HONESDALE, PA — Five Republicans are in the running for four spots on the ballot in Honesdale’s municipal election this year. The long-serving councilor …
HONESDALE, PA — Five Republicans are in the running for four spots on the ballot in Honesdale’s municipal election this year. The long-serving councilor Robert Jennings is the only candidate running for reelection. Councilors Jason Newbon and William McAllister are both looking to maintain their seats after being appointed by the council to fill vacancies at different points last year. The remaining two, Jim Hamill and David Nilsen, are hoping to bring some fresh blood to local lawmaking.
Prior to entering the race, both Hamill and Nilsen have been fixtures at council meetings as members of the public. Hamill said his decision to run was born out of feeling “civic responsibility.”
“I think each of us has a civic responsibility to play a role in the formation of policies that impact our residents, and people who work here and visit here,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, I think, to give back of my time and talent if I can; for so long, I kind of had to be an observer.”
Serving the role of the observer is likely how many recognize Hamill’s name in the first place, seeing him on their TV screens as a WNEP news reporter from 2006 to 2019. Hamill thinks the time he spent reporting on municipal government has helped him learn the way it works.
Since leaving the TV station, Hamill has joined the tourism industry, working as the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau’s director of public relations. He also serves on the boards of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of the Northern Poconos and Honesdale’s Roots & Rhythm festival. Hamill is currently a member of the borough’s parks and recreation commission as well.
Nilsen did not respond to specific questions, instead emailing a set of statements on his top priority issues. An owner of several properties throughout the borough, Nilsen has frequently addressed the current council during the public comment period on a range of issues, including income tax, police staffing issues and general traffic and safety matters. He also served a brief stint as the borough’s zoning and code enforcement officer.
Among his top priorities, Nilsen believes the borough can achieve a more robust economy through lower taxes and fewer regulations. He also said that, as a councilor, he would “begin a program to combat blight and beautify the borough through maintenance and community cleanup days,” support a 24/7 “visible police presence to deter crime,” and review the borough’s budget to identify any cases of wasteful spending.
Nilsen also wants to look over and edit the borough code. Specifically, he calls himself a strong supporter of gun rights and wants to review the borough’s firearm policy, which currently prohibits non-law enforcement officials from discharging a firearm within the borough.
Hamill named some less specific, broader goals that he would want to focus on as a councilor. Preserving the borough’s history while enhancing it for future generations, improving the council’s transparency with the public, fostering civic engagement—the longer and more well attended the meetings, the better, he says—and improving the council’s public image all neared the top of his list.
“I’d like to bring some positivity to the mix. I find that a lot of the vibe coming out of the borough [government] could afford to be a little bit more upbeat, a little bit more encouraging to its residents and that we can always improve upon what we have,” Hamill said. “We’ve had a lot of animosity and disagreement that’s been at times very off-putting to the public. And I think that bringing an air of positivity and collaboration to the table would have a trickle-down effect for all of those [issues] that we want to solve.”
Hamill hasn’t set his eyes to serve on any particular committee or position if elected to the council. Instead, he said all of his primary interests for the borough boil down to quality-of-life issues: maintaining safe, accessible parks; improving pedestrian and public safety; and developing long-term plans and strategies, like the six-year plan recently proposed by the Greater Honesdale Partnership, that are aimed at leaving “the borough better than we found it.”
“I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s here as a kid, and I kind of want my kids to experience the same kind of mystique and wonderful childhood that I did,” he said. “And I want that for my neighbor’s kids and my neighbor’s neighbor’s kids.”
This year’s primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 18.