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State Representative Mark Running For Re-election
By Andy McKeever On: 03:51AM / Tuesday May 27, 2014
State Reps. William 'Smitty' Pignatelli, Paul Mark and Steve Kulik at the Mill Town Tavern on Thursday night for Mark's annual gathering and fundraiser.

DALTON, Mass. — The "check Mark" campaign has begun.

State Rep. Paul Mark will be seeking election for a third term. The 2nd Berkshire District representative says he has learned the ropes over the last four years and now his influence on Beacon Hill and leadership roles are expanding.

He is hoping to continue that growth and advocate for the Berkshire and Franklin County towns he represents.

So far, there's no one challenging him.

"I think I've been able to do a lot of great things in the legislature and I feel like just four years in, I am really starting to get a feel for how things work. I'm really starting to get a voice heard," Mark said.

"That first freshman term is tough. While you are down there advocating for your district, you are also learning the job. No matter what job you had before, you can only be so prepared."

This year, he was appointed vice chairman of a joint subcommittee researching student loans and debt, a rare opportunity for someone in just a second term, Mark said.

"The biggest thing I've been pleased with is the student loan and debt subcommittee. To be given that opportunity and that responsibility at a relatively new point in a legislative career, it really meant a lot to me," he said.

"I really tried to take full advantage of it. We held hearings all over the state; we got an amazing response; we've brought a lot of attention to the issue. And now we've been able to do good things related to higher ed in the budget."

On Thursday, Mark held his annual get-together with supporters. With an election upcoming, Thursday's gathering doubled as a fundraiser for the upcoming campaign.

"Every year I like to get together with supporters and friends and we do an event that falls around my birthday and we get the team back together and they come and ask me about a lot of issues going on,." Mark said. "I've been lucky in that every year that I do this, more people come. So, I think that is a good sign. I think it means people are happy with what they are seeing, that they appreciate the work that I am doing and that they feel they are being listened to."

Mark was first elected four years ago and almost immediately his district was changed — and he, too, moved to Peru accommodate the changes. The redistricting process changed the district to one that covers both Franklin and Berkshire towns, the largest being Greenfield.

"It was a positive impact. I was sad to lose some of those towns but I stayed connected with the people. Even though they call a new representative, a lot of people stay in contact with me as well." Mark said. "We work as a region so it is not like there is a fence around the towns."

Now in both counties, Mark said he has had some successes for the region and there are still things he'd like to accomplish.

"I still think there is a lot of work to do when we talk about broadband. We've been able to finish the middle mile but there is a lot more work to do with the last mile," Mark said. "As the only the legislator in the entire state that actually lives in a house where there is no high-speed internet service, no cell phone service, no cable TV, it is a very important priority for me."

He also has is proposing an employee stock ownership bill that encourages employees to have the ability to own the company they work for instead of having it be sold to an international buyer. The bill has just been released from committee and he is hoping to push it through before the end of this term.

Thursday's event coincided with Mark's recent birthday and is a chance for him to discuss issues with supporters.

He also also finished a genetically modified food labeling bill through his role on the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture he hopes to finish. Meanwhile, his work on the Joint Committee on Higher Education is ongoing and through the subcommittee, an array of new bills are expected to be filed next session based on the recommendations.

In this year's budget process, Mark said he has been successful in advocating for higher education funding and hopes to continue pushing bills to freeze tuition and fees at state schools.

He added that he is still pushing for Chapter 70, local aid, and regional school transportation in the budget — all areas in which there are proposals for significant increases.

He also filed an amendment in the capital bond bill to build a pre-release housing center on the Berkshire County House of Correction campus as well as reverse a proposed cut to the Berkshire County sheriff's office in the budget.

Mark doesn't know how many of the bills he is pushing will get passed this year but whatever is remaining will be on his list of priorities for a second term.

Thursday's gathering at the Mill Town Tavern saw representatives from an array of agencies — from cultural and business organizations to elected officials.

"I appreciate the support of everyone who was here tonight and everyone who stood by me for four years now. It is has been an amazing opportunity and amazing experience," Mark said. "I really enjoy having the chance to work so hard in making sure we are being listened to in Boston. It is so important."



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Gubernatorial Candidate Falchuk Picks Running Mate
By Andy McKeever On: 09:14AM / Wednesday May 21, 2014
Evan Falchuk and Angus Jennings are launching a new, independent party and campaign for governor.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Angus Jennings has spent most of his career in town and city halls across the state.

As a municipal planner and consultant, he has heard all of the great ideas and plans to revitalize downtrodden towns. He has seen the problems with transportation, economic development, infrastructure and housing.

