandemic and Holyokers began urging him to take the electoral plunge. He left his New York job in January. Since forming a committee with state campaign finance regulators, Glidden had been raising money for several weeks making a bid all but inevitable.
That eventuality became reality Monday afternoon.
As of posting time, Lisi had not commented on Glidden’s entry into the race. Sullivan’s campaign said he had no comment.
Sheehan did not address Glidden’s bid directly. However, he had no cross words for someone seeking to improving Holyoke.
“I am focused on my campaign and vision for the City and I look forward to engaging with all of Holyoke’s residents over the coming months,” Sheehan said in a statement. “I welcome anyone who wants to run for public office in our City to help make Holyoke a better place.”
In a hilly upper Holyoke neighborhood, as waves of I-91 traffic crested and broke in the background, Glidden for Mayor become official. A small group of family, friends and supporters spanning generations, many bedecked with “Billy Glidden for Mayor” masks—he is almost universally known as Billy—gathered to mark the launch.
Telling a story common in the lore of Holyoke Hibernia, O’Hare described how his family and Glidden’s had come to the city looking for work decade ago. While they not family by blood, they became close, looking out for each other. They even moved together from lower Holyoke to a three-family home not far from where Glidden’s supporters had gathered.
“Billy like his family has a desire to give back to the city that gave him and his family unmeasurable opportunities,” O’Hare said. “His love and commitment to Holyoke, is echoed by Billy’s relatives before him.”
In his remarks, Glidden, in a blue tie with sleeves already rolled up, described the personal connections he had developed and the impact he believes he had working in City Hall and later in New York. Invoking the author Marilynne Robinson, Glidden said people should see fellow citizens as family, which can transform perceptions.
“For more than a year, we have struggled through a pandemic that has upended our lives. It’s been a time of so much loss, more than we can really process,” he said.
“As we continue our slow march back toward normalcy, we should never forget what this crisis has taught us. That we need each other, that my neighbor’s health is my health, and that our destinies are inextricably linked,” he said.
It is difficult to divine too much from a campaign liftoff the coronavirus necessarily made placid. Glidden clearly will be drawing on those roots and family connections, which remain political gold in this notoriously provincial community. Still, he may not have the market on such ties and depth of those ties may not be destiny.
For his part, Glidden indicated he will be earning votes. He said a series of pandemic-compliant town halls via Zoom and back porch would be forthcoming. Indeed, it will be part of a larger project of outreach as he builds out his campaign.
“Now, if my experience has shown me anything, it’s to have some humility about the limits of my own knowledge. There’s a lot that I do not know, and do not understand,” he said.
Likely alluding to the crosstalk of city’s political conversation, especially over the last 10 years, Glidden said people do not hear each other or listen to their words.
“As a candidate, I will not hesitate to advocate for the values I hold dear,” he said. “But I will enter every conversation with the presumption that I have something to learn.”