CHICOPEE — During the final City Council meeting of 2023, departing members shared accomplishments, memories and gratitude for their time serving Chicopee.

Ward 6 City Councilor Derek Dobosz, who decided not to run for reelection, described his six years on the council as an “incredible experience.” Prior to that, he served three years on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“I’ve given most of my twenties to the city of Chicopee,” he said. Dobosz was 21 years old when he was elected and 22 when he took office.

“I want to thank the voters who took a chance on me despite my young age,” he shared. “I won 71% of the vote and I was never contested after my initial win.”

He continued, “I believe people elected me because they trusted me to tell the truth and they trusted that I cared about Ward 6 and the city as a whole. I always told the truth, possibly to the point where it made me a less effective politician. I really tried my best to do a good job and completely fulfill the role.”

Dobosz shared that he took it personally when a constituent called him and made their issues, his issues.

“Everything I filed or advocated for was for the betterment of the city or the people I represented,” he said.

He noted that he was never interested in moving up the political ladder or receiving any kind of gain and believes that was shown through his work.

Dobosz’s personal mission was to bring honor and credibility to the council, as did his predecessor, he shared.

Some of his accomplishments and improvements made for Ward 6 — working with the other councilors and department heads — include road repair, a crosswalk on Burnett Road, quality of life improvements and hundreds of smaller issues for constituents.

Ultimately, he said his time on the City Council will be defined by Slate Road, where he challenged the political establishment of the municipal airport in the city. Thousands of city residents signed various petitions opposing the Slate Road development — a proposed million-square-foot warehouse on land most consider state park land.

Dobosz said he worked with hundreds of residents who uncovered “compelling” evidence that the Slate Conversation Area was placed in a permanent conservation zone before Article 97 existed in 1974.

“The Slate Conservation Area is 57 acres of beautiful, untouched forest, sandwiched between the state park and a suburban residential area,” he explained. Historically, this area has been the home course for both the Chicopee high school’s cross country teams and the Elms College cross country team.

In 2009, this area of land was sold from the city of Chicopee to the Westover Metropolitan Development Corporation, strictly under the condition that it be developed for business purposes.
Dobosz said WMDC municipal airport has received over $2 million in state grants to develop this parcel of land. However, he said its officials and board members never agreed to meet with him or his constituents, despite its size or concerns raised.

Dobosz claimed that he was lied to by officials in the establishment during this process and was “heavily pressured” to change his vote and stop pressing WMDC. He alleged that he was also threatened on an employment and personal level. Nonetheless, Dobosz said he did not let that intimidate him or affect his character. “I represented the people that elected me and I stand tall leaving office. I regret nothing. I want people to know about this issue and I want people to know how I was treated for doing my job,” he said.

Dobosz believes that the way he represented his neighborhood regarding Slate Road was his legacy on the City Council.

“I want to thank the voters and my loyal supporters who have stood by me. I want to thank my family for all their support, and I want to thank my business partners for allowing me to finish my third term on the City Council,” he said, while also recognizing the department heads.

“I believe the No. 1 issue in the city is low engagement and political participation from city residents. I hope more residents decide to vote and engage in the process,” he shared.

Finally, to the City Council, Dobosz said, “I think some of you despise me, which I think is unfortunate because I really don’t despise any of you. It was a great honor to work on this board with all my colleagues and I just want you all to know that. Nothing was personal. I did what I thought was right and I did what I thought was in the best interest of the people I represented.”

He thanked his colleagues for working alongside and teaching him. “I appreciate your patience and your understanding and this entire experience has been a learning experience. It’s been a great honor to serve the city with all of you.”

Ward 1 City Councilor Joel McAuliffe will also be leaving the council after he ran for an at-large seat and lost. McAuliffe received 3,510 votes, placing fifth overall in a race with only four seats.

McAuliffe has served the city of Chicopee for nine years — from working in the Mayor’s Office to being a City Council member. He also served on former state Sen. Eric Lesser’s staff.

He began by thanking his wife, Deanna Rousseau, for her support and for putting up with endless campaigns, phone calls, emails and so on.

“I am so excited to see what you will accomplish on the School Committee, and you have given me a great playbook on how to be a supportive spouse of an elected official here in Chicopee.”