But, there always seems to be a gap when it comes to the state's support to getting projects completed.

Last year, he met Evan Falchuk, who formed the United Independent Party. The party's goal is to cut through all of the political bickering to tackle the issues cities and towns face. Instead of passing bills that only make small progress on major topics, Falchuk is calling for fully revamping the political process to address the issues head on.

"It is going to be Democrats versus Republicans. It will be small progress on issues that really matter," Falchuk said on Thursday, as he walked around downtown Pittsfield.

Falchuk is running for governor with a focus on bringing leadership that can cut through the minutia. He picked Jennings to run with him as lieutenant governor.

"It is a very brave decision that he's made personally and what he had already done, which was to create the united independent party, was some thing very, very inspiring to me as a voter," Jennings said.

"I, like so many other people, felt like the system has not been responsive in not only doing what ought to be done but also not talking about what could be done. The decision making process on Beacon Hill is so insular."

Jennings, who grew up in Wilbraham, has consulted with more than 35 towns throughout the state in planning. In 2006, he was hired by the city of Pittsfield to work on zoning changes.

Partly of his work, the Rice Silk Mill apartments were renovated on brownfields property, providing housing aimed to gentrify the Tyler Street area.

His expertise in housing is one of the major aspects he brings to the campaign. One of the major issues the Falchuk campaign is focusing on is ways to lower the cost of living across the state.

Further, Jennings' experience with planning boards, city councils and the particular efforts of various towns for revitalization would help align leadership with the priorities of the communities, he said.

Jennings pointed to the Beacon Cinema on North Street as an example of something that requires a lot of work to make happen but yields a high reward in the city's downtown.

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"I see that as evidence of what Pittsfield has done right. And Pittsfield has done a lot right with North Street. You see it with the activity and the investment," Jennings said. "That movie theater that might not stand out to some people. But to me, it stands out because I know how much work goes into making that happen."

He says people on the local level know the specific needs when it comes to housing, economic growth and transportation. They have the ideas that would streamline the solutions. But, those ideas aren't finding their way to Beacon Hill, he said.

Falchuk pointed to the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital as an example of how the state isn't aligning its leadership with citizens. He says it is a "real crisis" that the eastern part of the state knows and cares little about.

"They're seeing state leadership that doesn't seem to pay attention to the issues out here," he said.

And since launching his campaign last fall, he says he is finding a lot of people who agree with him that the dynamics of the political conversation needs to change.

"The campaign has grown a lot. We've got a dozen full-time people, we've got hundreds of volunteers across the commonwealth. Our message of smart, brave reform and the need to have a new framework to bring about meaningful change is really resonating with people," he said.

As the election start gets closer and the party primaries creep up, Falchuk said more people will be paying attention and more people will start seeing the same political bickering.

"I sit on these panels with the gubernatorial candidates and you hear them say these nice sounding, vague things that don't mean a lot," Falchuk said.

He says his campaign will be focused on "getting more into the substance" of issues.

But first, they have to collect 10,000 signatures to be on the ballot. Falchuk says he hopes to submit 20,000.



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Hogeland, Daley Win Williamstown Selectmen Posts
By Stephen Dravis On: 11:21PM / Tuesday May 13, 2014
Williamstown selectmen winners Andrew Hogeland, left, and Hugh Daley, earlier on Tuesday with fellow candidates Jack Nogueira and Gary Fuls.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — There were smiles and handshakes all the way around when the voting was tallied in the four-man race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night.
 
After Andrew Hogeland and Hugh Daley were declared the winners, their campaign rivals were among the first to congratulate the pair.
 
"I didn't win, which is always disappointing because you want to win, but the town's going to be just fine with who we have," Gary Fuls said after coming in third in the race.
 
"The town could not lose."
 
Hogeland was the top vote-getter with 805 votes. Daley polled 706 to finish second and earn one of the three-year terms at stake in the election.
 
Fuls garnered 315 votes, and Jack Nogueira finished with 110.
 
Voters had the opportunity to select two of the four names on the ballot, and 192 voters left one of the spots blank. Two voters cast write-in ballots, according to Town Clerk Mary Kennedy.
 
The four candidates were out bright and early on Tuesday morning outside Williamstown Elementary School and lasted all 13 hours that the polls were open. They had plenty of time to get to know each other better, and each agreed with Fuls that the voters couldn't go wrong.
 
"It was a great race," Daley said. "I don't think there was a bad choice on the ticket.
 
"I think the message of economic development and sensible progress on affordable housing and all those issues resonated with voters. I don't think it's a comment on any of the candidates. It just worked out this way.
 
