Susannah Whipps qualifies for November ballot

  • Susannah Whipps of Athol, 2nd Franklin District representative, at the State House in Boston. File photo

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/6/2022 12:29:16 PM
Modified: 5/6/2022 12:29:25 PM

ATHOL — State Rep. Susannah Whipps (I-Athol) has officially qualified to appear on the ballot for re-election in November of 2022. Whipps, who is unenrolled in either party and won’t be a candidate in a partisan primary, moves directly to the Nov. 8 general election.

Strengthening the local economy and improving mental health services are among Whipps’ top priorities as she seeks another term as state representative from the 2nd Franklin district.

“COVID, especially, caused increased anxiety, isolation, and mental health issues from the cradle to the grave,” Whipps told the Athol Daily News. “It affected all of our residents of all different ages. We want to make sure we’re providing funding for support for our seniors, as well as our young people and everybody in between.”

The independent lawmaker noted that mental health and physical health each have an impact on small business.

“I’m a small business owner,” she said. “I understand and see on a daily basis the effects of employees being out. Nothing costs a business more than a lack of human capital. COVID has put a strain on that, and when you add onto it supply chain issues, then add onto it inflation, the rising cost of gasoline — that affects every small business and it affects our families.

“One of the things I think we should focus on is healthy citizens — mental health, physical health — because you can’t have a healthy economy if your employees and their families have health issues, whether it’s mental health, behavioral health, or general illness. I think in the grand scheme of things, to have healthy, strong businesses, we have to have healthy, strong individuals, and I’m dedicated to making sure services are provided for anybody who needs them.”

In a statement, Whipps added, “We’ve had some great success but our work is not finished. My priorities in the next legislative session include completing suicide prevention barriers at the French King Bridge; support for small businesses still recovering from the effects of COVID-19, inflation and supply chain issues; funding for public schools as they care for and educate students with special needs; increased access to vocational education and increased funding to our municipalities in the form of unrestricted government aid.”

In addition, she said, communities have benefited from improvements in broadband infrastructure and access, increased Chapter 90 funding for roads and highways, increased PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) funding and increased regional school transportation funds.

PILOT funds are of particular importance in the 2nd Franklin district because large tracts of land in many municipalities are owned by the state.

Whipps also told the Athol Daily News that, while Gov. Baker recently agreed to plans calling for the Legislature to establish a new rail authority and commit federal infrastructure funds to an extension of passenger rail to Springfield and Pittsfield, the idea of extending rail service to Gardner, Athol, Greenfield, and North Adams has not been abandoned.

“We’re talking about federal spending and providing fair and affordable transportation for folks who live in this region,” she said. “I think having the opportunity to sit down with congressmen Neal and McGovern and Gov. Baker — they even said when we had a plan, they’d be happy to bring Secretary (of Transportation Pete) Buttigieg out to Massachusetts to discuss rail.

“Certainly, it’s an ambitious project and there’s going to have to be a lot of discussion about feasibility and the governance of rail. And we like to call it ‘west-east rail’ rather than east-west rail. But I certainly would advocate for rail through the northern tier; obviously, regional equity is very important to myself as well as all those who represent communities along the Route 2 corridor.

“I’m excited about the discussions and what could happen,” she concluded, “but right now, my main concerns are the folks who live in my district and making sure they have services, that there are plenty of jobs, and making sure our employers have a well-trained workforce. I’m really excited about the roundtables that are happening all around the state to talk about how we can create a stronger workforce for our employers. Having a strong, healthy, well-trained workforce is what’s really going to benefit this region more than anything.”

The new district

If re-elected, Whipps will be representing a larger geographic area than currently as a result of redistricting, which was required in the wake of the 2020 U.S. Census. The new 2nd Franklin District is made up of Athol, Erving, Gill, Greenfield (precincts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 9), Northfield, Orange, Phillipston, Royalston, Warwick, and Winchendon (precinct 1). Towns that will no longer be in the district include Petersham, New Salem, Wendell, Belchertown & Templeton.

“I am very sorry to be losing Templeton and all of the towns which surround the Quabbin Reservoir,” said Whipps, “but I’m excited to have the opportunity to represent the people of the newly formed district. I have been working with Reps. Mark and Zlotnik during this time of transition and look forward to meeting more residents of the new district.”

Whipps, who once served on Athol’s Selectboard, won her first race for state representative in 2014 running as a Republican. In 2017, she changed her voter registration status to unenrolled, explaining that fully two-thirds of the voters in the district have no party affiliation.

Whipps currently serves on several joint committees, including Revenue, Transportation, Judiciary. and Mental Health Substance Use & Recovery. She also sits on a statewide task force for the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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