After nearly two decades, Cohen will not seek new term as mayor

8/3/2017 | Chris Maza

Category: August 2017

Mayor Richard Cohen
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

It’s been nearly two decades since Agawam welcomed in a new mayor.

In January 2018, the town will do exactly that.   

Mayor Richard Cohen recently announced he would not run for reelection and his tenure as mayor will end after 18 years.

"I was elected in 1999 and took office in 2000. It’s now 2017 and I feel that it’s time for someone new to come in and take over,” Cohen told Reminder Publications. “I truly enjoyed being Agawam’s mayor. It was a true honor and it became a passion that I am grateful to have had.”

Cohen said he was giving another run some serious consideration before opting not to take out nomination papers.

“It was a difficult decision. Oh, God, so many people urged me to run. With that positiveness and that feeling in mind, I decided now was the right time to step away.”
When asked about his plans, Cohen declined to discuss any details but said he and his brother, Alan, would be purchasing a small business in town.

“[Alan] will be taking the reins in September and I will join him when my term is up in January 2018,” Cohen said, “I’m going to embark on a new chapter and see where it takes me.

Looking back at his tenure, Cohen said he felt he would be leaving behind a positive legacy.

“There were numerous challenges that I faced when I came into office in 2000. As you can see by my list of accomplishments, I’ve certainly helped make Agawam a great place to live, work and play,” he said.

Among the advances made during his time as mayor, Cohen said the town had experienced no layoffs and zero cuts in services while maintaining the lowest split tax rate in the Pioneer Valley. With 16 balanced budgets, he said the schools had been 100 percent fully funded and the town’s bond rating had increased each year he was in office.

In terms of physical evidence of advancement, he pointed to the new senior center, DPW facility, public library, and building maintenance facility, along with the demolition of Games and Lanes, the new athletic facilities at the high school, and the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge and intersection project. School Street Park, he said, was the largest park development in the Commonwealth in approximately 50 years. Neighborhood parks also saw improvements and the town added a skate park and a dog park.

The town also realized free full-day kindergarten, weekly trash pick-up and an increase in ambulance service.

Cohen also said tax incentives have attracted new businesses while maintaining existing ones.

When asked if there was anything he was particularly proud of, he said, “Everyone asks me that and it’s very difficult because when I start to mention the ones that I’m most proud of, I list them all. In government, anything that is positively accomplished is a great achievement.”

Mentioning projects that were still left on the table, he expressed disappointment that the proposed Streetscape Improvement Project didn’t pass muster with the City Council, which unanimously opposed it. He called the decision “a huge mistake” and said the project would have created a “viable pedestrian-friendly, state-of-the-art downtown area.”

He said, “I think they really missed the boat on that, but time will tell.”

When asked during his interview with Reminder Publications if January would mark then end of his political career altogether, he said, “Who knows what will happen? I still have a lot of passion.”

Shortly after the interview, it was reported Cohen took out nomination papers for a seat on the City Council.

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