"And I'm very happy. I've got to say thank you to everybody who supported me."
 
The four men spent some time together on the "campaign trail," doing two televised forums on the town's public access television station, WilliNet. But they got to know each other even better while greeting voters at the school on Tuesday.
 
"It was a good day," Nogueira said. "It was a long day, but it was a good day. I think we all developed a good friendship, so it was a great time. It was a pleasure meeting all of the people coming to vote.
 
"I enjoyed it, and I'll do it again."
 
As they said during the campaign, the candidates agreed that the experience of a contested election was positive for the town.
 
"I think having a contested race made us all focus on developing our position and getting to know people," Hogeland said. "It was a rewarding and educational process all around.
 
"And I'm very glad that enough people in town turned out to vote to have a good turnout. It's good for democracy."
 
All the other town races were uncontested.
 
Winners (with vote totals) were: Elementary School Committee, John Skavlem (859); library trustees, David Dewey (856) and Kathleen Schultz (798); Housing Authority, Joan Burns (755); Planning Board, Amy Jeschawitz (798).
 
Both Nogueira and Fuls said they plan to stay active in town government.
 
Nogueira currently holds a position on Williamstown's Rent Control Board. Fuls said he is looking forward to finding ways to stay involved.
 
"I think there's definitely more we need to help out on," he said. "I'm going to talk with Hugh and Andy and everybody and see where I can possibly help out the most. Whatever we can do to help each other, we're going to do.
 
"It wasn't like we were running against each other. We're all there to help each other."
 
Hogeland and Daley will be sworn in after Williamstown's annual town meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20, at Williamstown Elementary School.


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Williamstown: Daley Sees 'Deep Niche' Businesses
By Stephen Dravis On: 11:35PM / Sunday May 11, 2014
Local businessman Hugh Daley sees potential for small manufacturing operations in Williamstown.

Editor's Note: Each of the four candidates for two open seats on the Williamstown Board of Selectmen sat down with iBerkshires.com to talk about the issues facing the town. This week, we are running excerpts from those conversations.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Hugh Daley knows about building a business and saving jobs in North Berkshire, and he hopes to bring that know-how to the Williamstown Board of Selectmen.

Daley is a principal of North Adams' Meehan Electronics, a manufacturing firm that serves the aerospace industry.

He and his wife Marisa moved to her hometown, Williamstown, from his hometown, Phoenix, Ariz., where Daley worked in finance for one of the real estate developers that helped transform the Southwest city into a booming metropolis.

Q: How did you end up moving back to Williamstown?

A: When our first child was born, Sam was born in Phoenix. We started looking at Phoenix and saying, 'How are we going to raise a kid here?' I grew up there, but it was literally ... there were a million more people in my hometown. It was really manageable as a kid, and it became much bigger.

We started talking about where we could live, and Marissa brought up Williamstown. My concern was, 'OK, so we go back there and it would be a great place to live, but how are we going to survive?'

Her family had an interest in a manufacturing company that had really hit the skids in the early 2000s because it was caught in the middle of the off-shoring phenomenon. For a long time it was a primary supplier to Black & Decker tools. They built a ton of power cords. At one point the plant had 75 people and was running three shifts. And all that stuff got sucked out of it and sent to China, and it nearly killed the company.

I came back, and in the first year and a half we stabilized, figured out what we had to do. We actually were able to acquire another local company that got us into the aerospace market, and since then, aerospace 'took off.'

Q: How many people do you have?

A: Right now we're at 20. I would say it's a different type of worker now because we are much more high value-added. We build replacement parts for Sikorsky helicopters, and when you build one of something, it's got to be perfect. And our crew delivers perfect parts. And it's absolutely amazing how wonderful they've been.

Q: How does that model get replicated, and what role does government play in creating the environment where it is?

A: Right now, what we are is what I call 'deep niche.' We have carved out a very deep place that works for us. We have 300 or 400 customers. Lots of places have five customers or they have one product they sell to a million people. We're a contract manufacturer, so Lockheed-Martin comes to us with something, General Dynamics comes to us with something totally different, Raytheon wants something else, Sikorsky wants something else.

It's finding guys who can have a broad range of offerings for a broad range of customers. I call it 'deep niche.' We've convinced Sikorsky that if they need one part, we're they guys who can build it for them. And we've proven it time and time again. Everyone wants to build a million of something, and we've turned away work where someone says, 'Hey, this is going to be a million parts a year.' We say, 'Why are you talking to us? We've got 20 people.'

