NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This year's municipal elections should prove interesting, with a mayoral preliminary and a full slate for council that includes the state's longest-serving mayor.
Should all of the City Council candidates be certified, it will result in one of the largest fields in the past decade. At least three newcomers will be elected.
Mayor Richard Alcombright will face off against Council President Ronald Boucher and newcomer Robert Martelle in September; the two highest votegetters will go on to the general election in November. Alcombright is seeking a second term in the corner office while Boucher is completing his sixth term.
All three mayoral candidates have been certified and will appear on the ballot.
Among the 18 candidates who have turned in papers for City Council, the standout name is John Barrett III.
Barrett served 13 terms as mayor before being ousted by Alcombright in 2009. It's been rumored for months that he might run for office again, possibly taking on Alcombright for a rematch. But Barrett, who's recently showed up at City Council meeting to chastise its members, waited until deadline day to take out and return nomination papers for council.
He's not the only political veteran to delay a decision. Alan Marden, Marie Harpin and Michael Bloom, all with seven or more terms under their belts, hadn't planned on running this year until it became apparent that next year's City Council would be light on experience.
Councilors Lisa Blackmer, David Bond and Keith Bona were the first to pull papers; Blackmer is seeking a third time, Bond his second. Bona is also seeking a second term although he has past experience on the council.
Michael Boland and David Lamarre, who was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi earlier this year, have both declined to run again. Lamarre, however, will seek a seat on the School Committee. Boucher is running for mayor.
Another council veteran who returned papers, Diane Gallese-Parsons, served three terms a decade ago. Past candidates running include Gregory Roach and Eric Buddington, along with newcomers Nancy P. Bullett, Robert Cardimino, Chatherine Chaput, James B. Gyurasz, Michael Hernandez, Jennifer Breen Kirsh, Kellie A. Morrison and Gail Sellers.
The nine highest vote-getters will be elected to the council. One more candidate would have triggered a preliminary election since 18 is the maximum. However, only seven of the 18 candidates have so far had their nomination signatures certifed by the city clerk's office: Buddington, Cardimino, Bond, Gyurasz, Bona, Bullett and Kirsch.
Three people, Shane Gaudreau, Roland Gardner and Brian Flagg, took out papers but did not return them.
Returning papers for School Committee are incumbents Mary Lou Acetta and Lawrence Taft; William B. Schrade Jr. decided not to stand for re-election. Newcomers challenging the incumbents are Lamarre, Tara Jacobs and Leonard Giroux Jr.
George Canales is running for re-election to the McCann School Committee, leaving one North Adams seat empty because Hernandez is running for City Council.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This year's municipal election could see a significant turnover on the City Council with at least three veteran councilors not running for re-election
With a deadline to submit papers only three weeks away, only three current council members have so far taken out papers: Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona and David Bond.
Council President Ronald A. Boucher has taken out papers for the corner office. Boucher has gone back and forth on whether to run for mayor, announcing just a couple weeks ago on his public-access show that he'd decided against a run.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright announced his intention to run for a second term in April. The North Adams Transcript reported on Thursday that former Mayor John Barrett III may also throw his hat into the ring.
Councilor Marie Harpin said she has not yet decided whether to try for an eighth term but a number of constituents have asked her to run. Councilor David Lamarre, who was appointed to complete the term of Gailanne Cariddi after her election to the Legislature, said he has not ruled out another run. Longtime Councilor Alan Marden is said to be weighing a decision.
Another veteran councilor and several-times president, Michael Bloom, said he probably will not run and wants to spend more time with his family. Councilor Michael Boland informed us Thursday morning that he "will not be running for council again."
Two newcomers have already returned papers: Kellie A. Morrison and Robert Cardimino. Cardimino has been a frequent critic of the council and the mayor since the 2009 election.
Those who have taken out papers but have not returned them yet are: Catherine Chaput, a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts student; James B. Gyurasz; former Councilor Diane M. Gallese-Parsons; and Roland G. Gardner.
Taking out papers for School Committee are Leonard Giroux Jr. and Tara J. Jacobs. George Canales has taken out papers for the McCann School Committee.
The deadline to return nomination papers with the signatures of 50 registered voters to the city clerk's office is Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 5 p.m.
This post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available.
A vacancy is opening up on the North Adams School Committee. Committee member William G. Schrade Jr. sent us this statement on his decision not to run over the weekend at our request and it got buried in our email, as so many things do, before we had a chance to post it. Our apologies to Mr. Schrade.
Schrade told us he wanted to spend more time with his family and focus on his job as a program manager with the North Adams Housing Authority. He wanted to get the word out early that he would not stand for re-election to give time for other interested citizens to decide if they would like to run.
The School Committee is made up of six four-year elected positions and the mayor, who is automatically the chairman. There has been little changeover in the committee in the past decade. Schrade's stepping aside offers an opportunity for a new viewpoint on the board, something that the three-term board member encourages.
