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AGAWAM — In his final week in office, former Mayor William Sapelli described his six-year tenure as “a rollercoaster, quite frankly.”

In particular, Sapelli referred to the coronavirus pandemic, which had a major impact on town government starting shortly after the second of his three terms in office began, in 2020. Between closing buildings, determining a mask policy, and hosting Zoom meetings, the former mayor said that time period was a challenge.

“That was something new to everybody,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said “negotiating the pandemic between the schools and the town and the businesses” was one of his biggest accomplishments. He was particularly proud of schools returning to in-person classes sooner than other communities, which was done as soon as federal regulations were lifted.

Another big accomplishment, he said, was the infrastructure work. In his first three years, the state completely replaced the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge, its main road connection to West Springfield. The Feeding Hills Center intersection was also expanded and widened, and traffic signals were replaced.

Work should be complete on Springfield Street and River Road in 2024, Sapelli said, as should work on Meadow Street’s stormwater drains and repairs on a North Street culvert. The estimated completion date of the culvert was delayed one month until February due to a shortage in materials. Materials should be delivered to the town the week of Dec. 31.

Lastly, he accomplished “developing a positive culture in the community,” he said. Whether it was the pandemic or the frequent construction, residents and town officials stayed civil and optimistic, he said.

“Even when people disagree, they do it with courtesy and respect and it’s not sniping at each other,” he said.

Sapelli was succeeded by former mayor Chris Johnson, who is returning to the office after 23 years. Johnson, who had been serving as City Council president since 2018, beat former City Councilor Cecilia Calabrese in the 2023 election with 53% of the vote.

The transition process has been going well, Sapelli said. He has met with Johnson on several occasions to discuss issues like staffing, infrastructure, and grants. He also made a list of important, unfinished projects, such as the renovation of the Hub Insurance Building on Suffield Street into a new police station; and the Agawam High School building project, which is three years into the seven year-long project.

“He and I have been working closely for six years,” he said. “We’ve had a great working relationship.”

Sapelli said he was confident Johnson would continue the positivity and civility of this administration. The two share many opinions on what is best for the town.

“I feel confident that things will keep moving in a positive direction,” he said.

Before becoming the fourth mayor of Agawam, Sapelli spent 40 years as an educator in the town’s public schools. He started his career in 1972 as a teacher at Agawam Junior High School. In 1985, he became assistant principal at Agawam Middle School (now known as Roberta Doering School), and in 1990 became principal at Robinson Park School, which was recently renamed William Sapelli School. He later served as assistant superintendent and was considering retirement when the top job became vacant and the School Committee asked him to step in. He served six years as superintendent before retiring in 2017. He began his campaign for mayor shortly after.

In the 2017 election, Sapelli defeated Agawam City Council President James Cichetti with 68.5% of the vote. He won two more two-year terms as mayor, running unopposed in 2019 and beating challenger Charles Alvanos in the 2021 election with 79% of the vote. He announced in May 2023 he would not seek a fourth term.

This time, Sapelli plans to retire for good.

“I’ve worked 46 years for the town of Agawam, so you know, I think it’s time,” he said.

Sapelli is looking forward to not receiving sudden, unexpected calls. For six years, he’d have to abandon his schedule at the news of sewer line breaks, car accidents, fire and police emergencies, and other urgent matters.

“You never know what’s coming your way, and that includes weekends,” he said.

Sapelli will miss his staff and the residents he worked with.

“All the people that I’ve come in contact with that I see everyday… I’m going to miss the people,” he said. “That’s going to be a big loss for me.”

Sapelli’s term ended Dec. 31. Johnson was slated to be sworn in on the morning of Jan. 2, followed by an inauguration ceremony for the mayor, City Council and School Committee that evening.

tlederer@thereminder.com | + posts