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Williamstown: Hogeland Looking to Step Up to Selectman
By Stephen Dravis On: 10:18AM / Saturday May 10, 2014
Andrew Hogeland has served on a number of town boards; this election he's trying for a seat on the Board of Selectmen.

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

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Andrew Hogeland has served Williamstown on its Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Finance Committee and the recently formed ad hoc Public Safety Building Study Committee.

This month, he hopes to add Board of Selectmen to that list.

The recently retired attorney and Williams College graduate says his experience in town government will be an asset as the board faces a number of capital improvement projects. And his experience as a Williams alum who came "home" to finish his career is one he hopes the town can encourage other alumni to duplicate.

In Hogeland's case, his career path took him to New York University for law school, private practice and six years in the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and, finally, General Electric and Sabic in Pittsfield.

The Philadelphia native and his wife, Anne, another Williams alumna, put three daughters through Williamstown's schools.

Q: Are your daughters all around here?

A: One's in Pittsfield. One is in Colorado and one is mostly in Seattle. We had a remarkable year last year. They all graduated from something, and they all had jobs within a week, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Q: And that leads to the next part of our conversation. A pleasant surprise that at least one of your daughters was able to find a job in her career in Berkshire County?

A: Yeah, in nursing, for her, which was good. For the other two, I think leaving here didn't have anything to do with the job situation. I think it was other things going on.

It wasn't the economy that made them leave.

But for segue purposes, yeah, I think it would be great if the town paid more affirmative attention to economic development. I assume the Chamber of Commerce does some, but they could probably do more. I don't think the town as a town has done much focus on that.

The hope would be to come up with a plan and a schedule and a program for trying to lure more people and businesses to town.

Q: Do you see that as the town working more closely with some of the existing infrastructure that is there, like 1Berkshire or the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission?

A: I think probably part of the initial phase would be to understand what organizations like the chambers of commerce do and see what we as a town government can do to add to or supplement that process. The first part for me is learning what's already out there and how we can add to it.

The other leveraging part for me, besides the chambers of commerce, would be talking more specifically with the college about using their contacts and their alumni to see if we should suggest their alumni come back to town or stay in town.

The college alumni are people who, in many respects, are pre-screened, in that they already know what Williamstown's all about. The idea is if they like it here and like to come back for reunions at least, maybe they should come back and do something permanent.

Q: And do it before they're of retirement age?

A: Yes. I think the benefit to the town is to have people whose jobs are not geographically limited, but who can work out of an office or work on a computer. Why not work here in this pleasant environment rather than wherever they happen to be today.

Q: Of course, telecommuters don't necessarily bring other jobs with them.

A: Not necessarily, but I think there are a few cases where people have worked for a company for many years, and the company allows them to work out of Williamstown out of their house. I'd rather have that in the house than someone who is looking for work in that house. It's partly adding a job, but it also means that person will be spending their money in the neighborhood. They'll be going to restaurants. They'll be buying tickets to movies. They'll be buying cars, whatever. So it's the ripple effect of having people here with income that would help the town longer term.

Q: And the other piece is the tourism side of economic development, which I think everyone was pretty much in agreement about at the League of Women Voters forum. Some will say that the tourism jobs are not necessarily always good-paying jobs and often times they're seasonal jobs. There's some question of whether that's the kind of economic development the town ought to be pursuing.

A: Part of the reality is a lot of the economy today is based on tourism. Since we have that, one direction is to build on that.

Another direction is to look for jobs like ... I think I called them 'satellite jobs.' So what other industries or businesses would want to be near an academic center or near an arts center.

I think I gave the example of there used to be the Roper Public Opinion Research Center, which was housed at Williams College, which brought some number of jobs. It wasn't a college job or a tourist job, but they worked with the faculty.

The other example is the conservation lab at the Clark. There's no reason for an art museum to need a conservation lab, but happily they do, and there is some number of jobs there.

So part of the effort would be to talk to the people at the college and at the Clark about what other jobs might want to be located near them.

I don't think either one of those institutions is really in the business of job creation, but if they think about it differently, they might find a way to advance their own programs that creates jobs in the community as well.

Q: Let's move away from jobs for a moment because there was a lot of talk about economic development at the League of Women Voters forum. What are some of the other priorities that you see for the town or some other issues you see coming up in the next three years that the Select Board is going to have to address?