Rousseau was elected to the Ward 1 School Committee seat, which was vacated by at-large Councilor-elect Timothy Wagner.

McAuliffe thanked his colleagues for the privilege of serving alongside them.

“I first began working with many of you as a young aid and later as a wide-eyed colleague set on leaving my mark on the city that I believe gave me a second chance,” he said.

He continued, “To be able to serve with the Tillotsons and Zygarowksis of the world — people I looked up to growing up — has been a great honor. Especially serving with the late Jim Tillotson, which is something I will never forget.”

McAuliffe thanked City Council President Frank Laflamme and said he has always admired him, as one of the most hardworking individuals he has ever met.

To Lesser, McAuliffe thanked him for instilling in him a work ethic “like no other” and showing him what is possible. “You believed in me when few did, and you were the big brother I needed in my life and together we did great things for Chicopee,” McAuliffe shared.

While there are many individuals McAuliffe wanted to thank, he mentioned a few, including his family, friends, co-workers, Mayor’s Chief of Staff Mike Pise, City Clerk Marie Laflamme, Ward 4 City Councilor George Balakier and Tony Cignoli.

“To the residents of Ward 1, I’m profoundly grateful for giving me the honor to serve you on this City Council,” McAuliffe said.

Together, he shared that the council accomplished “big things” such as Crossroads Fiber, the new Post 9/11 and Service Dog Memorial Park, funding for schools, the Police and Fire departments, and made “our little corner of the world just a little bit better.”

“Yes, my time here may have come to an end, but the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die. Thank you all for this honor,” McAuliffe concluded.

Ward 3 City Councilor Delmarina López’s departure stems from a lost mayoral race to incumbent Mayor John Vieau.

López began by thanking the residents of Ward 3 who elected her. “I have proudly served you for the past two years,” she said.

She went on to thank every resident across the city for trusting her to serve them with transparency and integrity.

López acknowledged the residents for showing up and making their voices heard. “I think that part is most important. Your voices being heard were an integral part to me being able to do my job for you,” she shared.

López described the final City Council meeting of the year as “bittersweet.”

“It has been an honor to serve you, Chicopee. It has been a point of pride to zealously fight for the residents and for what I have believed to be the right course of action,” López said.

She continued, “As I depart from the council and pass the baton proudly to one of my residents, Sue Goff, I am delighted to know that come Jan. 1, there will be three women on the board at the same time.”

When López and Ward 9 City Councilor Mary Beth Pniak-Costello were elected in 2021, it was the first time there were two council women who served simultaneously.

“It was also historic as I was the first and only person of color ever elected to represent Chicopee on a municipal level and the first Latina woman — as an Afro-Latina — to serve Chicopee on any level,” López added. “The beauty of being the first is that the path has been paved and I know there will be more. To the young girls watching my leadership, you can do it too. There were two, there will be three and hopefully, one day, there will be four.”

Dressed in “López purple,” she thanked every person who supported her candidature for Chicopee mayor. She acknowledged the 42% of voters — 3,695 to be exact — who wanted change in the city.
She also thanked her campaign team and every person who contributed time, funds, prayers, well wishes and more, along with the support from family and friends.

“It has been an honor to feel your love, Chicopee. I’ve always said that Chicopee has given so much to me and I still feel that way. Every single sacrifice and opportunity to serve you has been an opportunity to give back and it has been more than a duty that I took an oath to fulfill but rather a pleasure,” she said.

López shared that it has been an “honor” to serve alongside her council colleagues.

Regarding what is next for López, she said, “stay tuned.” However, she assured that she will not stop watching closely and her hope is that neither does anyone else.

“Stay engaged, Chicopee. Stay engaged and keep your elected officials accountable,” she said. “We serve you.”

Several councilors thanked the outgoing members for their service and wished them well in their future endeavors.

Many also recognized Tillotson for his decades of service to the city of Chicopee.

The inauguration ceremony for the City Council will take place on Jan. 1.

Councilor-elects Wagner, Goff, Samuel Shumsky [Ward 6] and Abigail Arriaga [Ward 1], will join the City Council for the 2024 Legislative Session.

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