Schrade writes that:
While I have enjoyed my 12 years with the North Adams School Committee, I have decided not to run for re-election. This is a decision that I do not take lightly after so many great years in this position.
There comes a time when a new and fresh perspective would be welcome to the School Committee. I encourage people to think about the contributions and ideas for the N.A. school system that they might bring to the table and consider running for this office.
My decision is both personal and professional. My intention is to more fully invest myself in my work with the North Adams Housing Authority and to have more time with my family. I would like to thank everyone I have worked with including two mayors, two superintendents, many School Committee members and most importantly the staff of the North Adams Public School System.
April 28, 2011, 3:36 p.m.: Updated to correct length of terms
Councilor Ronald A. Boucher presiding over his first meeting at president in 2009. Boucher is considering a run for mayor.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — City Council President Ronald Boucher confirmed on Monday that he's "looking into" a run for the Corner Office.
"I've been approached by a lot of people ... a lot of people," said the six-term councilor.
Rumors of Boucher's possible mayoral candidacy have been circling for several weeks but he said on Monday he had not made a decision yet. He did say he had spoken with Mayor Richard Alcombright and told the mayor he would let him know when he made a decision.
Alcombright is finishing his first term as mayor and announced his re-election bid a couple weeks ago. He and Boucher served as councilors for several terms together before Alcombright successfully ran against the state's "dean of mayors," John Barrett III, in 2009.
Along with the change in the Corner Office came several new (or returning) councilors and the election of Boucher for the first time as the council's president.
Boucher has not, at least publicly, differed significantly with Alcombright during the past 16 months.
How things have changed. On Friday, more than 75 people including community and business leaders crowded into the little Eagle Street Pocket Park and spilled onto the sidewalk to hear Alcombright sum up two years in office and plans for two more.
It's been a tough 16 months, he acknowledged.
"Upon taking office this country was still reeling from the first economic crisis since the Great Depression," Alcombright said. "During my debates with former Mayor [John] Barrett, he said that the next two years in the city of North Adams would be the most difficult since the 1930s — unquestionably, he was right."
The popular five-term city councilor knocked the state's longest-serving mayor out of the Corner Office in 2009; but victory has been tempered by the city's budgetary struggles. But it's a challenge the former banker said he loves.
Alcombright has been upfront on the fiscal shortfalls facing the state's smallest city. Rising costs and significant reductions in state aid over the past four years — some $2.2 million — has officials scrambling to close a $1 million budget gap and maintain services. Fisal 2012, he warned, "will be a turbulent ride."
Last year, Alcombright increased property taxes 10 percent, hiked water rates and instituted a sewer fee. He alluded to those efforts in his speech, saying citizens acknowledge the need to raise revenue.
"This city has accepted and understood the need to maintain services, and in order to do so, we needed to pay for those services," he said. "Until the state can fund communities again at a higher level, we need to take care of ourselves, we need to weather the storm."
He said he'd worked "tirelessly" to institute sound fiscal practices and pointed to partnerships with citizens and businesses, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and groups like the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Partnership for North Adams, Develop North Adams and the local chambers of commerce.
He mentioned his efforts to create regional partnerships — a success that could be determined by the appearances at the rally of Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin and Town Administrators Jonathan Butler of Adams and Michael Canales of Clarksburg. Also at the kickoff were Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President Michael Supranowicz and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, along with City Councilors Keith Bona, Lisa Blackmer, David Lamarre, David Bond, Michael Bloom and Michael Boland.
Despite the fiscal difficulties, he said, "2010 was a year of the revitalization of the democratic process in North Adams with openness and participation in many levels."
From answering questions on Facebook (3,500 friends and counting) to reinvigorating subcommittees and boards, and engaging citizens, Alcombright said these efforts have "instilled a new and vibrant sense of commuity spirit and volunteerism." Citizens also felt free, he said, to vigorously oppose (if unsuccessfully) the proposed Super Walmart.
Looking forward, he pointed to continuing and beginning work on the armory, Windsor Lake, Historic Valley Park Campground, using events such as the upcoming Solid Sound Festival for future growth, and the pursuit of Green Community status and installations of cost-saving solar arrays at Drury High Scholl and the landfill and, of course, the development of Walmart on Curran Highway that is expected to spark development on the south end.
"Growth is the only catalyst that will ensure a healthy future for those that follow us," he said, and took a swipe at critics who have called the master plan proposal "useless." "I am very much commited to following through with our work toward a community master plan ... through public opinion, and strong governement and private partnership."
Alcombright was applauded several times before concluding his remarks. He hosted a reception next door at Desperados.
"Your support is what put me here, your support is what brings me back," he said, summing up his campaign. "And although we don't agree on all things, we have agreed on most things. And that's what brought me to this day."
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.