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Candidates for Easthampton mayor talk leadership and goals if elected at debate

  • Easthampton mayoral candidates Nancy Sykes, from left, David Ewing, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier listen to a question during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton mayoral candidates Nancy Sykes, from left, David Ewing, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier listen to a question during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.
    JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate David Ewing, second from left, speaks beside other canidates Nancy Sykes, left, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier during a debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton mayoral candidate David Ewing, second from left, speaks beside other canidates Nancy Sykes, left, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier during a debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.
    JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate David Ewing answers a question during a candidates debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton mayoral candidate David Ewing answers a question during a candidates debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.
    JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Karen Cadieux answers a question beside another candidate, Herbert Glazier, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton mayoral candidate Karen Cadieux answers a question beside another candidate, Herbert Glazier, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.
    JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Nancy Sykes answers a question beside another candidate, David Ewing, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton mayoral candidate Nancy Sykes answers a question beside another candidate, David Ewing, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.
    JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Herbert Glazier answers a question beside another candidate, Karen Cadieux, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton mayoral candidate Herbert Glazier answers a question beside another candidate, Karen Cadieux, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.
    JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidates Nancy Sykes, from left, David Ewing, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier smile during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton mayoral candidates Nancy Sykes, from left, David Ewing, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier smile during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.
    JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidates Nancy Sykes, from left, David Ewing, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier listen to a question during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton mayoral candidate David Ewing, second from left, speaks beside other canidates Nancy Sykes, left, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier during a debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton mayoral candidate David Ewing answers a question during a candidates debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Karen Cadieux answers a question beside another candidate, Herbert Glazier, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Nancy Sykes answers a question beside another candidate, David Ewing, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Herbert Glazier answers a question beside another candidate, Karen Cadieux, during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton mayoral candidates Nancy Sykes, from left, David Ewing, Karen Cadieux and Herbert Glazier smile during their debate Thursday at Easthampton High School.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Nancy L. Sykes, David G. Ewing, Karen L. Cadieux and Herbert M. Glazier also enumerated the most important issues facing the city, ranging from a lack of jobs to a need to upgrade school buildings, and argued they have the expertise to find the answers.

Approximately 70 people were at Easthampton High School for the debate, which was put on by the Easthampton Democratic Committee and Easthampton Community Access Television. Students screened audience questions and contributed their own, and reporters from WHMP and The Republican also asked questions. Unlike earlier debates, many of the questions were directed to specific candidates.

In their opening and closing statements and throughout their answers, the candidates came back to cornerstones of their campaigns. Ewing, 64, of 5 Treehouse Circle, said being a strong leader is the most important trait a mayor should have and he had 20 years of leadership experience managing Walgreens and ACE Hardware stores in the region before taking his current job at Yankee Candle in 1999. He also said he is the only candidate with 10 years as an elected official on his resume from when he was a Town Meeting member in South Hadley.

“What matters most is threefold: vision, education and leadership experience,” Ewing said. He has studied business and finance off and on at Holyoke Community College from 1972 to 2008 but does not have a degree. His vision, he said, is to make Union Street a cultural district and to increase affordable housing in the city, which he said has only 6 percent affordable housing stock.

“I want to offer tax incentives to bring developers in to give us a chance for affordable housing,” he said when answering a question about possible uses of empty mill buildings on Ferry Street.

Cadieux, 59, of 11 Deerfield Drive, said she knows how to be mayor after working as the mayor’s assistant for the last 17 years and as an assistant to the town administrator for two years before that. She called it “19 years of on-the-job training.”

She pledged to run a transparent administration and to attract new business to the city by making it “a destination location.”

“What (businesses) are looking for is an attractive downtown,” she said. “What they’re looking for is an area where they can start a business and get patrons.” She said she sees a proposed boardwalk around Nashwannuck Pond as the main way to improve the downtown.

Glazier, 85, of 108 Everett St., said he has been a hard-working homebuilder and window manufacturer for most of his life and has the drive and “cleverness” to make things happen in Easthampton. He said he would bring factories back to Easthampton.

“I’ll see that the factories will be humming here like they were in the good old days,” he said. “We need jobs ... good-paying jobs.”

Sykes, 72, of 32 Mutter St., said she has expertise from her time as an educator, college administrator, attorney, minister and current School Committee chairwoman that will help her lead, collaborate, negotiate and make hard decisions.

She also said she will listen to city officials and residents and can usher the city through the transition of having the first new mayor since Michael A. Tautznik was elected in 1996. “It’s a good, exciting time. It’s time to re-evaluate, a time to look at new perspectives. I’ve been in situations of transition before,” she said.

In answering questions, Sykes and Cadieux both mentioned working to upgrade the city’s middle and elementary schools, although they disagreed on how to start. Cadieux said a building committee should be formed, and Sykes said the first step is to file a statement of intent with the state School Building Authority.

They also addressed the nearly-complete state- and federally funded fish ladder project that went $1 million over budget. “It would have been horrendous not to finish it,” Cadieux said.

Sykes said that while she’s not sure the fish ladder was the best idea from the start, the city now needs to consider what comes next. “Whose budget is going to maintain it?” she asked.

Ewing said while he doesn’t usually approve of raising property taxes over the 2½ percent mark, he did support the Proposition 2½ override vote last year to help fund school staffing and upgrades.

Cadieux said she would lobby in Boston for local aid for schools and road repair, while Ewing said “we need to lean on our state senators” to release approved funding for roads.

Glazier said his experience as a builder could help if the city is undertaking building projects or trying to build affordable housing on the cheap. “You can build with pre-fab materials,” he said. “I used to be able to build a room in three hours.”

Early in the debate, Sykes and Ewing challenged Cadieux’s statements that serving as acting mayor when Tautznik is out of town means she is prepared to be mayor permanently. Sykes reminded the audience the City Charter states that after a 10-day absence, the City Council president is required by take over as acting mayor, and Ewing said that the authority of the acting mayor is limited unless there is an emergency.

In response, Cadieux read the charter’s description of the acting mayor’s role: “to exercise the powers and perform the duties of the mayor.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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