A few weeks ago, I began to hear rumors that School Committee member Antonette Pepe was considering running for mayor. Now, Pete Goonan reports in today’s Springfield Republican that Pepe has indeed taken out nomination papers, although, according to the article, she’s not yet sure if she’ll be running.
“I am seriously considering a run for mayor,” Pepe told the newspaper. “The people have a desire for me to run for mayor.”
If Pepe does decide to take the leap, she’ll face off against incumbent Domenic Sarno and City Council President Jose Tosado, who announced his candidacy last week.
She’ll also, assuredly, add an exciting layer of passion and plainspokeness to the race. Before joining the School Committee seven years ago, Pepe worked as a paraprofessional in the Springfield schools. She went on to serve as president of the paraprofessional’s union, where she was a fierce and fearless advocate for her members, who hold what is surely among the least appreciated and most difficult jobs within city government.
Pepe brought that fierceness and fearlessness to the School Committee, where, sadly, she has often found herself marginalized by other members, who chafe at her no-nonsense style and outspokenness. Last year, Pepe had a falling out with Sarno (who, as mayor, is also chairman of the School Committee) when, she said, he told her he’d only follow through on an earlier promise to support her bid to be the Committee’s vice chair if she stopped publicly criticizing his administration’s decision to relocate the School Department headquarters to the former federal building on Main Street without seeking competitive bids. (Sarno denied the allegation.)
Pepe’s unwillingness to be silent about issues that matter to her may have earned her some detractors within the city’s political establishment, but she also has some important allies, including former Mayor Charlie Ryan. And, if the MassLive.com comments sections are any indication, she also has plenty of fans among city residents. “Go for it, Antonette,” one reader urged. “We need someone with integrity, who is not afraid to tell it like it is, and does not play the political game.”