A: I think a big need is going to be intelligent financial planning on the three proposed capital projects: police, fire and high school.

I think it would be difficult to pay for them all at the same time, so part of the challenge is to look at the timing and sequencing of those three projects to see how we can mitigate the impact on the tax rate.

Q: In the last, say, five years have there been any times when you thought the town took a wrong turn?

A: I think initial focus on affordable housing got off to a bad start, but I think that over the last year, that effort recovered and they were doing an intelligent analysis and an RFP process on two different alternatives.

I think that was a positive improvement over where we were a year ago.

But nothing else comes to mind.

Partly we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the town manager, who has been able to keep the town running on a tight budget for many years, so we're in a good cash position. We have a lot of levy capacity left if we happen to need it. So that's helped to smooth out a lot of potentially rough paths.

Q: The town manager position might be one of the big challenges the Select Board faces in the next three years.

A: I think it's the unspoken agenda item, which is we may be asked to replace Peter Fohlin sometime, soon, whenever he decides to retire. As you know, he's hinted broadly that some time in the not so distant future, he may do that. I expect there's a good chance that some time in the next three years, we may be asked to hire a new town manager.

Q: And as one of the people who might be asked to conduct those interviews and that search process, what would you be looking for in a town manager?

A: I think the baseline skill set has to be a high level of competence and experience in the subject matter.

But I'd also be curious to see what the town manager candidates have in the way of economic development experience. At least from looking at the papers, other towns have people who do this job. We don't, and maybe there's a good reason for that, but I'd be curious to ask candidates what they have done or could do for that kind of development.

Q: I asked a moment ago what in the last five years the town may have done wrong. Can you point to anything that's happened that we haven't mentioned that the town has really gotten right in the same time frame?

A: I think what the town's done right is to be on a very fiscally responsible path in terms of keeping budget increases to a tolerable minimum and running the place efficiently.

Q: All but one of the candidates for Select Board is sitting on at least one town committee. Why is that kind of experience important?

A: I think several of the bigger issues facing the town are around the three building projects, and I've worked on all three. So in terms of being up to date and engaged in what's going on, I think that would help me significantly, I think, if I take the position.

The other experience I've been lucky to have is sitting on the Finance Committee for three years. That's been a great way to understand better the finances and especially the long-term debt picture of the town. So i think my learning curve will not be as steep if I didn't have all these experiences.

And longer ago I was on the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission, and I think it will be helpful to understand what those boards do.

Q: You already alluded to where the town was a year ago in terms of the housing issue and the rancor and all that. I'll take some of the blame for this, but you've been identified with the 'timeout' idea. Did that work?

A: I think it definitely worked. I think for the next year, the housing committee organized steps to issue requests for proposals, they did listening sessions throughout the town. They got two proposals, both of which they thought could do the job. And it's led to a decision. So I think as a process, taking that timeout gave us a much better informed basis for a decision.

Q: But the town never did use that time to fully look at the Lowry property. The Select Board asked the Conservation Commission to look at it and a month later withdrew the request. So, from that standpoint, and to the extent that building on Lowry was the lightning rod issue, was it a success?

A: I think the issue should be phrased in practical terms, which is where do we have the best chance of building affordable housing. The housing committee decided they had a better chance of building on Water Street or Photech, and they — I think correctly — decided that they would focus their attention on those two properties.

The Lowry property, for me, presents a large practical concern, which is it's not currently available. And you could lose many years of money, time and resources in trying to determine whether or not it is available.

So if I was in a position of looking at three properties and one had a much more difficult set of challenges, like Lowry did, in even getting it to be available, I'd rather spend my time on the two that have a better chance of success.

Q: Do you have specific thoughts about the major capital projects the town is facing?

A: I think maybe the other thing to point out on the school and the police and fire department issue is we're going to be asked to pay for something on those projects in the next two to three years. Coincidentally, the town's long-term debt has several bond payments which will end at about the same time.

So in 2017 and 2018, our long-term debt payments go down, by I think it's about $300,000, more or less. So coincidentally, that's an opportune time to ask people to incur new debt for one of these other projects.

