Gomez facing Easthampton City Council challenge from longtime resident Flood



  • JERREY ROBERTSEasthampton Municipal Building, 50 Payson Avenue GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/27/2019 11:20:02 PM

EASTHAMPTON — District 2 City Councilor Homar Gomez is seeking a second term on the City Council, and he’s being challenged for the seat by photographer and educator Erica Flood.

Gomez, 44, grew up in Puerto Rico. After moving to Amherst with his wife, Sindy Mojica, in 1997 for a better education for their children, they moved to Easthampton in 2005 when they bought a house. They subsequently raised their three daughters in the city, ages 25, 22 and 17, the youngest of whom is set to graduate from Easthampton High School this spring. Gomez and Mojica also have a grandson.

Flood has deep family roots in Easthampton. Aside from when she was finishing her undergraduate degree at Prescott College in Arizona, and a brief stint in Shelburne Falls, Flood has lived in Easthampton her entire life, although part of her childhood was split between relatives in Easthampton and Southampton.

“I’m fifth-generation in the house that I live in now,” she said.

Flood, 40, lives with her 11-year-old daughter, her partner, Ryan Guyette, and his 11-year-old son.

Flood expressed her admiration of former city councilor Justin “Bud” Cobb and said that she would like to emulate his approach to the job.

“He was a guy who would show up, have a coffee with you at your house, listen to your concerns,” she said.

Gomez said that soon after he and his family moved to Easthampton, they went away for the weekend, during which time there was a snowstorm in the city. When he returned, he found that a neighbor he hadn’t even met yet had cleaned out his driveway.

“With that action, I felt that I was part of the community,” he said.

Gomez coaches the girls varsity softball team at Easthampton High School, in addition to working at a funeral home and doing the books for his parents’ bakery in Puerto Rico.

His election in 2017 marked the first time that a Latino person was elected to the council. And he pointed to the message his election sends to minority kids in the city.

“We can be city councilors,” he said. “We can make decisions for the city, because we are part of the city.”

Flood is the program manager of the International Low-Residency Photography MFA program in the Hartford Art School, which is part of the University of Hartford.

“I know how to build partnerships,” she said. “I want to bring those skills to my city.”

Although this is Flood’s first election, she has done volunteer work in Easthampton, having served on both the Cultural Council and the Master Plan Implementation Committee.

Gomez said that there’s good communication among the councilors, noting the unanimous passage of the Welcoming Community Trust Ordinance and the council’s work with the budget.

“We try to defend the people’s money,” he said.

Gomez said he has been working with Mayor Nicole LaChapelle to repair sidewalks on Ferry Street and Union Street, and that a grant has already been secured for the redesign of Union Street.

Additionally, he expressed support for installing more solar panels in the city and pushing the city to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. And he said that there have been discussions about making the next Easthampton police car a hybrid electric vehicle.

Flood said that she would like to see more affordable housing for artists, young families and seniors.

“We have a housing stock issue,” she said.

She would like to see more communities like the Lathrop Retirement Community in Easthampton. And she voiced her support for “agrihoods” — developments based around agriculture.

“I am a huge proponent of open space,” she said.

She also expressed support for renewable energy in the city and building up infrastructure with an eye toward sustainability. And she said that she would like to educate people about Mass solar loans and community development block grants.

Flood would also like to see a footbridge once again over the Lower Mill Pond.

“It would be a private-public partnership,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want extra tax money spent on the bridge and would like grant money to be found for it.

Additionally, she said she’d like to see a community garden in the park behind Parsons Place.

In the last election, Flood supported Gomez’s campaign.

“I’m not really against anybody. I’m running for a seat,” said Flood. “Unfortunately, there’s one seat.”

“It’s friendly,” Gomez said of the campaign.

City councilors in Easthampton are elected to two-year terms. The election is Nov. 5.

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

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