Three candidates for two Select Board seats make pitches in Hadley

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STAFF FILE PHOTOWEB ONLY STAFF FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-15-2024 12:38 PM

HADLEY — Protecting farmland, keeping Hadley affordable and family friendly, and promoting commercial development appear to be areas of agreement for the three candidates vying for two seats on the Select Board at next week’s town election.

Fielding questions Monday at a Hadley Mothers’ Club forum were Amy Parsons, chairwoman of the Select Board, who is seeking a second term; former Select Board member and current Finance Committee Chairman David J. Fill II; and Kyle Patrick Dragon, a political newcomer who works as a regional animal control officer.

The race for the Select Board positions is the only contest on Tuesday’s ballot, which also features a $2 million Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion override that would provide the money for a new ladder truck for the Fire Department. Polls will be open at the Hadley Senior Center from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“I’m looking forward to being able to help the residents of Hadley continue to move Hadley in a good direction,” said Dragon of his interest in serving in an elected position after living in town for about 10 years.

Dragon said he is not critical of the town’s direction, but would like to promote more housing development, while maintaining open space and farmland, and wants new residents to be able to come to town and find it welcoming and affordable.

Decisions, he said, would be made by voting his conscience to keep the town moving forward, based on input from people saying their piece.

“I can bring a lot of perspective with my personal full-time job. I work with many different municipalities,” Dragon said.

Fill, who served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force, said he would like to return to the board he left in 2022 so that projects such as water and sewer infrastructure that have languished can resume, noting he has a track record to get things done.

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“My experience and management expertise will be critical to make sure taxpayers get the best bang for their buck and projects are completed correctly and in the best interest of the town,” Fill said, referencing the oversight he provided for the Senior Center, the library and the North Hadley Fire Substation.

Fiscal responsibility is also important. “Being smart and managing people and projects more like a business is critical for success of the town,” Fill said.

Better communication with the public is needed, Fill also said, even if providing more information can lead to disagreements. 

Parsons, a 13th-generation Hadley farmer, said she would like to serve another term to continue what she sees as maintaining a community where she can raise her family and others can live without being overly burdened by costs.

“I don’t have any special agendas, I’m not part of any special groups,” Parsons said. “I’m interested in looking out for the town as a whole and looking to progress into a bright future.”

During her time on the board, Parsons said, meeting agendas have expanded to contain much more information.

Given her business management expertise, she pointed to a need to, on occasion, run the town like a business.

“Realize good investments, realize poor investments and (have an) understanding investments isn’t just money, but it’s also people,” Parsons said.

The one substantive policy disagreement the candidates addressed was about the possibility of infill residential development on parts of Route 9, which is largely a commercial and industrial zone.

Dragon said there is a need for balance, and that incorporating housing in the corridor could help revitalize commercial properties.

Parsons said she wouldn’t support placing housing in the commercial area because it might compromise the tax base, and also worries the location wouldn’t be suitable for families and children who would want yards to play in.

Fill said any residential infill would depend on sufficient water and sewer service, but that townhouse-style homes near shops and restaurants could be ideal, especially with the existing public transportation and proximity to the University of Massachusetts.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.