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James Hely Resigns After 11 Years on Town Council

By PAUL J. PEYTON Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

After 11 years of service, seven-term Fourth Ward Councilman James Hely resigned Monday from the Town Council, citing family obligations as his reason. The resignation took effect immediately. His council seat expires at the end of the year.

Under the Town Charter, the Westfield Democratic Town Committee has 15 days, which in this case is Tuesday, March 18, to submit the names of three prospective successors for consideration by the full council. The Democratic Committee is chaired by Fourth Ward Councilman Lawrence A. Goldman.

Mr. Goldman said he expects to present the three names to the council next week with the new council member scheduled to be sworn in at the Tuesday, March 25 meeting.

This process was last faced by the governing body early in 1996 when Republican Michael E. Panagos, also representing the Fourth Ward, resigned. He was replaced by former Councilwoman Janis Fried Weinstein who subsequently was defeated this past November by Mr. Goldman.

Republican Kenneth L. MacRitchie stepped down at the end of 1994 and was replaced by Neil F. Sullivan, Jr. in the Third Ward.

Councilman Goldman said the committee will be meeting this Monday night, March 10. He said he plans to have the three names by the time the council meets on March 18.

Among the questions to be asked of possible candidates for the seat will be whether they are willing to seek the office in this year’s election.

Councilman Goldman said he expects the process to go smoothly and without "a partisan fight" as was the case this past January of Mayor Thomas C. Jardim’s appointments.

Learning from the January stalemate, Mayor Jardim said he wants the process of finding a replacement to move relatively quickly.

Councilman Hely, who served as the lone Democrat on the council in 1995 and 1996, said in his letter to council members and Mayor Jardim he "would like to take a sabbatical, but the Westfield Town Charter does not provide for this."

"Therefore, I am going to resign from my Town Council seat as of the date of this letter," he stated.

Councilman Hely first ran for office when he challenged Republican Ronald Frigerio in the 1984 Mayoral race. He was elected to the governing body the following year after being unopposed in the November election.

According to Town Clerk Joy Vreeland, Mr. Hely defeated Republicans Gerard Barton in 1987 and Steven Garfinkel in 1991. He was unopposed in 1989, 1993 and 1995.

Mr. Hely said his main reason for not seeking an eighth consecutive term was that he needs to take some time off in order to explore prospective colleges with his wife and oldest daughter, a high school junior.

Mr. Hely also noted that his other two children "will be at the same stage in the not too distant future."

When contacted by The Leader, Councilman Hely said he had "mixed feelings" about resigning. When asked if he had considered finishing out his term, Mr. Hely said he did not think staying on would be fair to either political party, stating that he did not want to be a "lame duck" on the council.

In his letter he noted that the Hely family, four generations of which have gone through the local school system, "can never adequately repay the community for the benefits and education" they received in town. He commended those persons who seek office to the council or Board of Education.

"For me, it has been extremely fulfilling," he said, noting the caliber of people who presently serve in town government "is quite high."

"Also, the employees of the town, from top to bottom, impressed me as being honest, dedicated public servants whom we all benefit from," Mr. Hely explained.

Mayor Jardim said he looked towards the outgoing councilman as "sort of my mentor" on the governing body. He said he considered Mr. Hely a "voice of moderation" on the council and that he was "going to miss him."

Councilman Sullivan said he will miss Mr. Hely’s presence and leadership on the council "tremendously." He said, in response to Mr. Hely’s letter, that "I think he has his priorities in life" in the proper perspective.

Councilman Sullivan said Mr. Hely has a good understanding of how town government should work.

Mr. Goldman added that he and Mr. Hely have been friends for years and that he had hoped to serve with him longer than two months.

He added that Mr. Hely’s decision did not surprise him in that the departing councilman indicated earlier in the year that he was leaning in the direction of resigning.

Councilman Goldman said he believes the recent death of Mr. Hely’s law partner, Jac B. Weiseman, may have contributed to his decision.

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08/06/97.

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