Newcomers Smith, Tirrell elected to Easthampton City Council

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 11-08-2023 10:46 AM

EASTHAMPTON — While the makeup of City Council will remain largely the same going into the next term, voters on Tuesday elected two new faces to the council: Jason “JT” Tirrell for at-large councilor and Tamara Smith for Precinct 5.

This year’s election in Easthampton drew 2,869 voters out of a total of 12,861 registered voters, or about 22%.

“I think it’s every citizen’s duty to vote, whether it’s a local election, nationwide election or statewide election,” said Christine Biegner at the Easthampton High School polls on Tuesday morning.

“We’ve had a number of the same [councilors] for years, and I think they do a great job,” Biegner added. “It’s a lot of time and effort on their part, often for very little recognition.”

The sole contested City Council race occurred in Precinct 5, where Smith won 62.99% of the vote, or 375, over Jared Hinkle, according to unofficial results late Tuesday night from the city clerk’s office. Smith will replace longtime councilor Daniel Rist, who did not seek another term.

“I feel really grateful for the confidence that the voters put in me,” Smith said at a candidate gathering at New City Brewery on Tuesday night.

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Smith previously served one term as an at-large city councilor that ended in 2017. With a PhD in sociology, she is a professor at Westfield State University where she teaches sociology with a particular interest in gerontology, care work, education and family policy.

She said her top priority is to find ways to help the city’s growing senior population; one way is to create a committee for considering a new Senior Center, she said.

“Completing our development of updated services not only to include the children of Easthampton with our new schools, but also with a new senior center in the future, that would be the best of both worlds,” Smith said. “I hope to be a part of making that happen.”

Uncontested winners for the at-large positions include: Owen Zaret, with 2,060 votes; Brad Riley, 1,692; and Koni Denham, 1,886 votes.

And with 1,782 votes, newcomer Tirrell also won an uncontested at-large seat on City Council.

Born and raised in Easthampton — and with experience on the Parks and Recreation Commission and as president of the Little League in the city — Tirrell said he has a “vested interest in the city.”

And like Smith, he said he wants to focus on building a new senior center, as well as serving the city’s veteran population.

“I’m very honored to have this opportunity,” Tirrell said. “I think that this town sorely needs to serve its seniors and its veterans more than they do, so I want to get involved ... to get those two populations served better in the city.”

Incumbent Councilor Zaret said, “It’s heartwarming to get that affirmation from the voters that the work that I’m doing resonates with them,” and added that top issues facing the City Council include sustainability and accessibility initiatives.

“In my brief time in the city, I’ve never seen the city more fractured than during the superintendent search. While I leave that to my colleagues in the School Committee, I think that in general, we need to figure out how to… foster community despite mutual difference,” said Zaret.

As for uncontested precinct races, winners include: James “JP” Kwiecinski, 365 votes, for Precinct 1; Homar Gomez, 286 votes, for Precinct 2; Thomas Peake, 406 votes, for Precinct 3; and Salem Derby, 429 votes, for Precinct 4.

On election night, Peake said, “The new council is going to immediately be jumping into budget season so that’s always a big thing, and I think we still need to do a lot on housing — that’s always a huge issue in Easthampton.”

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com.