HAMPSTEAD – Hampstead held Candidate Night this year but in a different format, as only one race is contested. This year’s event was taped, rather than being held live.
When the event was being planned, voters faced two contested races: two candidates for a single selectman seat – Joe Guthrie and Chad Bennett, and three candidates for two School Board seats – incumbent Jaye Dimando, Karen Yasenka, and Don Blaszka. However, Blaszka announced that due to professional reasons he was withdrawing from the race, as previously reported by the Tri-Town Times.
While his name must remain on the ballot because of the timing of his decision, Blaszka is working to notify residents that he is withdrawing and is asking them not to vote for him.
Blaszka’s action removed the School Board from its contested race status, although technically it remains a contested race until Blaszka, if elected, refuses to take the seat and it is declared “vacant.” At that point the School Board would appoint someone for a one-year term, with that seat going on next year’s ballot for a two-year term.
After considerable discussion, Candidate Night organizers decided that the remaining two candidates for the two School Board seats, Dimando and Yasenka, would appear at the Tuesday, Feb. 17 taping, and Moderator Natalie Gallo would read a brief statement from Blaszka.
In the taping of the selectman candidates, Guthrie and Bennett both spoke of being fiscally responsible and conservative.
Guthrie said he was motivated to run because he thinks his experience would be useful on the board and would help support the current chairman, Sean Murphy. He said he would like to see improved communication and cooperation between the School District and the Town.
Bennett said he was motivated to run because he wanted to help save the town money and to see it run more like a business. He said that there has been progress made over the years and he wanted to ensure that the Hampstead his kids grow up in is as good a place to live as it had been for all of his life.
Yasenka said her motivation for running for School Board – a post she held many years ago – was to be able to advocate for her grandchildren and for all Hampstead schoolchildren to receive the best education possible, and to lend her management and leadership skills to the board. She advocating passing the bond issue for the renovation and construction project at Hampstead Central School, saying it was time for Hampstead residents to decide whether they wanted children to be educated in trailers that are not secure, are unsafe and offer a less than ideal educational environment, or provide a more appropriate and safe environment in the proposed addition.
Dimando said she has thoroughly enjoyed her four terms on the school board and likes being engaged with students, teachers and administrators as well as board members. She expressed pride in the School District and said she wants to see its success continue and improve. She, too, encouraged passage of Article 2, the bond issue for renovation and construction, and said a pressing need exists to get the children out of the trailers and back into the building.
Dimando said her years of experience on the board and involvement in educational issues through her board position made continuing on the board important.