State Reps. Gailanne Cariddi, Stephen DiNatale and William "Smitty" Pignatelli.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Nearly 300 people filled the Pittsfield County Club on Thursday night to support William "Smitty" Pignatelli's election campaign.
The 4th Berkshire District representative is running unopposed for what will be his 7th term.
"I never dreamed of being here for 12 years and going again," Pignatelli said, overlooking the large crowd to kick off his re-election campaign.
"We've done a lot of great things" in the House, he said, but he believes there is more to do. He cited the state's work on requiring all citizens to have health care but said "we have more to do to maintain affordability, to maintain access for individuals and businesses."
He said the state needs to do more for job creation — particularly with modern manufacturing companies to reverse the declining population — and that while the state has invested a lot in higher education, students are still taking on too much debt.
Meanwhile, Pignatelli said the state is "well positioned" financially for the future.
"We are well positioned to take off when the economy really gets rolling," Pignatelli said. "I think the Berkshires is going to be first out of the gates when things get rolling."
The state has more than $1 billion set aside in the so-called "rainy day fund" and the recession has been "rainy," he said. But he believes the economy is turning around.
One of the Berkshire's top economies is tourism and leaders of the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Berkshire Visitor's Bureau teamed up to present a gift of thanks for the effort he's put toward the cultural economy.
"We're so grateful of how you support to cultural community and all that you do for us," said Norman Rockwell Museum Director Laurie Norton Moffatt.
Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman was one of many elected officials on hand for the event.
Pignatelli was a model for Rockwell when he was a boy and Moffatt and Berkshire Visitors Bureau President Laurie Klefos successfully pitched that story to a national magazine on legislators. They presented Pignatelli with a framed copy of the article.
Outgoing Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary Grant told of Pignatelli's work on forming the Berkshire Compact in which he kept the focus on the students.
"When we need to make a case for increased funding for public higher education, Smitty got himself on the committee on higher education so that he could be a voice not just for MCLA or BCC but for the students all across the commonwealth. He did that with great distinction and passion," Grant said.
Grant called Pignatelli more than "an incredible legislator" but also a friend. Another friend of Pignatelli's, state Rep. Stephen DiNatale, drove from Fitchburg for the event. DiNatale said they have become great friends through their work at the State House.
"You can see how much respect and love you have for Smitty Pignatelli. You have to return him to the State House for as long as he wants to return because he is the integrity in the State House. People talk about politicians, integrity and honesty, he is all of those things," DiNatale said. "That is a genuine compliment. This is a great indication of how you feel about Smitty and you are all very, very right."
Thankful for the remarks, Pignatelli then dedicated the campaign to his parents who he says instilled the tradition of "giving back."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
We show up at hurricanes, budget meetings, high school games, accidents, fires and community events. We show up at celebrations and tragedies and everything in between. We show up so our readers can learn about pivotal events that affect their communities and their lives.
How important is local news to you? You can support independent, unbiased journalism and help iBerkshires grow for as a little as the cost of a cup of coffee a week.
The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015
You may vote absentee: if you will be absent from your town or city on election day, have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polls or cannot vote at the polls because to religious beliefs.