So in terms of long-term planning, we're lucky there's an intersection coming up where our debt payments go down at the same time we're asked to maybe take on some new things. That would mitigate the tax increase, I think.

Q: And the feasibility study vote coming up with the high school?

A: With the feasibility study, what resonates the most with me is it's a chance that only comes around once every several years. To pass up this chance, you're basically asking to pay 100 percent of everything rather than 45 percent of everything. By voting for the feasibility study, you're getting the knowledge and also keeping alive the hope that someone else is going to pay for 55 percent of the school.

It's 55 from the state and 15 from Lanesborough [with the MSBA]. So in terms of opportunity leveraging, Williamstown is paying 30 percent of a huge project instead of 60 percent.

But I don't know what Lanesborough's going to do.

Q: What was your reaction to the town's decision on the affordable housing RFPs?

A: One thing I'd say about the housing decision is, I think it would be nice to orient ourselves toward making that decision effective.

I guess I was glad to hear the chairman of the housing committee, Van Ellet, last night speak up and say the housing committee is committed to making the Photech site a positive solution. Rather than revisiting the past on this, we should focus our efforts on making sure the Photech site is useful for a project that takes into consideration the design criteria around flood plains and neighbors.

The neighbors will need to be able to tolerate the final design. Their voices will need to be heard. As of today I'm optimistic we'd be able to find some solution that avoids flood plains and too many objections.

Q: Is the 'town-gown' relationship strong enough to help find solutions to Williamstown's economic issues?

A: The mission, if we could pull this off, would be to have both the town and the college think outside the box more about longer term economic development.

The college is primarily in the business of education, so it's not no their agenda to think about economic development. But I think they recognize, as the Clark recognizes that in order to attract employees to the area, it would be nice to have an area that has some economic vitality to it as well as good schools.

I think they'll recognize it's in their interest to support these areas. And then the conversation will be what can each of us do specifically to make all that happen.

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: Nogueira Promises Fighting Spirit
By Stephen Dravis On: 09:52PM / Thursday May 08, 2014
Jack Nogueira is running for one of two vacant selectman seats.

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

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Jack Nogueira brings a varied professional background to his candidacy for selectman.

The 22-year town resident emigrated to Pittsfield from Portugal when he was 12. Educated at Pittsfield High School and Berkshire Community College, he worked for 18 years at General Electric. He also has worked with the Williamstown Police Department, Berkshire County sheriff's office and the Williams College Campus Safety and Security Department, in addition owning his own business and serving a number of different non-profits.

On May 13, he hopes to add selectman to his lengthy resume because of the passion he feels for his adopted hometown.

Q: Can you expand a little on how you see the town contributing to economic development?

A: As I keep saying, this is a small community. It's always going to remain a small community. As far as jobs, we have Williams College and the Clark Art Institute, which are the major employers in town. Are we going to get industry in town? I doubt it very much. We don't have the space for it.

The space that once was utilized for industry is now trying to be turned into affordable housing because we lack the housing.

Look at the people who were displaced from the Spruces. We have no place to put them. Those people are now out of town. The majority are out of town. They're moving to North Adams. I understand some are moving to Pittsfield.

So our concentration here should be on maintaining the population that we have here already.

As far as the housing, I don't see any major developments coming into town. The town tried to utilize 10 acres of the Lowry property. The town had a great plan with a cluster of homes on those 10 acres. It was shut down by the Conservation Commission.

Q: Do you anticipate that coming back around in the next three years?

A: As with everything else, we should always revisit everything and make sure that we did everything right the first time. Did we overlook anything? Is it really necessary for us to take those 10 acres of land so we can build some housing for the people who really want to live in Williamstown?

I think Jane Allen said it well: Let's not flatter ourselves by thinking that everybody is lining up to move into Williamstown. That's not true.

But what we should do is take care of the people who are here already. These people have been here, the people from the Spruces — Peter Fohlin said it well: When you say 'affordable housing,' that was it. That was affordable housing for those people. That's all those people could afford. They enjoyed living in Williamstown. So that diversity — are we going to get it back? I don't think so, unless we do something major ... that involves housing which is affordable for people.

I read about the project on Cole Avenue. I was there when it was presented to the town. It looked like a factory that was going to infringe on the people on Mill Street. And now they're telling us it's going to cost about $314,000 per unit. I mean, you call that affordable housing? I don't. I don't think $314,000 for housing is affordable. What are you going to be charging for rent?