The way the government can help is first to focus on the right type of company for this area. We're not going to get a spark plug plant. We're not going to get a 1,000-person plant to move here. That's not in the cards. So what we need to find are smaller, five-, 10-, 20-person shops that have a broad offering for a wide market. For manufacturing, at least, you won't survive just servicing Berkshire County.

I look to Charley Stevenson. He's a consultant to architects, and he does LEED-certified buildings. That's the type of person. He's got maybe two or three people in his shop, but his business does business nationwide. Those dollars are coming in from out of town to him, and he can live here because it doesn't really matter where he lives to do his service.

We've got to focus on that type of business. I call them one step above home offices. Home offices are great. We're happy for that, too. Anyone who wants to come here and run their business out of their home, we're all in. But you get employment growth when you get out of the home. That's what we need to have happen.

We need one-, two-, five-person shops.

Q: How do you find them?

A: I can think of two sources.

The first would be working with Williams and saying, 'OK, your alumni tend to be professional people, entrepreneurs. We need a way to reach them.' And Williams ... has a focused mission, and the reason they are such a great school is they are very focused. They do one thing very well: educate kids. They don't want to cloud the message too much by distracting their alumni and network and people from the educating kids. But doing small, low-friction things to help Williamstown, I think the college is all in.

So if it's something like once a year tapping the alumni network with a flier that says, 'Hey, if you're thinking about starting a business, think about Williamstown.' That helps Williams and helps Williamstown.

And I think the Clark Art Institute, with the number of visitors who come through there — we ought to think about a kiosk or something up there that says, 'Hey, you're here. Don't you love it here? Wouldn't you love to live here?'

We have 200,000 people a year coming to the Clark. We can't capture 20? Two? The numbers we're talking about, we're such a small scale. Forty-five thousand or 60,000 people a year move to Phoenix. If we had a 100 people a year move here, we'd be beside ourselves.

I think there are relatively low-friction ways for the larger institutions in town to help us.

We have to be regional in the sense that if somebody wants to locate a 20-person plant here, we don't have the site for them. They're going to have to locate in North Adams or Adams. We need to be open to that and say to North Adams, 'Good news, we've got this person and they want to put a plant in here. Let's put them in the Hardman Park,' which is where my business is. It might turn out to employ 10 people from North Adams and 10 people from Williamstown. That business owner might choose to live in North Adams or might choose to live in Williamstown.

Q: Is there enough infrastructure now for cooperation among the towns in Berkshire County? You've got the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, all the other Chambers of Commerce, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau. ... Do we need something else, or do we need another entity?

A: That's a great question because the chambers have done the expand-and-contract thing a couple of times. I just heard North Adams is forming its own or wants to form its own. ... Anne Skinner told the story at the League of Women Voters forum about being told by someone in South County, 'Get your own tourists.' That's the mentality here because each one of these towns is struggling with the same thing. Even Pittsfield is struggling with people leaving.

Regardless of winning or not, I'm going to participate in any economic development thing they do. I almost think of an ambassador program where you say, 'OK, you want to be in Williamstown? Here are two people you have to meet.' You see the kids walking through town showing off the college? I'll do that for businesses that are thinking of moving here. I will make the time. My wife will kill me, but we have to make the time. We have to sell Williamstown. I'd be happy to take people through our plant in North Adams and say, 'Yes, you can run an industrial plant in North Adams and you can live in Williamstown or you can live in Adams.'

I know Williams is engaged on this. They don't want the college to be a gated community. They want Williamstown to grow. They want North Adams to grow. They want the area to be a safe, productive area. When the parents drive through to drop their kids off, the world doesn't end at the Stop & Shop, and they're going to look around. They want to see a nice area. They want to see an area that feels like good things are happening there.

Q: Lots of people expect Williams to pay for everything. Build us a new high school, build us a new hospital ...

A: Everybody's trying to pick their pocket. I can understand that because they've got a lot of money. But we've got to let them protect their primary mission because most of our economy — look around you [at the crowd in Spring Street's Tunnel City Coffee]. We need them. It's OK for them to put their mission first because that helps us. By default, that helps us.

Q: But as you say, the college has a stake in seeing the town thrive, too.

A: Oh yeah, and I think we talked about it at the League of Women Voters forum. The business plan competition [Williams] put together — the kids were extraordinary. ... The best part was Williams fronted the money for the award. The rule was to get the award, you've got to locate in Williamstown. That's perfect. Absolutely perfect. It's much easier to start a business at that age, when dorm-style living doesn't bother you at all. Once you've got kids and all that other stuff, it's hard to say, 'Hey, listen, we're not going to have a paycheck for a year, is that OK?' You get more constrained the older you get.

