Vellturo chosen as new director of veterans’ services

LONGMEADOW – Lena Vellturo has been selected to replace Longmeadow’s former veterans’ services officer Jesus Pereira, who recently left to become the director of veterans’ services for the City of Holyoke.

“It’s a great job for him (Pereira),” said Town Manager Stephen Crane. “I’m proud of him, and happy for him. It was a great landing spot. We are sorry to lose him, but it opened up a spot for us.”

Vellturo will fill that spot, officially taking over the reins on July 11. She was chosen from a “talented pool of applicants,” according to Crane. He recommended Vellturo to the Select Board on July 10, citing her professional experience and skills, as well as her choice to pursue a veterans’ services career path.

In introducing herself to the Select Board, Vellturo noted she currently serves as a member of the military police in a unit based in Ware and had worked in base management for seven years before her position was eliminated due to restructuring. Before moving to Western Massachusetts several months ago, she said she had volunteered in veterans’ services positions in the northern part of the state.

“I’m very, very passionate about helping veterans,” said Vellturo. “I’m very excited about this job. I actually spent some time at the senior center, and got to meet a lot of the veterans. It’s a great group of people.”

Selectman Richard Foster, who sat on the search committee, praised Vellturo for her qualifications, noting that the committee had to choose between “two fine candidates.” He said it was a difficult decision, but he believes it was the right one as the committee selected Vellturo through a unanimous vote.

Crane, who also sat on the search committee, said there are certain aspects of Vellturo’s experience that distinguished her from the other candidates, and made her the right fit for this position.

Selectwoman Marie Angelides welcomed Vellturo, but also mentioned some of the pitfalls she might encounter.

“Where you are located now (at the adult center), there is very little privacy,” said Angelides. “The previous veterans’ agent went out and did a lot of outreach in people’s homes. I’m still hoping we’ll be able to find some sort of solution to that problem. I know we are looking to build a new center, but that’s still years down the line. So (space and privacy) will continue to be a challenge for you over the next few years.”

– Article by Sarah Leete Tsitso