Q: It sounds like you're saying the town is going to have to revisit Lowry and Burbank at some point.

A: I don't know. I don't know if we can or not. I was not part of the decision.

If I get elected, would that be one of my concerns? Absolutely. I'm not going to lie. I've said from the beginning, I'm going to be true to myself and true to the town. That's why I'm running for selectman. I'm running because I care about Williamstown. I've been living here for 22 years. I've served on the Rent Control Board for 15 years — eight years as chairman.

Q: What's that been like?

A: We've had some controversies. We got sued twice. Twice we won. Once was by default, but still we won. We fought. ... We did everything we thought was right, and we didn't play favorites with anyone. We didn't play favorites with the tenants. We didn't play favorites with the landlords. We did what we thought was right.

We had the flood at the [Spruces] park, and the owners backed down. We won that case by default. But we won. Had we continued [with the lawsuit], I think we still would have won because we knew what we were doing was right. We knew the rent increase was not appropriate. We knew what the owners of the park had failed to do to that point, and they had to take care of it.

Q: To bring the people back who were lost from the Spruces, the town has to have new affordable housing, no?

A: But where are they going to do it? That's the problem. Where is the land available.

The Lowry property, the 30 acres that are there, the town was asking for 10. Their idea was not to put a mobile home park there. Their idea was to put a cluster of homes, which I think would have enhanced the neighborhood and would have brought that diversity into the neighborhood. The plan got shot down. And the people who shut it down, maybe they had the right to shoot it down.

I'm not sure. I haven't gotten to there yet.

If I'm elected, am I going to look at it? Sure. I will look at it again. I will see if it would be appropriate to go back there and look at it again.

This thing with affordable housing, by putting a building that looks like a factory with apartments side by side and then calling that affordable housing when it costs $314,000 per unit to build. I'm not a builder or a contractor, but I do own some property, and when I saw that price, I said, 'Good lord. What are we going to have? Marble floors? Twenty-four carat faucets?' What are we doing here?

I was always under the understanding affordable housing was housing the people could afford to live in, no matter what your income was you could afford to live there.

Q: What are some other issues you're interested in addressing?

A: Well, the other issues are the police station. We talk about attracting people to come into Williamstown when we're talking about giving them tax breaks and incentives to move into Williamstown, just go into the police station. Find out the working conditions these men and women have to work in. It's not suitable.

I'd be embarrassed ... and I served in the Williamstown Police Department. I would be embarrassed to arrest someone. I had an incident one time where we arrested this person on a violation of a restraining order. I got called at home to come in to go on suicide watch because he was not acting normal. He was in the basement cell, and then he started complaining he was having a heart attack. He was faking it, but we had to take that seriously. We couldn't get the stretcher down to put him on a stretcher. We had to guide him up the stairs.

That's one issue we really need to look at. This town attracts a lot of people in the summer. It has a lot of people here in the winter with the college kids. We need a police facility that is suitable and creates a healthy working environment for the people who need to be there. We have a full-time police department. We have these men there 24-7. There's always somebody in that station. There are always officers out there patrolling. They need a place where they themselves can be safe.

Q: Should it be tied to the fire department?

A: I don't believe that. I realize that the current facility we have for the fire department is not conducive to all the equipment that they need to protect the town. ... The problem here — and I'm going to talk as a citizen and someone who wore two different uniforms — when you get men in uniform, you're going to have a problem. When you get into a joint venture with the police department and the fire department, who's going to be the landlord and who's going to be the tenant? Who's going to answer to who? You're going to have a problem.

That's two separate entities that are both needed in this community, no doubt about it. And they're both doing an excellent job. But we have one entity, which is the police department, where we have a full-time police force. These men and women are there 24-7. We do have a great volunteer fire department, but with the exception of the chief, we don't have personnel there 24-7.

We need to look at the location. Is it feasible to add on to the location.

But I think right now, to be honest, my main concern is going to be the police department. Right now, that's something that's really, really needed. We need to take a real deep and hard look at the facility.

Q: How does the high school figure into this?

A: I attended a meeting that had to do with the high school, and they gave me some figures about the school. We see a drop in school enrollment, and they predict by 2030, there's going to be a 15 percent drop in enrollment at the high school.