If we can get some of these kids to start a business here ... And they don't have to stay forever, but even if there are two or three a year, that's 10 people working in town, living, renting, buying food, coming to the coffee shop.

Q: I don't want to just discuss economic development. What else do you see coming down the pike at us as a town?

A: There are a couple of things. One is the public safety building, which I think Jane Patton and her committee are doing a good job. I've said before I feel like we've got to let them propose a smart solution for us.

I really, really hope all of the entities involve realize that we are going for the much improved solution as opposed to the perfect solution, if that makes sense. The distinction being we probably can't afford the perfect solution, so everybody's got to compromise, give in a little bit.

I kind of liken it to ... For a while there with houses, it got to where if you had another kid you had to have another bedroom. Well, no you don't. There are bunkbeds. They can share. That's what we have to do. If you have a budget, you share resources. That's what you have to do.

I hope they're working in that direction. It seems like they are. ... I'm hoping for the best.

I think each one of these committees goes into their research and development phase hoping for the best. They have to be. They say, 'We're going to put together a plan that we think is the best one.' And as we learned with the Affordable Housing Committee, occasionally the plan that you propose is not going to be the plan that gets selected.

Ultimately, the Selectmen are responsible for the absolute final decision on that. They can't abdicate their responsibility for making the final decision. And they don't want to. That's why the committee systems work. It allows [the committees] to do very detailed work, and it avoids allowing the Selectmen to have any pride of authorship. A Selectman can't say, 'This is my plan, and I'm going to pass it because it's my plan.' They can look at it objectively. That's important, I think.

Q: Not to ask you to criticize anyone, but has there been a time in the past where you've said, 'I wonder why the town did this?' or something that you might have done differently?

A: In terms of the Selectmen, there's no one Selectman you'd look at and say, 'Wow, that guy's a jerk.'

Q: But in terms of the decisions that have been made?

A: I do have to say that years ago, I'm not positive we made the right decision on the water line, mostly because I'd like to see the high school on town water. But I understand the concerns that were raised about, one, having the Clark move out there because I think it works better as a total campus here.

I wasn't as concerned about the development fears mostly because I don't think that many people are moving here. There was a big fear we were going to have a thousand new homes. Well, the truth is that to have a thousand new homes we'd have to have almost 3,000 more people. That's a ton of people. Where are those people coming from. I thought the 'market' was going to determine the developability there.

What was that, 10 years ago now? But that was it.

From the elected and appointed boards perspective, it's hard for me to get angry at anybody serving on one of those boards. There's not a paid position among them. They're all doing it to be good citizens.

Q: There is one paid employee of the town who is probably not going to be there in three years, and whoever is elected to the Select Board is going to have a role in finding his replacement.

A: One of the primary jobs of the Select Board is to select the town manager. In my own company, I've run, in the last five years, two separate executive searches — for a chief operating officer and a chief technical officer. I'm comfortable in that environment, setting the qualifications and interviewing, etc. First off, it's a matter of defining the job — and then making the evaluation.

Q: What would you be looking for in the next town manager?

A: What I like about Peter Fohlin — not having worked that closely with him — is he has defined the job so he knows exactly where his job ends. I think that is important, because it allows him to say, 'This is my responsibility up to here.' You'll see him in the meetings, sometimes, 'That's a Selectmen's decision. You tell me what to do. My job is to execute.' What you want is a guy who can execute. You don't necessarily want a deliberative person in that position.

He or she needs to be informed and needs to understand our issues. Williamstown has some quirks to it. It's going to have to be a thoughtful person, but at the end of the day the job is to be a manager. It's a person who can set goals, set standards and then hold people to those standards, and I think Peter Fohlin does that.

Q: Going back to the town boards and committees, how has your experience serving the town prepared you for this step?

A: I've been on the Zoning Board, and actually, I'm the alternate Zoning Board member. I've learned two things from the Zoning Board: First off, the gentlemen on that board are extremely knowledgeable and have done a great job learning the rules and enforcing the rules in a thoughtful manner. I think most of our boards have that. Two, we need to start regenerating some of those boards because eventually those guys are going to want to hang up their hats, and the last thing we want is a Zoning Board that went from five experienced members to brand new people who haven't read the book yet.

Q: Anything else you want to get out there to the voters?

A: I would say this: The most important thing everyone should do is get informed and vote. You don't necessarily have to vote for me, but you should vote. The fact that we have a contested election right now is wonderful. I understand the periods of time when someone says, 'Boy, I really like the job they're doing. I'm not going to run against them.' I understand it, but the truth is we're not making decisions at that point. We need to make decisions at every election.

