Easthampton ballot set for Nov. 2 election

  • Easthampton election candidates gather at the city clerk’s office for a drawing to determine the Nov. 2 ballot positions on Thursday. Pictured left to right are incumbent At-Large City Councilor Owen Zaret, incumbent School Committee member Laurie Garcia, at-large City Council candidate Koni Fay Denham, incumbent At-Large City Councilor Lindsey Rothschild and at-large City Council candidate Brad Riley. GAZETTE STAFF/BRIAN STEELE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2021 11:12:29 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Fort Hill Brewery owner Eric Berzins will appear first on the ballot for mayor in the upcoming city election.

Two-term incumbent Mayor Nicole LaChapelle will appear in the second position after the ballot order was determined in a drawing at the city clerk’s office Thursday night. City resident Keith Routhier will appear third.

City Clerk Barbara LaBombard presided over an informal ceremony at the Municipal Building in which candidates pulled tiny plastic tubes, stuffed with rolled paper strips bearing each ballot position number, from a wooden box.

LaBombard said the box is the same one used in the city’s early history for selectmen to draw names for jury duty, under the supervision of sheriff’s deputies.

Voters in the Nov. 2 mayor’s race will use ranked-choice voting to select the next mayor, who will serve the first four-year mayoral term in the city’s history.

City Council races

There are five candidates for four at-large seats on the City Council. Voters will use the traditional method, called first-past-the-post, to fill the seats.

Incumbent at-large councilors Owen Zaret and Lindsey Rothschild will face challengers Koni Fay Denham, Brad Riley and David Meunier in November. City Council President Peg Conniff, an at-large councilor, is not seeking reelection, nor is incumbent Erica Flood.

The ballot order for City Council at-large will be Meunier, Zaret, Rothschild, Riley and Denham.

All the at-large candidates except Meunier were present for the ballot order drawing on Thursday. Afterward, all four present said that their top priorities include making housing in Easthampton more affordable and adding more residents to the governmental decision-making process.

“We need more people to move in to Easthampton. We need to stop people from having to move out of Easthampton,” Zaret, who is running for his third term, said. “Affordability is a big issue, both in terms of the current folks who live here, as well as needing more affordable units.”

Riley is a member of the Affordable & Fair Housing Partnership, which serves as an advisory board, and said he is running in part to champion affordable housing issues on a government body that has legislative power.

Denham has served on the Affordable & Fair Housing Partnership as well and said seniors and young people need more housing and food security. Climate change, she said, is also a major issue.

“I was in Oregon this summer, and it was 118 degrees,” Denham said. “If we think those temperatures are not coming here, I think we’re ill-prepared for what the future brings.”

Rothschild, a member of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said there are some people in the city who have a poor relationship with the police, and even though that is not the norm, “there’s always room to grow, so I’m going to keep working on that.” She said she is also concerned about climate change and the challenge of making sure that sustainable energy is available to all.

Every precinct councilor is running unopposed for reelection: James “J.P.” Kwiecinski of Precinct 1, Homar Gomez of Precinct 2, Thomas Peake of Precinct 3, Salem Derby of Precinct 4 and Daniel Rist of Precinct 5. City councilors serve two-year terms.

There is no race for School Committee, either. Four incumbents — Cynthia Kwiecinski, Shannon Dunham, Laurie Garcia and Marin Goldstein — are running to keep their seats on the seven-member board, and two newcomers — Benjamin Hersey and Megan Harvey — are vying to join. The mayor also serves on the School Committee.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.

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