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Editor's Corner

A Step Forward for Springfield

EditorialBWlogoSeemingly lost amid all those much larger headlines last month concerning the World Series, the debt-ceiling crisis, and Westfield State President Evan Dobelle getting suspended and then suing everyone who had anything to do with that action was this item in the local paper: ‘Springfield City Council OKs raises for mayor, councilors.’
The Springfield City Council’s recent vote to take the mayor’s salary from $95,000 to $135,000 — the first raise for the city’s chief executive since Bill Clinton was starting his second term — represents real progress when it comes to securing solid leadership in the city for years to come. Raising the mayor’s salary does not ensure effective leadership — there are untold examples of how people in public positions with big salaries have failed in their roles — but it certainly helps in that regard. That’s because many people, especially members of the local business community, have eschewed bids for public office simply because they could not afford to take a serious pay cut. This $40,000 raise will reward the current mayor, Domenic Sarno, but, more importantly, it will help ensure large, deep fields of candidates in the future. And from our view, solid leadership is perhaps the most important ingredient in the large volume of work that remains to be done when it comes to returning Springfield, the state’s and the unofficial capital of Western Mass., to prominence. A $135,000 salary won’t make the job any easier, but it might help ensure that those who win that assignment have the wherewithal to carry it out effectively. Springfield’s goal moving forward is to make itself a community of choice again. It held that distinction once, but it was a long, long time ago. Regaining that status won’t happen quickly or easily, and it won’t happen at all unless there is strong consistent leadership for many years to come.

Editor's Corner Opinion
40 More Reasons to Feel Positive

EditorialBWlogoBusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007 with a number of goals in mind. Identifying young leaders was the primary mission, and we have certainly done that, especially with the Class of 2013, which we introduce in this issue.
But through their stories, we wanted to inspire others to become leaders themselves, and in the process, show that, contrary to what might be popular belief, young people don’t have to leave this market to enjoy success in business, find fulfillment in their work, and make their mark in the community.
Like the six groups that came before, the Class of 2013 provides plenty of examples of people who are not only excelling in their fields, but also giving back to the cities and towns in this region, often with work that involves the young people who will shape this region’s future. Here are just a few examples:
• Tim Allen, the principal of the new South End Middle School in Springfield. Under his leadership, this facility, which serves lower-income children, many of whom are English Language Learners, has recorded more improvement on the English portion of the MCAS tests in its first year than any of the other six neighborhood middle schools in the city. Allen also does a considerable amount of mentoring, and gives time and energy to Big Brothers Big Sisters;
• Adrian Bailey Dion has developed imaginative — and entrepreneurial — strategies to enable the Grinspoon Foundation, which she serves as COO, to dramatically increase the number of books it distributes through its PJ Library, which supports literacy and values development in children ages 1-8 through the purchase and delivery of age-appropriate Jewish books. She also supports area food pantries and kitchens in their work to feed area residents in need;
• Melyssa Brown, an accountant with Meyers Brothers Kalicka in Holyoke, has made her mark professionally, as the youngest manager in the firm’s Audit & Accounting Division. But it’s her work in the community that is really adding up (figuratively speaking). She’s one of the prime movers with a new Girls Inc. initiative called Eureka, in which girls ages 12-15 spend four weeks each summer on a college campus to learn about math, science, computers, sports, and both personal and career development;
• Kam Capoccia is a pharmacist who is changing the way people might think about those in that profession. While she still dispenses pills during weekend shifts at a local Walgreens, she spends much of her time dispensing information, as an associate professor of Pharmacy at Western New England University, but especially as the director of the Consultation and Wellness Center at the Big Y on Cooley Street in Springfield. There, she’s assisted countless individuals with issues ranging from Type 2 diabetes to high blood pressure to problems with obesity;
• Walt Tomala Jr. knows what it’s like to triumph over adversity. He suffered third-degree burns over 60% of his body in a flash explosion that occurred when a sanding machine malfunctioned while he was remodeling a bowling center. He spent a year in recovery and rehab, and eventually started his own construction company, one that has played a lead role in helping others achieve a higher quality of life, through work on everything from blitz-build projects for Habitat for Humanity to construction of homes for severely wounded veterans. He’s also been a steady supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Space doesn’t permit us to tell all 40 stories here, but these five serve as effective examples of how this entire class is the embodiment of professional excellence, community activism, and true leadership.
Their stories begin on page A6. Read, enjoy, and become inspired.