Every candidate, I like personally. I thought that forum went great. ... Not one of those guys did you look at and say, 'Whoa, not him.' Unless I was that guy. But they all seemed competent and thoughtful and not one of them was a wingnut, which I thought was great.

The point for the readers is: Vote. Get engaged and make a decision. I'd love for you to vote for me, but don't not vote and then complain.

The annual town election is Tuesday, May 13, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Williamstown Elementary School.



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Williamstown: Fuls Looks to Build Consensus
By Stephen Dravis On: 10:48AM / Sunday May 11, 2014
Gary Fuls has a personal stake in the three major issues facing the town in the coming years: affordable housing, public safety facilities and the high school.

Editor's Note: Each of the four candidates for two open seats on the Williamstown Board of Selectmen sat down with iBerkshires.com to talk about the issues facing the town. This week, we are running excerpts from those conversations.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Gary Fuls lays claim to being the only selectmen candidate who has a stake in all the major issues facing the town.

As a call volunteer firefighter for the last 12 years, he understands the needs for a new police and fire station. As a father of four daughters at Williamstown Elementary School, he is invested in the future of Mount Greylock Regional junior-senior high school. As someone who has family members looking to move to Williamstown, he is concerned about affordable housing.

As a budding entrepreneur who plans to open his own real estate business this spring, the Amesbury native and MCLA graduate also has economic development on his radar.

Q: Your website (www.selectgary.com) does a really good job of explaining your priorities, and with all the big capital projects mentioned in there [the high school, the police station, the fire station, affordable housing], can the town afford to do it all?

A: Well, one of my thoughts was the figures before a year or so ago, when they estimated what it would cost for a the police, fire and new school, they said it would be, what .. $500 per person it was going to go up? But the past two years, taxes went up, just on my itty-bitty house, $400 two years in a row. So if it's going to happen anyway, why not get the school, police and fire?

Q: Well, it would go up twice that amount, wouldn't it?

A: But at least we'd get something from it. We'd have something to show for it.

We're going to have to sit down and look at the numbers again. Let's get the real numbers from the real people. Look at the people we have in this town. We could figure out anything. Look at the economists, the environmentalists. With everything we have between the high school teachers, the professors, all the business people, the attorneys — we have everything we need. We are so fortunate with the resources we have just in our town.

We're unique compared to most places anywhere in the Berkshires, let alone the state. I think we need to use the people we have a little bit more.

Q: Do you have specific people in mind who you'd want to see brought into the conversations on town committees?

A: There are some awesome people in there already. I don't want to call people out because it's mean to do that before you talk to them.

Q: But are there people you would go to?

A: Oh, yeah, there are so many people. Think of the people who have started companies in this town. They've been through this — some of them on a much bigger scale. Why not use the resources that we have?

When you hear about all these committees and commissions coming in and it's a third-party outside source, it drives you nuts because you know this town would have a better commission or committee than most. When everything is said and done, the town should create its own commission and rent it out to other towns — bring some revenue back [laugh].

Q: Do you have a sense there's a disconnect between the fire district and the town?

A: I think it's more of a perception thing that people think that. I think anytime we need something — and by 'we,' I mean the Fire Department — such as a truck or equipment, it's either from a grant or money that's been saved over years and years. We don't take out a bond or the long-term loans. We pay for it. I don't think people understand the ability the Fire Department has as its own district.

But if someone can prove that it works better as a model for the Fire Department to be within in the town, prove it. That's what people are missing a lot: If you have a better idea, bring it forward. People need to hear it.

If you think the police and fire station should be together or separate, wherever you are, just prove it. Show the numbers. No emotion, just facts. That's all you need.

Q: Do you think they should be together or separate?

A: I'm not sure where the chiefs stand on that. I would have to see what comes out with the new study. But it's the same thing with the school: Let's get all the facts on it. What numbers do you really need? Is there space? Is there not space? The engineers are going to figure out that stuff, and it's tough to say, 'Oh, it should be this.' I don't have that report yet to say whether it should be together or not.

Ideally, I think if you're driving into town on Route 2, and you saw where the [Williamstown] Financial Center was, and that was the police station, just a beautiful looking building, that would be pretty impressive driving in. And then if you went down and — whether it's the Lehovic property or wherever — and there was a nice new fire station. And then you get to the college. That's pretty impressive. It shows you're professional. It shows you're a real community.

But I don't know if makes sense to be all in one. I don't have that report. Like I tell everybody: Prove to me why it should be together or prove to me why they should be separate. Facts, not emotion.

