All eyes on Precinct 5: Hinkle, Smith to square off in only contested Easthampton City Council race
|Published: 11-01-2023 3:17 PM
EASTHAMPTON – In the only contested City Council race at next Tuesday’s municipal election, a former city councilor and a former candidate for the council will face off to fill the Precinct 5 seat currently held by Dan Rist, the longtime city councilor who is not seeking reelection after 27 years in office.
On Nov. 7, voters will elect either Tamara Smith or Jared Hinkle to the position.
Smith served as an at-large city councilor from 2013 to 2017, and after years of taking care of her father, who died from Parkinson’s disease in 2021, she realized she missed being a part of the community.
“There’s something about losing both of your parents that puts you in a different place in life,” she said. “That need for my community reemerged in me, and it was really exciting to feel excited.”
With a PhD in sociology, Smith is a professor at Westfield State University, where she teaches sociology with a particular interest in gerontology, care work, education and family policy.
“In order to be able to teach, I need to be able to hear different opinions… I’m encouraging critical debate,” she said. “I find that skillset of being a professor… is a very similar skillset to being a city councilor and representing people.”
Coinciding with her academic background as a gerontologist and sociologist – along with her role on the board of Easthampton Neighbors, a nonprofit which matches local volunteers with senior members – Smith said her top priority if elected would be to focus on how the city can help its growing senior population.
“How can we make sure that we’re really invigorating the older population? We tend to think of older people only in terms of what needs they have, rather than the contributions they bring to the community,” Smith said.
“It’s really exciting to me to take it outside of the classroom and actually be a part of my community, and see the lived experience of what I’m teaching,” she said.
As a former councilor, Smith said her top accomplishments were being a part of two ordinances: one allowing accessory dwelling units, and another that brought retail cannabis sales into the city, which she said “came at a time when the city was needing some revenue.”
Hinkle previously ran for an at-large city councilor position, but was not elected. He is running again because he wants to bring his perspective as a blue collar worker to City Council.
Originally from Arizona, Hinkle raised his four kids in Easthampton while working as a mechanic and eventually an operations supervisor at Ryder Transportation in Springfield.
“Blue collar is what made this town the way it is,” Hinkle said. “I’m just hoping that with me coming to the council, and me giving my opinion in my view as a blue collar worker and a father… that it would make a difference.”
In the community, Hinkle, a veteran, is an active volunteer for veterans organizations. He has also coached youth sports including baseball and soccer, and was a Boy Scouts leader.
Top priorities for Hinkle include infrastructure and “keeping up with the quality of life” in the city, promoting small businesses, and bringing in developers to create more housing.
But for the most part, he said, “A lot of people ask me, ‘what do I stand for? The question is, ‘what do you want?’”
“In politics, you can’t make everyone happy… and there’s only so much the City Council can do,” he added. “But as a City Council person, I can go to our state rep and say, ‘Hey this is what my precinct wants,’ and I can have a bigger voice than just a regular vote.”
Hinkle said that as a representative for Precinct 5, which is mostly residential, he can speak for everyday workers.
“Those people have the same struggles; I have the same worries. That’s why I want to be that voice,” he said.Maddie Fabian can be reached at email@example.com.