Around Town

Boldyga has two challengers for 3rd Hampden House seat





By Danielle Eaton

Staff writer

SOUTHWICK – State Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick, is facing two challengers for his seat as the 3rd Hampden District representative in the November election, both of whom are Agawam residents and elected officials.

Agawam City Councilor Dino Mercadante and Agawam School Committee member Kerri O’Connor both took out paperwork for nomination in mid-March. The district is comprised of the towns of Agawam, Southwick and Granville. Each of the three candidates was asked the same three questions for this article, however, in addition to their response, they each expressed concern for their constituents amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Boldyga said he has been working nonstop since COVID-19 hit the Commonwealth, speaking with business owners and hospitals administrators and staff. “My only focus has been, and will continue to be, the residents of our communities and our Commonwealth,” he said.

Mercadante said the election was also not his primary concern, as “the focus should be more directed to the current needs of our citizens.” O’Connor echoed this, and said while she was still technically running for the seat, her campaign, including any events or campaigning she had previously planned, had been suspended until the pandemic was over.

Nicholas Bolydga

Boldyga is seeking reelection to his fifth term to the Third Hampden District seat. Prior to being elected to the position in November 2010, he served as a Southwick selectman and police officer in Connecticut. He said being involved in public service and the community where he resides has always been important to him.

“I’ve always been actively involved in my communities, been vocal about what we need for our families and kids,” he said. “My kids are eight, six and four, and they need to know giving back to your community is one of the most important things you can do in your life.”

Boldyga said he will continue “fighting for working class families” should he be reelected. He said he can relate to working class families and those dealing with student loan payments as he put himself through college. Boldyga said he feels “Agawam and Southwick are doing really well,” citing the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge Project, a new generator and handicap access improvements at the Agawam Junior High School.

“We’ve done an immense amount of infrastructure projects. Over the last two years, it was the roads in Agawam and Southwick,” he said.

He also cited the work he has done to bring more money to the district, specifically Agawam over the years. “There’s a lot of money in Agawam I’ve been working on. In Agawam, there is an additional $30 million of state money being invested,” he said. “And that’s just in the last year, over the last couple of years there’s been additional money for Southwick.”

He said he felt as though it was “important to go to Beacon Hill and give a voice to the district . . . I can still be a voice of reason, but still be able to deliver things for the district.”

Boldyga emphasized that he has had an opponent every election cycle.

“People have had their choice every election and I’ve been overwhelmingly elected,” he noted.

In the coming years, should he be reelected, he said he plans to “continue to address district-specific issues.”

Dino Mercadante

Mercadante, who also owns 911 Burgers and Dogs in Feeding Hills, was elected to the Agawam City Council three years ago, winning a seat to the council for a second term in the November 2019 election.

He said the decision to run for city council was made after spending a large portion of each day “listening to customers tell me how detached they feel from their government at all levels.” This, he said, was “something that as a small business owner, I find very relatable.” Mercadante said being able to be a voice for and help residents in the Agawam community “has been immensely rewarding.”

Mercadante said he feels as though his experience as a business owner and while serving on the council will benefit him greatly if he is elected to the Legislature. “I believe I have a keen sense of value and how to efficiently and effectively save and spend,” he stated. This knowledge, he believes will help him manage budgets and funds effectively should he be elected.

“The Commonwealth must walk a fine line of being prudent with spending and business friendly, while also providing the necessary funds that our communities need to thrive,” he said. Mercadante said his time on the council had also given him the collaborative and governmental experience needed to represent the district.

“Additionally, I believe that my time on the Agawam City Council has been extremely beneficial, as I have gained a unique perspective into how government works and how to collaborate with individuals on both sides of the aisle,” he explained. Mercadante said his experience serving as the vice chair of the Community Relations Committee and the chair of the Finance Committee added to this experience and gave him the chance “to better work for our residents.”

If elected, Mercadante said there are issues within each community in the district he would like to focus on.

“All three of these communities need road work and updates to municipal buildings.” he said. “Agawam is currently looking at their sewer systems as well as improvements to their safety complex,” while in Southwick “the roof of their fire house is in need of replacement and they are eager to outfit a new ambulance.”

Mercadante said Granville “has continued to have issues with their road culverts and the community is currently dealing with concerns over sending their children to a different town to be schooled.”

“As state representative, I would attach my name to every spending bill that would improve the lives of the people in this district,” he said. “It is critical that if funding is available for transportation or infrastructure improvements, we are at the table and requesting our fair share.”

Kerri O’Connor

O’Connor was elected to her second term on the Agawam School Committee in November of 2019. She said her previous experience in the Navy, on the school committee and in outreach made her want to be a representative voice for the district.

“My goal for running is to have strong representation in the Third Hampden District,” she said.

Her skills in the Navy, she said, “taught me to grow in many facets of my life. I went into the service to help others and change my life for the better. I was out to sea for three years, that experience helped me grow to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.” O’Connor said this unique experience has helped her see the “need for stronger representation in our veteran community.”

O’Connor said she understood the struggles of veterans, the working class and parents. “I’m a single mother, I’ve always held a job – at the age of 14 I had three jobs. I became independent at a young age,” O’Connor stated. “I know what it’s like to struggle, just like any other family out there. I’ve lived that experience, I know what it’s like to struggle, I know what it’s like to not have money.”

O’Connor said one thing she believes is missing, and intends to bring to local government, is compromise. “It’s all about compromise, I listen to all sides. Yes, I’m a registered Democrat, but I’m doing this with a bipartisan approach. I look at all sides and value everyone’s opinion, parties aside,” she said.

Another issue O’Connor intends to focus on, if elected, was the lack of internet access in Granville. She called this “unacceptable” and questioned “who has been there to advocate for these families? When I see internet access for all, it’s a big deal.”

She said police and fire are also in need of representation in the district’s communities. Additionally, O’Connor said she wants to use her experience in mental and behavioral health outreach to evaluate mental health services in the district. “We lack mental health services, all of our residents have to go to Springfield,” she explained.

She said the communities in the district also lack affordable housing for families. “Families can’t find affordable housing, they become desperate and have to move,” O’Connor said. She also named other issues such as infrastructure, vocational skills, community safety and maintaining EMT certifications for volunteer first responders in Granville and Southwick.

“My main focus is to not forget where we came from and not forget why we’re there,” she said.

To Top