Four candidates vie for two seats on South Hadley Select Board

  • Candidates for two open Select Board seats in South Hadley, clockwise from top left: Trevor Baptiste, Carol Constant, Renee Sweeney, and Jeffrey Cyr. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • CAROL CONSTANT

  • JEFFREYCYR

  • RENEE SWEENEY

Staff Writer
Published: 4/7/2021 8:43:48 PM

As voters head to the polls for next Tuesday’s town election, four candidates will be competing for two open seats on South Hadley’s Select Board.

Incumbent Jeffrey Cyr and challengers Trevor Baptiste, Carol Constant and Renee Sweeney are running for three-year terms on the five-member board. The seats up for grabs are those currently held by Cyr, the Select Board chairman, and member Bruce Forcier, who is not seeking reelection.

Election day is April 13, and in-person voting hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All voting will take place at South Hadley High School. Absentee and mail-in ballots must be received by the town clerk by 6 p.m. on that day.

Trevor Baptiste

Trevor Baptiste, 44, is a scientist, educator and former elected official in Pelham who hopes to bring “outside of the box” ideas to town government and to unify the town’s separate power structures to solve modern-day challenges.

“I want people to know I’m running to make clear distinctions about the sides, and to bring the sides together, for everybody’s mutual benefit,” he said.

A research scientist with a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, Baptiste has taught science at Greenfield and Springfield Technical community colleges, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield and UMass.

Baptiste also previously served as the chairman of the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee representing the town of Pelham. He said that to create long-term solutions to problems, a diverse range of perspectives must be included in the decision-making process.

“I have experience in how to get these tender subjects about race and class and how to mine them for positive effect for the community,” he said. “I did that on the school board.”

If elected, Baptiste said his priorities would be to pursue creative solutions to problems, from trash pickup only occurring every two weeks to a need to build up the tax base. As one example, he proposed the idea of a fleet of town-owned electric vehicles that could be used to handle recycling pickup, decrease the town’s carbon footprint and increase civic engagement.

“South Hadley is poised to be a model and example of how, in this next century, this country can move,” he said. “A model for sustainability, a model for equity and inclusion, a model when it comes to governance.”

Carol Constant

Carol Constant, 66, is a Town Meeting member who spent her career working in fundraising in the nonprofit sector. She said her vision for South Hadley is a town that’s accessible and affordable for everyone.

“I think I have a lot to offer because I have a deep knowledge of the community,” Constant said. “I’ve been actively interested and involved in a lot of things happening in town.”

Constant previously worked in fundraising and community engagement positions at Mount Holyoke College, Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke and The Loomis Communities. She recently retired and said she wants to get more involved in a formal way in the community that she’s so passionate about.

A 20-year member of Town Meeting, Constant said she has been active in town advocating for the arts, the schools, older residents and youth issues.

“My vision for the town is that it’s a welcoming and accessible town for everyone, and adorable,” she said.

If elected, Constant said she would prioritize ensuring that older residents can afford to stay in their homes and that new residents can afford to move to South Hadley. She said affordability is about diversifying the tax base, being more welcoming, and thinking about how the town could consolidate some community services to be more efficient.

Constant also said she looks forward to conversations about the schools, including the rehabilitation or replacement of Mosier Elementary School. She said she first got active in town when her children were in the school system, and that South Hadley schools have always provided a good education to children.

“I think we owe it to the children coming through the system to continue that,” she said.

Jeffrey Cyr

Jeffrey Cyr, 51, is a lifelong resident of South Hadley who works as superintendent of Water District No. 1. First elected to his seat in 2018, he said he hopes to continue working on issues including affordability, housing and capital planning.

“I care about this community, I think it has a very diverse population and I’m looking forward to that population growing in the future,” he said.

Cyr has worked for 25 years in his current job. He said he has enjoyed his three years on the Select Board, and that he is particularly proud of his efforts as a member of the building committee overseeing the construction of the town’s new Senior Center. He noted that the project was built without a tax hike on residents and is expected to be completed in the spring or summer.

Cyr said that the town faces financial challenges soon, including a long capital expenditure list and the possibility of increased health insurance costs in the coming years. He noted that the town will have a new school superintendent and town administrator, and said his experience would be valuable to those new officials.

“Those two department heads are going to need the tools to manage the budgets that both of them didn’t really have any say in,” he said.

Cyr noted that during his time on the Select Board, the town has moved forward with projects including a plan to revitalize South Hadley Falls and a multi-tiered workforce housing project on Newton Street. And he said retaining town staff will be an issue he plans to focus on if reelected.

“We have excellent staff that work for the town, and I want to strive to keep those people,” he said.

Renee Sweeney

Renee Sweeney, 42, is a Town Meeting member who graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2001 and moved back to the community in 2012. Now the director of advancement services at Hampshire College, she hopes to increase civic engagement in South Hadley.

“I’m running because I know a lot of people in town who don’t know how things work in our government and someone needs to make a lot more noise to that effect,” Sweeney said.

“I want to encourage a lot more people to get involved … so we can make sound decisions that are inclusive and that will serve the residents in the town.”

As a member of Town Meeting, Sweeney said it is sometimes hard to shape policy, so she said running for a seat on the Select Board made sense so she could become involved earlier in the process.

If elected, Sweeney said she would focus on some of the themes included in the town’s master plan, such as preserving the town’s natural resources, improving housing and affordability, cultivating a welcoming community, and improving municipal communication.

In particular, Sweeney noted that those who are not able to buy a single-family home are being underserved by the kind of housing South Hadley currently has and that more affordable places — including those where older residents can age in place — would be a priority.

“I would like to think up more ways that we can stay in touch with people,” Sweeney said, noting that some methods — like virtual government meetings — have already begun during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think just finding more ways for people to be able to access those decision points is important.”

Sweeney noted that the Select Board makes appointments to town boards and committees, and that appointing a diverse range of community members would be a priority if elected.




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