Candidates for Select Board in Hadley state their case at forum

  • John Mieczkowski Sr. introduces himself at a candidate forum at Hopkins Academy on April 3, 2017. Jack Suntrup—

  • Molly Keegan introduces herself at a candidate forum at Hopkins Academy Monday. Gazette Staff/Jack Suntrup

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

HADLEY — After candidates for local office introduced themselves on stage at Hopkins Academy Monday night, a strange thing happened: no one in the audience had a question.

On April 11, candidates for a host of local offices will be on the ballot when polls open at Hopkins Academy at 9 a.m. The only contested race is for Select Board, with incumbent Molly Keegan facing former selectman John Mieczkowski Sr.

The two agreed that the apathy toward town government was a problem. They disagreed on other issues.

Keegan, who serves as chair of the five-member Select Board, cast herself as the right fit to shepherd the growing town through changing times, calling for improvements to computer systems in Town Hall and a strong-town administrator type of government, one that would shift more hiring-and-firing powers to the town administrator.

She said her financial background would be an asset to the town as it grapples with several capital improvements — including a new fire substation and senior center — and considers others, such as a new library and upgrades to the town sewer system.

Keegan served as chairwoman of the School Committee before being elected to the Select Board in 2014. Before serving on the School Committee, she worked on the Finance Committee.

“This has given me an opportunity to learn how the town works today in comparison to years past,” she said, “and to develop positive relationships with key area legislators and other state officials.”

Mieczkowski, who served one stint as selectman in the 1980s and another in the early 2000s before being recalled by voters in 2002, focused in his speech on his family’s deep roots in Hadley and his knowledge of the town’s infrastructure, something he said will be a major issue in coming years.

Mieczkowski serves on the Planning Board and chairs a committee for a planned fire substation, the construction of which was approved by voters in January. He is also the former sewer commissioner.

“I admit Hadley is in my blood,” he said. “I do have a wealth of knowledge that has gone into the making of this town.”

He said he would push for infrastructure improvements, at the same time working to control costs.

“I think the biggest thing is the infrastructure,” Mieczkowski said after the forum.

He pointed out old water lines, valves that don’t close and hydrants that need replacing, among other issues. “They need to put it on the table to talk about it — not just sweep it off the table, because that doesn’t fix nothing,” he said.

After the forum, the candidates honed in on what differentiates them from each other.

“I think I’m more inclined to look at a broader perspective and look at all sides to the issues,” Keegan said. She said the town should “not be afraid to spend some money.”

“I think there are a fair amount of people in town who don’t want an (Proposition 2½) override, but I think at some point we have to bring all issues to the table,” she said, “and really explain to folks what’s going on” in regard to needed upgrades, she said. “I think people skills matter in that regard.”

Mieczkowski again touted his long history in town government when asked to differenciate himself from Keegan.

He took issue with the way Keegan, as chair of the Select Board, runs meetings, saying there is no dialogue allowed between the public and the board during public comment.

“What good is that opening for the public when you can ask a question but you can’t get no answers,” he said.

He also said he would not support moving toward a strong town administrator type of government.

Other races

Several other offices are on the ballot next Tuesday, even though the Select Board race is the only contested office.

Among the candidates for other office:

William E. Dwyer is running for re-election to the Planning Board.

Raymond C. Szala is running for re-election to the Assessors office.

Brian C. West is running for another term as moderator.

Tara M. Brugger is running for a post on the School Committee.

Sara L. Palmisano and Andrew L. Klepacki are running for two seats on the Park Commission.

Maureen K. Devine and Alan M. Weinberg are running for re-election to two Library Trustee seats.

Donald J. Pipczynski is running unopposed for Board of Councilors.

Richard J. Tessier is running for re-election to the Board of Health.

Sheila M. Konieczny is running for re-election as the Elector Under Oliver Smith Will.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.