I think the [school choice] towns should share some of the cost of a new school.

Q: The questions about School Choice are related in some way to the school building project, but at the heart of the matter is the question of whether you support some kind of solution to the school building problem — either a renovation or a rebuild?

A: We just put something like $2 million into it already. We already have $2 million invested, so what are we going to do, knock that down and build a new one? Let's look at what we have now. Let's look at the structure. Would it benefit the community for us to use it and build on?

Q: We got off the jobs topic a little bit, but to get back to economic development for a moment, you already mentioned we have the Clark Art Institute and the theater festival and all the things that bring people here in the summer. Are there more things the town can be doing to support the tourist trade?

A: I think we have enough motels to provide the accommodations for the people who come in. Do we market ourselves as a community that wants to attract people here? I've said this before, most of the people who come to Williamstown either have children attending the college or they're coming to the Clark Art Institute. Do they take the time to drive to Spring Street and visit the stores? Maybe not, because they don't know Spring Street exists.

You have to market this town.

Look at Northampton. I remember Northampton was a dead community with empty buildings, empty stores everywhere. I'm going back to the '80s. Somebody came in with a vision and started marketing that place and stuck with it, and people now drive there. I have a granddaughter who likes to go to Northampton just to walk around and look at the stores.

Getting back to the job situation, they talked about bringing technical companies in, small businesses. Where are you going to put them? Where's the office space? If you attract these companies to come in, are we going to say you're going to put your business in Williamstown but you have to live in North Adams or Pittsfield because we don't have the room?

Q: So what I'm hearing is you don't see a lot of room for growth in the town.

A: We don't have the space for growth. Anybody who says Williamstown is going to grow and become metropolitan, come on. We're not going to be building bypasses to connect ourselves to the major thruways. That's not going to happen.

We're a small community. We're always going to be a small community. That's the way people like it. I like it.

Q: One thing the Select Board is going to have to do in the next three years, more than likely, is look for a new town manager. Peter Fohlin has hinted strongly that he is not going to be around too much longer.

A: We're losing a great man.

Q: So what will you look for in the next town manager?

A: I'm going to look for someone who is experienced with small town politics, the management of a small community. Someone probably who has a marketing background, so we can go forth and market the town — not sell the town but market the town, and not for new industry or businesses but to have people come and stay with us for a weekend or visit us and look at our shops on Spring Street, go to the Clark Art Institute, visit the museum at the college, walk the grounds at the college.

Q: It looks like the emergency department at the former North Adams hospital is going to reopen [in May], but there are a whole lot of other services people go to the hospital for. How concerned are you about Williamstown residents having access to a full hospital.

A: I'm very concerned. At my age, I don't consider myself to be elderly yet, but I'm getting there. There are a lot of people in Williamstown who are my age or older who need that medical attention.

Hopefully, BMC, will be able to develop it a little more and create a small hospital that will take care of major issues like heart attacks, that kind of things. On TV, there was a nurse saying that elderly people in North Adams used to maybe walk to the hospital to get their colonoscopies done or get their blood work done. Now they're not going to be doing that because they don't drive cars, they don't have the transportation, they can't afford to hire a taxi.

We're talking about human lives here. It's not just a money thing. It's human lives.

Q: BMC is doing what it's doing, and it's not clear that is going to develop into a full-service hospital. What can Williamstown do — whether it's working with the city of North Adams or what have you — to create that kind of transportation people will need to get to the full-service hospital?

A: Yesterday, I drove to Pittsfield. I was on Wahconah Street, and I saw one of the security vans from Williams College driving to the emergency room. In other words, they were taking a student from the college down there for whatever reason.

I worked for Williams College in campus security, so I know a lot of times you have to take a student to the hospital for whatever the reason may be.

So the college also has a great interest in having medical facilities available to them.

When I was at the meeting for the League of Women Voters, I said maybe the town and Williams College could come together. They have a medical facility here. ... This is something we need to look at. We're talking about human lives. This is America, and people are entitled to medical services. Right now, we lack it.

Q: You've obviously been very in tune with town government for a number of years, is there anything that, looking back over the years, that the town did that had you scratching your head and wondering why it did what it did.

