Selection of new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home superintendent leaves some concerned

Last week, it was decided that Mike Lazo will be the new superintendent, however, the process to select him has some people concerned.
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 6:22 PM EST
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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - We are continuing to follow the latest developments out of Holyoke following the naming of the new superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

Last week, it was decided that Mike Lazo will be the new superintendent, however, the process to select him has some people concerned.

We spoke with one member of the Veterans’ Advocacy Coalition and a member of the board of trustees who both told us that they wish this decision was handled differently.

The deadly COVID-19 outbreak claimed the lives of more than 80 veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in 2020. More than two years later, a new superintendent of the home was named during a board of trustees meeting held last week after a vote of 4-2.

“The process to hire that new superintendent should involve the community,” said John Paradis of the Veterans’ Advocacy Coalition. “There should be input from the veteran residents at the soldiers’ home, from their family members, and from us as veterans in the community that work with the staff at the soldiers home, and that clearly hasn’t taken place.”

Paradis told Western Mass News that he does not support the vote to name Mike Lazo the homes’ permanent superintendent due to new legislation that goes into effect in March of next year.

“The legislation is pretty clear that there’s a process for this, where the board of trustees would have put in a new board of trustees and a new process to even nominate and select and put people on the trustees and a statewide advisory council, and those folks would be vetting candidates, not just one person,” Paradis explained.

During that board of trustees meeting, Kevin Jourdain was one of the board members who did not agree with the decision, saying there was no hiring process in place.

“It was on the agenda, but there was really no prior discussion to that,” he told us. “Not sure why that decision was made, but apparently, a majority of the board felt even though there was no process, no candidates, and no job posting, they decided to hire Mr. Lazo as the permanent superintendent.”

He added that the board of trustees should have waited to make the decision until Governor-Elect Maura Healey begins her term in office.

“Allow Governor Healey and her new DVS secretary to pick so this person has the confidence of the new governor and we can get off on a strong footing with the new governor,” Jourdain said.

Paradis said that he agrees.

“This should be up to Governor-Elect Healey and her new administration coming in to make that decision,” he said. “It’s a very important decision. It’s a person who’s responsible for more than 110 veteran lives at the soldiers’ home.”

We have reached out to Governor-Elect Maura Healey’s office for comment, but have not yet heard back.