Race for Hastings City Council Ward 3 ready for primary election

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The primary election is Tuesday, and there's one race in Hastings being contested.

Incumbent Paul Hamelink is being challenged for Hastings City Council Ward 3 seat by Joy Huffaker and Willis Hunt. (Source: KSNB)

Voters will need to decide who they want to represent them in Ward 3 on the Hastings City Council.

Incumbent Paul Hamelink is being challenged for that council position by Joy Huffaker and Willis Hunt.

Each candidate has different levels of city involvement, and their own priorities.

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Paul Hamelink, incumbent

Hamelink currently serves as Hastings City Council president.

He's had various leadership roles over the years. He worked as the senior living administrator at Good Samaritan Village until he retired in April of last year.

Hamelink was also board chair for the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce in 2015, and president of the Hastings Noon Rotary.

More recently, Governor Pete Ricketts appointed Hamelink to his third term on the Nebraska Commission for Housing and Homelessness. He also works for the National Center for Housing Management as a consultant teacher.

In addition to the boards and commissions he serves on, Hamelink owns Paul’s Cigar Lounge in downtown Hastings.

Now, Hamelink said he'd like to continue on the Hastings City Council for a second term to continue pushing for economic development, especially in the downtown area.

"We have to look forward to the city, and economic development is a lot of pieces: Keeping taxes low, keeping utility costs low, providing the city services so that developers and businesses - we make it easy for them," Hamelink said.

Out of everything he's done, Hamelink said his time on the Planning Commission prepared him most for serving on city council.

Hamelink said if he's re-elected this could be his last term, but he'd like to see current council projects through.

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Joy Huffaker, candidate

Huffaker and her husband own Eldon's Automotive Repair in Hastings.

She was also a RN for 17 years, and spent some time working at Mary Lanning Healthcare.

But it's her involvement with the Citizens for Positive Community Growth that sparked her interest in running for city council.

Huffaker said the group acts as the go-between for citizens and the city. They help people get what they need and better understand city codes to allow for more growth in the area.

That's also where her primary concern for a growing community stemmed from.

"There are a lot of small business owners here in Hastings that I know as well, and growth is important to them as well," Huffaker said. "The youth here, we need to make it a place that they want to stay and raise their families."

Huffaker said her and her husband are raising their kids in Hastings, and would like them to take over the repair shop one day.

She said if elected, she'd also like to focus on bettering infrastructure in town, and get ahead of things before they become major problems.

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Willis Hunt, candidate:

Hunt currently serves as an alternate on the Hastings Planning Commission.

He previously worked as the Hastings city engineer from 1970-77, and served on the city council from 1980-84.

He also served on the Board of Public Works for 12 years, and the Adams County Ag Board from 1985-93.

Now, he works with his son on their farming operation in southwest Nebraska, and runs livestock on a rental property in the area.

He's still active in helping with the Adams County Fair and the rodeos.

Hunt said the people who worked to reverse the city council's decision to demolish the old 16th street viaduct encouraged him to run for office.

"I think there ought to be more open and responsive communication, and greater citizen input. We seem to be in a hurry many times, and this was really the result of the petition," Hunt said.

Hunt said his main priority is serving the community.

If elected, Hunt said he hopes to act as a liaison for what the people want.

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This is a non-partisan race.

The two candidates with the most votes from the primary election will move on to the general election.