A: I'm going to be true to myself and true to the town. I don't know if you remember when they were trying to cut down the trees on upper Luce Road, I was an outspoken critic of what they were doing. I didn't like the way they were going about it. I didn't like the company that was doing the job. One day, they overcut the trees.

I said the first major rainstorm we had ... and I was laughed at. But I said, there's a reason we have Mother Nature, there's a reason we have trees. Everything has a purpose on this earth, and the trees have a major, major purpose. Not only do they provide the oxygen we breath, but they also consume the underground water. So when they overcut the trees, and the town failed to stand up and do what they needed to do.

I know when people read this, they'll laugh at me again. But, they cut the trees down, and if you go to the bottom of Luce Road now, it looks like a swamp. Luce Road looks like a swamp now.

I've said this before: If the town is looking for a yes man, or someone who is always going to be politically correct, don't vote for me. I'm not that guy. I'm not going to promise to be politically correct all the time or a yes man. What I'm going to promise is if I see something that's wrong, you're going to hear about it. I'm going to speak up. And I'm going to speak up for everyone in Williamstown, not just the chosen few. As far as I'm concerned, we all have an interest here. It takes a village to protect each other. And it doesn't matter if you're living in a $200,000 home or a million-dollar home, we're all here, and we need to protect each other.

If we don't, eventually this town is not going to be here.

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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Clarksburg Ballot Sees No Races This Year
Staff Reports On: 10:50PM / Tuesday May 06, 2014

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Selectmen Chairwoman Lily Kuzia has decided not to stand for election as selectman.

The veteran selectman said she returned nomination papers because she did not want to leave the town hanging. But when she learned that there were candidates for both board seats, she removed her name from the ballot.

"I've been doing this for 12 years," she said. "My children didn't want me to [run again]."

Kuzia will remain with the Senior Center and on the advisory board for Elder Services of Berkshire County.

"The Senior Center is my first love," she said.

Running unopposed for Kuzia's three-year seat is Debra LeFave, former board chairman who stepped down two years ago to apply for the town administrator's post.

William Schrade is running unopposed for the final two years of former Selectman Carl McKinney, who also stepped down to apply for town administrator.

All other offices are also unopposed: Ernest Dix, tree warden, one year; Bryan Tanner, moderator, one year; Linda Hurbut, library trustee, three years; Joseph Bushika, War Memorial trustee, three years; Jeffrey Levanos, School Committee, three years; and Audrey Matys, Planning Board, five years.

There is no candidate on the ballot for a three-year seat on the Board of Health.

The last day to register to vote in the town election is Wednesday, May 7. Special voter registration hours will be held on Wednesday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 8 p.m. at Town Hall.

The annual town election will be held on Tuesday, May 27. The polls will be open from noon to 7 p.m. at the Clarksburg Senior Center.

Any questions on registration, contact Town Clerk Carol Jammalo at 413-663-8255 or

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Astorino, Ciskowski Win Seats on Cheshire Selectmen
By Jack Guerino On: 08:19PM / Tuesday May 06, 2014

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Incumbent Paul Astorino will hold his selectman's seat and Robert Ciskowski will join him for a one year term.

Astorino defeated political newcomer Richard Scholz by narrow victory of 47 votes. Astorino had 288 votes and Scholz had 241.

Scholz plans to run again in 2016.

"I will continue my effort to expand the select board to five, change the culture of town government, and run for a three-year term in 2016," Scholz said.

Cheshire native and former Selectman Robert Ciskowski defeated James Boyle and Karmen Field-Mitchell with 275 votes, more than half of all the votes cast in the race. Boyle garnered 164 and Field-Mitchell had 86.

Ciskowski will hold the chair for one year and replace the retired Selectwoman Gloria Lewis.

Michael Biagini Jr. won a two-year position on the Board of Health and defeated James Geary, 273-244.

Biagini’s son, Michael Biagini, ran for water commissioner, but was defeated by Rick Gurney 304-217.

The total number of registered voters was 2,245 and 544 registered voters, or 24 percent, cast ballots.

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Attorney General Candidate Shares Views in Pittsfield
By Andy McKeever On: 01:49PM / Tuesday May 06, 2014
AG candidate Maura Healey met with voters on Saturday in Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Maura Healey has already overseen half of the attorney general's office. Now, she wants to take it all over.