You've got to look at everything from both sides. That's what drives me nuts. People have this tunnel vision. Listen, you love what you love and you have a passion for it. I get that. But, you know what? There are other people out there who can help you, and you can help other people at the same time. I just think people need to look at things from both sides and get the facts. That's what drives me nuts.

Q: And then of course the other piece is the high school, which brings in another, potentially large expenditure.

A: I don't know where they're going for that. ...

You've got to remember, next year, my oldest daughter goes to Mount Greylock, and for the next 16 years after that — no kidding — I will have at least one daughter going to that school. So the high school is kind of a big deal for me, as it is for 80 percent of the people here.

Again, the tunnel vision. People think because you're a firefighter, all you care about is the Fire Department. That's not true. The school is kind of important to me.

Low-income housing — my dad is moving here in less than two weeks. I've been fortunate that Allen Jezouit has given me an incredible deal to help my dad get up here and situated in one of his rentals. And Allen's running Hugh's campaign.

Again, that's the reason why you stay here — the people you get to know, like Allen, and all those guys.

Low-income housing — we need more than we have right now.

The guy running my campaign, Dylan [Stafford] is on the Affordable Housing Committee. We're all entwined. Everybody wants affordable housing for people. But what's the need? What's the cost? We can Monday morning quarterback all we want about what happened a couple of weeks ago, but this is what we have now, deal with it.

Why can't we turn that building into a template for all the new ones? Williamstown has a chance to take the bull by the horns here and create some incredible low-income housing, and that could be a template for the next low-income housing project and make it easier to pass. We could say, 'This is what we did. Look at this.' It could be a template countywide. Why not be the pioneers on this?

Q: You mentioned Monday morning quarterbacking, and I'm going to ask you to do a little of that now. Has there been anything — and it doesn't have to be what happened two weeks ago, but it could be — where you looked at a decision the town made and thought you might have done things differently?

A: Everyone agrees we want more low income housing. Everyone agrees we shouldn't kill polar bears. But it's a question of what extent. Should there be 85 units or should there be 64. I didn't get to see all the reports and have all the information they did in making their decision. ... So if I agree they should have gone the way they did, I'm not for affordable housing? Or am I? If I don't agree with what they did, now I'm supposed to go on the record disagreeing with someone I'm trying to work with [Ronald Turbin, who voted with departing Selectmen Jane Allen and David Rempell on the affordable housing RFPs]. It's a Catch-22.

You don't want to Monday morning quarterback. They made their decision with the information they had at that time. When I come in, this is what we have. Deal with that and go forward. That's just how it is.

But we're fortunate we have something passed. Now that we have this opportunity, why not go crazy and get it done.

We're in a good position. It sounds like the school's shaping up. Those guys on the School Committee kill themselves. So do the guys on the Affordable Housing Committee.

Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Select Board would be your first town government position?

A: Yes.

Q: One side of that is it gives you a fresh perspective. The other side is the question of inexperience. How do you address that?

A: Well, from everything I've ever heard from people on the Select Board, they'll tell you how fantastic Mr. Fohlin is. Whether you agree with everything he says or not, he seems to be a pretty darn good leader, and people love him. I think to learn under him would be an incredible opportunity.

No matter who gets in there, there's going to be a learning curve. I don't think anyone else running has been a selectman before. They may have been on other groups. But it's just different skill sets and different areas.

I'm unique in that every issue is my issue.

Q: You mention Mr. Fohlin. One thing that whoever is elected to the board more than likely will have to deal with in the next three years is helping to find his replacement.

A: Or convince him to stay, one or the other. One of the most important things for the board, is you need to be in charge and keep the leadership. That means keep him if you can. What's another 20, 30 years? He'll be fine.

Q: I don't think that's going to be the Select Board's decision to make.

A: I know.

Q: And he's dropped many a hint that he is not going to be town manager forever. What would you be looking for in the next town manager?

A: I think you're going to have to have somebody who is going to understand there are two sides to every story and someone who is not afraid to speak out and say, 'Lets' get the facts.' Again, that's the theme to everything: facts, not emotion. Bring everybody together and get things done, for whatever project it is.

Definitely you need someone with the leadership skills who will say something when needed. It's about bringing people together. You can see from the votes that we're not that far off on many things. When you lose a vote by 14 votes, for whatever it is, that means you weren't that far off.

Engage other people. ... What are their concerns and questions? Those questions could be the key to saving a whole lot of money. You want people to be coming to the board — more people, more ideas. Just take a step back and listen to everybody.

Q: You're the fourth candidate I've talked to and the first one I didn't ask this question at the beginning of the conversation: What more can the town be doing to support economic development?

