Five in running for vacant Easthampton City Council seat

  • Erica Flood STAFF WRITER/BERA DUNAU

  • Paul St. Pierre CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Kae Collins CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Easthampton Municipal Building GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Jared Hinkle STAFF WRITER/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gwynne Morrissey CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2020 8:22:36 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Five candidates with a variety of backgrounds have been nominated to fill the at-large City Council seat recently vacated by William Lynch IV.

“I am excited to see how many people have stepped up,” City Councilor Owen Zaret said.

The five nominations that were put forward by councilors were all seconded at the City Council’s meeting last week, allowing all the candidates to be considered for the position. The candidates are Erica Flood, Paul St. Pierre, Kae Collins, Jared Hinkle and Gwynne Morrissey.

Lynch stepped down from his City Council seat to devote more time to work and family, he said. Because Laura Douglass, the only candidate to run for an at-large seat last election to not be elected, chose to not take Lynch’s seat, council members nominated members of the community instead, in accordance with the city’s charter.

The council will choose Lynch’s successor at a meeting Wednesday using ranked-choice voting. Councilors will rank the five candidates by order of preference, and if one candidate doesn’t get a majority of votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated and those who backed them will have their second choice votes applied. This process will continue until one candidate has a majority of votes.

Paul St. Pierre

St. Pierre, 32, works as an operations manager. He also serves on the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Commission, is the vice chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and is chair of the city’s Telecommunications Advisory Committee. He said this experience would serve him well on the council.

“I know I’d just slide right in and do a good job,” he said. In 2017, St. Pierre lost a bid for the Precinct 2 City Council seat, which was won by Homar Gomez.

St. Pierre was nominated by City Councilor J.P. Kwiecinski, and St. Pierre said the reaction to his candidacy has been good on the council.

“I just want to do a great job for Easthampton,” he said.

Erica Flood

Flood, 41, is another former Precinct 2 City Council candidate, having lost to Gomez in 2019. She was nominated by City Councilor Lindsey Rothschild.

“I never lost interest in wanting to be on the council,” Flood said. “It was a great opportunity that rolled around.”

Flood, a licensed independent insurance agent, is the fifth generation of her family to live in the Easthampton house she calls home. She’s also the president of Easthampton Media’s board of directors.

If elected to the council, she said she’d make housing affordability a priority, along with “development without displacement.”

“I don’t want to see us gentrify,” she said. “I want to see us grow in a sustainable, affordable manner.”

Flood said she’s excited by the number of people who stepped up to fill the seat. “I would like to see every seat contested every election,” she said.

Kae Collins

Collins, 50, said a number of people have asked her to run for City Council over the years.

“It’s something that I have been thinking about for a while,” she said.

Collins said she would work as a councilor “with an eye toward social justice” as well as tackle the struggles of local businesses and income inequality.

Collins works in the financial services industry at MassMutual, but she also pointed to her small business background, having been a longtime floral designer.

Collins, who’s brought a number of issues before the council over the years, pointed to her work with the Easthampton Community Coalition, which helped craft what would become the city’s Welcoming Community Trust Ordinance.

“I have a great deal of admiration for how much work they do,” Collins said of the council.

Recently, she also worked as a member of the community organization A Knee Is Not Enough to help those who haven’t been involved with government or politics before get their voices heard. She also has helped the group organize events.

Collins was nominated by City Councilor Thomas Peake, and she said that the reaction to her nomination in the community has been “super supportive.”

Jared Hinkle

Hinkle, 41, unsuccessfully ran for an at-large City Council seat in 2017. He was nominated by City Councilor Daniel Rist.

An Army veteran who served overseas in Iraq and received a Purple Heart, Hinkle is the chairman of the city’s Veterans Council. He said he wants to provide a different point of view on the council.

“I am raising a family. I’m still in my 40s,” Hinkle said.

Hinkle is employed at Ryder Transportation as a shift supervisor in the maintenance department. He cited working to keep the budget down and infrastructure as issues that are important to him.

“The streets off of Cherry Street and Maple Street definitely need to be redone,” he said. Hinkle also praised the 1 Ferry St. project, and said the council and city employees have been doing a good job keeping the budget down.

Additionally, Hinkle spoke about the importance of supporting small businesses in the city. “We’ve had a lot of small businesses not reopen,” he said.

Gwynne Morrissey

Morrissey, 38, was not available for an interview. However, she did provide her resume and the statement of interest she sent to the council.

In her statement, Morrissey made the case for the applicability of her work as a program evaluator to serving on the City Council. She is a senior research and evaluation specialist at the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton.

“My program evaluation practice has given me experience as a systems-level thinker whose job it is to question easy answers, consider all stakeholders, and support policymakers and change agents to articulate why they believe a course of action will lead to the outcomes they seek, as well as to determine how they will know they’ve achieved those outcomes,” Morrissey wrote.

Morrissey is the chair of the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Commission. She was nominated by City Councilor Salem Derby.

Forum details

At Wednesday’s meeting, which will start at 6 p.m., each candidate will get the opportunity to make the case for their candidacy in front of the councilors. Members of the public will also get to speak in favor of, but not against, candidates running. “We just felt that we wanted to keep it more … positive,” City Council President Peg Conniff said. Conniff noted that allowing public comment is not a requirement for the meeting, but said that giving people the opportunity to explain their support of candidates would be helpful.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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