With Attorney General Martha Coakley now seeking election as governor, Healey has launched a campaign to replace her.

Currently overseeing the attorney general's public protection and business and labor bureaus, the Democrat says she knows the "power and possibilities" the office has to make positive impacts in people's lives.

"I know how important it is for Massachusetts to have an attorney general's office that is nation leading, that leads the nation in standing up for civil rights and giving a voice to those who are vulnerable," Healey told members of the Berkshire Brigades on Saturday at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.

"And in leading the nation in protecting consumers and leading the nation in thinking about smart approaches to criminal justice reform, public safety and drug addiction."

Healey grew up in Hampton Falls, N.H., and moved to Massachusetts to attend Harvard, where she received her undergraduate degree in government. She is the oldest of five siblings with her mother being a school nurse and father a high school teacher.

After graduating, she went overseas to play professional basketball. She returned to Massachusetts and received her law degree from Northeastern University.

Healey worked for a federal judge overseeing the cleanup of Boston Harbor before becoming a litigator at a private law firm.

"I jumped at the chance seven years ago to take a 70 percent pay cut and join the attorney general's office as chief of the civil rights division. And I saw, over the last several years, that there is no office where you can have a greater impact on people's lives," she said.

One of her largest accomplishments in the office was successfully fighting against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), she said. At the time, the president and U.S. Department of Justice were defending the law.

"To me it was a matter of fairness," she said, adding a story about how a couple wanted to be buried together in a state veterans cemetery but were being blocked by the government.

She also took on predatory lenders, putting together a litigation team to go after banks participating in those practices. Healey was the first in the nation to bring a civil rights case against a lender and she also started the Home Court program, which used settlement funds to help residents modify their mortgages.

One of her first issues she tackled in the attorney's general office was writing the buffer zone law regarding access for women to abortion clinics. That law survived supreme court challenges. She has challenged laws that allow physicians to deny contraceptive care to patients.

And she says there is a lot more she can do if elected. Healey wants to "really tackle" the issue of drug abuse, which has become an epidemic across the state. She says there is a real shortage of beds for mental health and addiction treatment programs.

State Sen. Benjamin Downing was on hand to hear about Healey's campaign.

"Using settlement proceeds from the office — when we sue pharmaceutical companies and others — I want those resources to go to beefing up services for those kind of treatments and care," she said.

From the office, she says she will also "bring people together" to do a better job at prescription drug monitoring.

That stance earned her the endorsements of the mayors of Holyoke and Northampton and Hampshire County Sheriff Robert Garvey on Tuesday.

She also vowed to go after the growing for-profit schools market that "pocket" federal student loans but do not provide an education that gives students the tools for jobs.

"It is predatory and it is wrong," she said.

Healey also wants to advocate for a revamping of the state's criminal justice system. She says the state needs to provide more job training, life skills training and counseling to those in jail so that they don't come back. Meanwhile, on "the front end," there needs to be more options than jail. She wants courts to identify individuals who are in danger of continually going through the court system and provide drug treatment and other programs to stop the slide.

"I think you have a real opportunity to convene and lead that conversation," she said.

Entering the race in October, when she resigned from the attorney general's office, Healey says she wants "to be the people's point guard."

"I've been in that office. I've seen the power and the possibility of that office. In my mind it was a very easy decision because I am so passionate about this and so committed to building on the success of that office," she said, and boasts of being the only candidate who has worked in the office. "I think Massachusetts can lead on all of these issues."

She has gained support from state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.

"When it comes to equal rights, when it comes to consumer protection, when it comes to making sure everybody in the commonwealth is treated fairly, the office of attorney general really leads that fight. So it is important to pay attention to all of the offices that are being fought for this year," Farley-Bouvier said. "I'm supporting Maura because she's done the job. She is a lawyer. She has run about 50 percent of the attorney general's office for about seven years."

Healey is vying for the Democratic nomination with former state Sen. Warren Tolman of Watertown, an attorney and former gubernatorial candidate, and champion of the clean elections law.

John Miller of Winchester, an attorney and expert on construction law and public infrastructure contracting, is the Republican candidate.

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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

  Governor: Charles D. Baker & Mark R. Fisher

  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.

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