A: Again, that's a tough one because I don't think anyone has all the answers just yet. But again, look at the people we have in town in terms of the economists and entrepreneurs and everyone.

Q: Well, you're an entrepreneur.

A: I'm getting there. I'm not at the same level as others. But that's the goal, to have more people be working and self-sufficient. Why aren't we reaching out more to the leaders in our town. Wouldn't that be the first step?

Like manufacturing with Hugh [Daley]. I don't think we're going to be a manufacturing hub. I don't think anyone does. But look at what he's done. Look at the other people who are succeeding. Get these points of view with a logical time frame and a logical sense of where we're at and what we can do. We have the people, that's the thing. We can create the jobs. We just have to figure out where we want to go.

Q: Where do you want to go?

A: Initially, let's use what we have in terms of the tourism and the Williams alumni, the people who come back. ... I think we're going to have reach out to the other communities and do some ventures back and forth, whether it be South County or North County — North Adams, Lanesborough, Hancock, whatever we've got to do. We're going to have reach out, because we're pretty small.

Q: There are a lot of groups — the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, etc. — does the town need to be more involved with those agencies?

A: I would think so. I'm a little biased by being in the [Berkshire Chamber's] Berkshire Leadership Program. The Chamber is a huge bonus for our county. They do so much. I think we need to get them to focus up here a little bit more. But all we've really got to do is ask.

I'm going to try to help out, when things settle down in a few weeks, help out the Mount down there with some different ideas and marketing. Why aren't we trying to cooperate more among the different museums and MoCA and everything to get people to visit and circle around to all of them.

And then, what are we doing to tap into the college? The people coming out of there — what are we doing to inspire them to stay here? Everybody leaves the Berkshires, and then they realize, 'Oh my God, why did I leave? I've got to go back.' But we're losing that gap where we could have had so much productivity and great ideas from them.

That's a big theme for the Berkshire Leadership Program: What are we going to do to keep them here? The biggest workforce in the county is 65 and over. We've got to change that. Why not start in your own backyard? It's simple steps. Start something, let it grow and bring it to other people.

That's the nice thing with the Leadership Program. I've met so many people from throughout the county who say, 'You guys have an opportunity here.'

Q: How long does the Berkshire Leadership Program last?

A: It's one class a year. It goes for 10 weeks, and you go and meet the biggest leaders throughout the county in health and education or whatever one day a week.

Economic development? We can come up with it, but I think it has to be a collaborative effort.

Bring people together, that's all we've got to do. And that's what I'm doing. I know everybody in every group. Why not help bring everybody together?

Q: One of the wedge issues in town that prevented people from coming together was the Lowry property and whether it could be developed. And that's really binary — it's either developed or it's not.

A: From what I've seen, hasn't that issue been going for 20-something years? It's never been approved [for development] and it's not going to be.

Q: So it's time to give up?

A: Why are we looking at agricultural land? Maybe we have to, but I don't have every report that other people had. What is our need? What are our exact numbers? What do we need? How many homes, how many rental properties are vacant right now?

Q: The impetus for the most recent debate, as you know, was the idea of recreating something like the Spruces in an area you could have a cluster of small, individual homes. There is no other part of town close to town water because the water line doesn't extend — as you well know.

A: I'm painfully aware of that.

Q: So that's what you're left with [Lowry]?

A: That's going to come up over and over again. I don't see that ever going away.

Q: And when it does, it creates division.

A: It does, but at the same time, what are we doing and who are we working with among people in town about what else we have for housing that has not been utilized. Maybe we have options we haven't even considered. Maybe someone's willing to do a land swap. Nobody's asking people these things, I don't think.

For all I know, maybe they have, and the answer is no. But we need to have people asking the questions.

It's communication. It's always communication. Any industry, any job. My house with four daughters in it, trust me, things can go awry quickly if you don't communicate.

The annual town election is Tuesday, May 13, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Williamstown Elementary School.



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Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Primary
Tuesday, Sept. 9

Voting is from 7 to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation is Aug. 20; only unenrolled voters may select which primary to vote in. More information on registering can be found here.

Candidates on the ballot in a race for their party nomination; all others on the ballot are unopposed

Republican
  Governor: Charles D. Baker & Mark R. Fisher

Democratic
  Governor: Donald M. Berwick, Martha Coakley & Steven Grossman
  Lieutenant governor: Leland Cheung, Stephen J. Kerrigan & Michael E. Lake
  Attorney general: Maura Healey & Warren E. Tolman
  Treasurer: Thomas P. Conroy, Barry R. Finegold & Deborah B. Goldberg
 

Municipal Elections

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.

2010 Special Senate Election Results

Election 2009 Stories

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