Voters to decide 5-way contest for Select Board at Hadley Town Meeting

  • Hadley Town Hall FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, May 16, 2022

HADLEY — Transparency, accountability and efficiency are among areas of debate for the five candidates seeking two positions on the Select Board at the May 17 town election.

Incumbents John C. Waskiewicz II and David J. Fill II are being challenged by former Select Board members Richard V. Wilga and Molly Keegan, and outgoing moderator Randall E. Izer, for seats on the five-member board. Polls at the Hadley Senior Center will be open Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The other contested election is for a three-year seat on the School Committee between Christine Pipczynski, a former English and electives teacher at Hopkins Academy, and Toni Lyn Morelli, a member of the faculty in the environmental conservation department at the University of Massachusetts.

At an online forum sponsored by the Hadley Mothers Club on Monday, Izer, who owns the land surveying business Harold L. Eaton & Associates, said his interest in serving is motivated by the need for the board to be transparent from start to finish.

“Transparency does not begin at the end, it begins at the beginning,” Izer said, noting that townspeople are not being given enough information about how the board makes decisions.

Izer referenced what occurred last summer, when the Select Board voted against reappointing the chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, at the same time reducing the size of the panel.

“I have seen too many times where they have disagreements with the board and they lose their position, with no discussion at all,” Izer said. “I believe that needs to change.”

Izer also expressed concern that the majority of town employees are doing a good job, but may not be getting proper credit for their service from the Select Board.

Keegan, a partner in Curran and Keegan Financial, said she appreciates that the town’s financial situation is strong and that town leaders have done a good job of implementing aspects of the master plan, but worries about actions she has witnessed since leaving the Select Board after two terms in 2020.

“It’s imperative that committees and elected officials work cooperatively with town staff,” Keegan said.

In particular, Keegan said she is disturbed by the lack of balance on the current Select Board, describing issues as not being fully vetted, with no discussions of the pros and cons.

The board’s actions and treatment of both employees and board members could be problematic, she said. “We need to behave in a way that we attract more volunteers,” Keegan said.

Although Wilga, who worked professionally as a construction supervisor for Karl’s Excavating, has been off the board since completing two terms in 2002, he said the 2021 implementation of a new water infrastructure fee motivated his candidacy as “a long attempt to right a wrong.”

If he successfully returns to the board, Wilga said he will confront issues head on and with minimal delay.

“Problems shouldn’t be kicked down the road, I don’t like that phrase. It’s not necessary and it shouldn’t be done,” Wilga said.

Fill, a U.S. Air Force veteran who is employed in federal law enforcement, said his four years on the board have been about making people accountable and being a watchdog for taxpayers, whether it be standing up to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation when he argues it bullied property owners, or implementing probationary periods for town hires to ensure they are providing good service.

“My goal is, and always has been, to do what’s best for the town of Hadley as a whole,” Fill said.

Efficiency, too, is an objective, as he said the town has gotten away from being bogged down by studies and consultants, allowing the town to sell North Hadley Hall and begin figuring out what to do with Russell School. Fill said he has also had regular conversations with Amherst officials about ways the towns might collaborate to improve efficiency.

Waskiewicz, who’s employed by the town’s Department of Public Works, said his main focus as he seeks a fourth teem is infrastructure, making sure to address water and sewer lines, as some are more than a century old.

“We’re still moving forward over the last nine years I’ve been on the board,” Waskiewicz said.

He counts the town’s completion of the new senior center, library and fire substation projects among his accomplishments on the board.

School Committee

For the School Committee candidates seeking to replace Heather Klesch, who is not running for reelection, being on the board will allow them to address issues such as the long-term viability of the schools.

Morelli said being on the School Committee would allow her to give back to the town, appreciating the hard work and spirited debate she has seen.

“I want to bring a data-driven, collaborative, professional and collegial spirit to the challenges that Hadley public schools are facing,” Morelli said.

Morelli said she hopes to see the schools address topics such as inclusion and allow teachers and administrators to use their expertise. “It is important that we are talking about belonging and inclusion in our schools,” Morelli said.

Pipczynski said she would have the perspective of both a teacher and a parent who is versed in the success of her own children.

“Being on School Committee will allow me to continue working on behalf of all of our students,” Pipczynski said.

Pipczynski said she wants students to be empowered to reach their full potential. “We need to reach them to love themselves and to accept other people for who they are,” Pipczynski said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.