Mayoral elections are still something of a novelty in Easthampton; until 1996, the city was but a town, and was run by a Board of Selectmen. In that year, the board was dissolved and a City Council formed, and Easthampton elected its first and only mayor, former Selectman Michael A. Tautznik.
"Mayor Mike," as he's often called, has been, in everyone's estimation (including that of his current opponents), a dedicated public servant who truly cares about Easthampton and its quality of life, and is also still a highly visible figure about town. Still, Tautznik's been mayor for quite a while now, and this year in particular seems to have shaken some healthy competition out of the trees, as well as some genuine concern about the responsiveness of the office in its current state and some divergence of opinion on certain key issues. Below is a rundown of the candidates in this year's race.
Michael A. Tautznik (Incumbent)
In his more than 30 years of service to the city (including 12 as mayor), he's overseen construction of a new public safety complex to house police, fire and EMS facilities, presided over the conversion of the former downtown post office into a senior center, sponsored local, state and federal grants for business and residential purposes and helped cultivate arts initiatives like the recent Easthampton Bear Fest. He continues to be a proponent of pursuing goals such as building a new public high school. He has also made extensive efforts to investigate green technologies that might help offset town expenses and to solicit grants for them under the Massachusetts Green Communities Act, and has worked hard to avoid raising property taxes. He has, in years past, defended the Barnes Aquifer from developers' interests.
District #1 Councilor James Paul (J.P.) Kwiecinski
Tautznik's principal challenger in the 2009 election is James Paul (J.P.) Kwiecinski, a City Council member who has served on the Finance, Ordinance and Public Safety Committees and the School Councils of both Easthampton High and Whitebrook Middle School, and has claimed a leadership role in the successful campaign to save Echodale Farm, Easthampton's largest operating farm, from development. Kwiecinski's chief platform issue in the election has been his highly vocal opposition to the expansion of Northampton's landfill into an area that lies above a section of the Barnes Aquifer, a pristine source of water whose taste has been rated amongst the finest in the nation, and which is Easthampton's primary supply of drinking water. Though much study has been done on the potential expansion (and much remains to be done), candidate Kwiecinski, who maintains a residence directly downstream from said landfill by Hannum Brook, has adopted the campaign slogan/rallying cry "Landfills and aquifers just don't mix!"
Margaret (Marge) Prendergast
Candidate Marge Prendergast has been a familiar face in Easthampton for years as well, primarily in the areas of community development and public education. She's served on the Easthampton School Committee and was president of the Parent-Teacher Organization and the Easthampton Community Association. She's been instrumental in many efforts to preserve and fund the Emily Williston Memorial Library and has chaired and/or sponsored a slew of committees and programs, including the Women's Business Owners Association, the Fall Festival, Derrill's Race (a fundraiser for various charitable causes), the Parsons School and Maple School Playgrounds, wellness fairs and the Easthampton Girls' Volleyball Team. Her statement of intent is community-oriented at a grassroots level, and largely focuses on general utilitarian issues like fiscal responsibility and sustainable business growth. If there is any theme to her candidacy to be gleaned from her service and experience, it is the importance of prioritizing a smart and compassionate preservation of the city for the benefit of future generations.
Albert J. (Al) DiCarlo
Albert J. DiCarlo is a retired law enforcement officer—a 40-year veteran of the Massachusetts State Police, having attained the rank of sergeant. DiCarlo has been critical of what he views as mismanagement of the city over the last decade and of what he sees as unresponsiveness and lack of transparency in city government, pointing to an expensive recent sewer project as an example of municipal failure. He has been a resident of the city since 1971 and though he states that he "enjoys the small town atmosphere of Easthampton," he also believes that a "balance of small town [feel] and economic survival must be met." DiCarlo advocates seeking out larger businesses and bringing them to Easthampton in a bid to expand the commercial tax base, and ease the burden of residential property taxes. He has said that such additions to the community are not only desirable but in fact essential to economic stability in times of hardship such as those we currently face.