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Council President Lederman Appoints Working Group on Civic Engagement

Springfield City Council President Jesse Lederman today announced the appointment of a new Working Group on Civic Engagement.

The Working Group is made up of resident volunteers from Springfield and is charged with identifying priorities and providing policy and operational recommendations to improve civic engagement and involve more residents in the work of local government.

Council President Lederman announced his intent to appoint such a working group in August and solicited public applications for one month.

“We received a robust response from many community members interested in serving, resulting in a competitive pool of prospective members from across Springfield,” said Council President Lederman, “The members appointed represent a diverse cross-section of our community, I look forward to working together with all of them as they identify priorities and recommendations to involve more people in the work of local government.”

Council President Lederman announced that the initiative will be chaired by newly elected Ward 5 City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce.

“Councilor Click-Bruce is uniquely qualified to lead this new initiative, having worked in the community supporting youth development, as well as in both the executive and legislative branches of local government. His perspective as a newly elected member of the body is ideal to bring forward recommendations and reform,” said Council President Lederman.

“I would like to thank President Lederman for this appointment. I am very honored having just recently been elected to the City Council. This is an important position because as all of us know better communication and more transparency is healthy for the process,” said Ward 5 City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce, Chair of the Working Group on Civic Engagement, “Civic engagement and involvement only improve the quality of life in our city, as well as confidence in our government. I intend to work hard, be a good listener, and report to the President and the full Council the recommendations made by the Committee to improve communication, transparency, and accountability.”

In addition to the appointed Committee Members, City Clerk Gladys Oyola and Focus Springfield Executive Director Stephen Cary will serve as advisors to the Working Group.

Individuals who applied for appointment but were not ultimately selected will be invited to participate in a Community Roundtable Discussion on Civic Engagement later in the year to allow all who volunteered their time, talent, and experience to have the opportunity and platform to share their ideas.

Please see below for a full list of Committee Members and brief biographical information:

Jada Francis-Fisher

Jada Francis-Fisher is a recent graduate of the College of Staten Island, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management with a Minor in Economics. A resident of Springfield since 2017, when not working she enjoys teaching dance in the community.

Juan Falcon

Juan Falcon has been active in community service for the last thirty years. Having served as a Corrections Counselor with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department before his retirement, he is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor with a Master’s Degree in Management. A veteran of the United States Army, he has served as President of the Board for the Puerto Rican Veteran’s Association, and is currently the Executive Director of the Hispanic American Library.

Erica Swallow

Erica Swallow is a local REALTOR®, Springfield Preservation Trust board member, and Springfield Museums Advancement Committee member. She holds an MBA from MIT Sloan and other degrees from NYU Stern and Simmons University, with more than a decade of experience in marketing management in the fields of technology and education. Raised in Arkansas and educated in New York and Boston, she chose Springfield as home out of love for its deep history, cultural diversity, and progressive energy.

Lisa Wilson Bakowski

Lisa Wilson-Bakowski is a lifelong resident of Springfield where she resides with her children. She is the principal of Edward P. Boland Elementary School and has been employed by the Springfield Public Schools for over thirty years. She has a deep passion for god, family, and community.

Dr. Patrice Caudle

Dr. Patrice Caudle holds a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree from Northeastern University. Since 2004 she has been practicing pharmacy in the community retail setting. When not working, she enjoys volunteering in various service projects in the Springfield area focusing on health, education, & youth development.

Magdalena Gomez

Magdalena Gomez is an award-winning performance poet, playwright, performer, teaching artist and highly sought after keynote speaker and workshop facilitator. The former Poet Laureate of the City of Springfield, she is the co-founder and artistic director of Teatro V!da.

Brenda Evans

Brenda Evan is a lifelong resident of Springfield. She has 25 years of education and experience in the public health field, holding a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Studies and a Master of Public Health, both from UMass Amherst. Brenda’s work includes training, health care workforce development, and community engagement. She is dedicated to population health and health equity via advocacy and intersectional systematic change to achieve optimal health for all.

Elizabeth Payne-Ghedi

Lizzy Payne-Ghedi was born and raised in Forest Park, and returned in 2020 to raise her own family there. She is the Director of Policy for Scholars Strategy Network, a non-profit that supports the use of research to improve policy and strengthen democracy.

Jasper Mccoy

Jasper McCoy is a trained architect and currently works as a developer concentrating on affordable housing with Home City Development Inc in Springfield MA. He is an alumnus of the High School of Science and Technology and later Northeastern University earning a Masters in Architecture. His commitment to Springfield and the concerns of his hometown are the core reasons he serves, and is greatly excited to offer what he can to the new City Council Working Group on Civic Engagement.

Areliz Barbosa

Areliz Barbosa is a latina, Christian, single-mother who is a Certified Community Health Worker and a graduate of Springfield College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Human Services. She is committed to advocating for equal treatment, dignity, and respect for all individuals, no matter their background or circumstance. She has worked extensively in the public health space, and is a member of the Holyoke Community College Foundations of Health Board, as well as the New England Public Health Advisory Committee.

Pastor Gumersindo “Manny” Gomez

Gumersindo “Manny” Gomez is a lifelong resident of Springfield. He serves as Pastor of Union Church of Springfield, and is also a local business owner alongside his wife. He is a Board Member for the Lower Liberty Heights Neighborhood Council and serves as Treasurer of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee.

Mable Lene Sharif

Mable Lene Sharif is a resident of the Upper Hill Neighborhood, member of the Upper Hill Residents Council, and lifetime member of the Mass Senior Action Council. She first became involved in community work at the age of 16, serving as NAACP Secretary in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She believes that civic engagement is working with other like minds to bring about positive difference in the community, and herself advocated for the re-establishment of Ward Representation in Springfield. She is a mother of 6, grandmother of 12, and great grandmother of 7. Mable holds a Master of Science in Human Services from Springfield College.

Ron Davis

Ron Davis is the President and CEO of WAMF Consulting, and has served on the Boards of Concerned Citizens for Springfield and the Forest Park Civic Association. He has been involved in efforts to restore the tennis courts at Blunt Park, and is passionate about bringing attention to the needs of the Lower Forest Park Neighborhood.

Frank Ryan

Frank Ryan is a resident of Springfield since 1968, a retired teacher, Vice President of the East Forest Park Civic Assoc., member of the Lake Massasoit Citizen Committee, and a Board member of the newly formed Springfield Conservation and Nature Stewardship (SCANS).

Kareem Kibodya

Born and raised in Springfield, Kareem is a first-generation American with Tanzanian roots. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, he has extensive experience working in public policy at the city, state, and federal levels of government. Through this lens, he has developed a deep appreciation for the value that each of us can contribute as a representative and voice for our community’s interests. As a new homeowner in the Mason Square neighborhood of Springfield, he hopes to help use this knowledge to help uplift his neighbors and community. Moreover, he has developed a deep understanding of the role Black businesses serve as one of the primary drivers of Black wealth and employment. Currently, in his role as the Senior Policy and Advocacy Co-Lead for the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, he works to advocate for legislative policies that will lower barriers to accessing economic prosperity and generational wealth for the Black diaspora in the Commonwealth.

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