Hadley resident: Candidates insulted voters by not participating in annual candidates’ night


Staff Writer

Published: 05-26-2023 11:38 AM

HADLEY — A Hadley resident is blasting those who ran for elective office this month but refused to uphold a tradition of participating in an annual candidates’ night sponsored by the Hadley Mothers’ Club.

“I feel it was really an embarrassment to the town and definitely an embarrassment to the candidates,” Tony Fyden of Cold Spring Lane told the Select Board during the public comment period at a recent meeting.

Fyden said the evening has typically been the only opportunity for the public to question candidates and learn more about them, whether they are running in a contested election or running unopposed.

“It helps voters make decisions, but it also helps candidates become better elected officials,” Fyden said.

The club had to modify the event during the pandemic, holding virtual question-and-answer forums that were broadcast on Hadley Media, also known as local TV-5, from 2020 to 2022. This year, the club had planned to stage the event on May 8, eight days before the May 16 election, returning to an in-person forum at Hopkins Academy, starting with a meet and greet and then the program.

“Candidates’ night brings together the public with all candidates running for town offices to help everyone make informed voting decisions,” the club wrote in publicizing the event.

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But it later updated its website with the cancellation:

“The Hadley Mothers’ Club regrets to inform you that for the first time in 35 years, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Candidates’ Night (originally scheduled for May 8, 2023) due to lack of candidate response/participation.”

“This was shocking to me as I’m sure it was shocking to a lot of people, as it was the first time in 35 years it happened,” Fyden said.

Town Moderator Kirk Whatley read the announcement from the club at annual Town Meeting on May 4.

Though the club cites the forum existing for 35 years, a Gazette article printed in 1980 states that the club was holding its fifth annual event.

As technology has evolved, candidates also can record statements for Hadley Media, but Whatley told Town Meeting that candidates had also rejected that opportunity.

“No one has responded to local TV-5 for a little blurb about themselves also,” Whatley said. “So it looks like people are voting blind, if you don’t know the candidates.”

Most of the races were uncontested, with the only ones for voters to decide being a two-year seat on the Board of Health and a five-year seat on the Hadley Housing Authority.

Fyden said it shouldn’t matter how long someone has been in office or how familiar they are to residents, and that all candidates failed Hadley residents.

“It’s really an insult to voters, and makes people wonder what the candidates are afraid of,” Fyden said. “I think the new terms starts under a cloud because of this.”