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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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Snoonian, Rice Cruise to Victory in Adams Election
By Jack Guerino On: 09:08PM / Monday May 05, 2014
Supporters of candidates running for local office were parked along the sidewalk near the town garage on Monday.

ADAMS, Mass. — Veteran Selectman Michael Ouellette lost his seat on the board on Monday night to newcomer Jeffrey Snoonian.

The count was 711-450, or 61 percent of the vote.

Snoonian's a newcomer not only to politics but to much of Adams. A longtime visitor to the area, he grew up in the east end of the state and only recently moved permanently to the Mother Town.

Despite that, the construction contractor has grown deep enough roots in the community to rack up sizeable support from a number of longtime residents - and to sweep to victory with 261 votes.

Snoonian was not at the polling station at the town garage when the vote tallies were read and could not be immediately reached for comment.

"I am excited I love Adams and I think it has unlimited potential," said Snoonian, when reached on Tuesday. "I just think it needs someone to champion it a little more and to be out there and a little more aggressive an enthusiastic."

Ouellette had squeaked to victory three years ago with 22 votes over Richard Blanchard, who has since won a seat, but couldn't get enough to support this time around. He left the polling station as the vote counts were read off and it became apparent he wouldn't be returning to the board.

The former GE engineer first won a seat on the board in 2008, beating out two others to fill the seat being vacated by Myra Wilk.

Kelly Rice won the treasurer-collector's office over Melissa McGovern-Wandrei by 666-477. McGovern-Wandrei, the appointed treasurer-collector in Clarksburg, had hoped her experience would win the day but Rice, a 30-year resident of the town and a longtime employee in the public schools and Town Hall, easily won by 189 votes.

"I am ready to start at 8:30 tomorrow morning after I get sworn in," said Rice, who has been working in the office of community development.

She will serve out the two years left on the three-year treasurer-collector term.

In the only other race on the ballot, George Haddad handily beat out Dennis A. Gajda by a vote of 748-366 for the three-year seat on the Board of Assessors being vacated by Lynn D. Avery.

"I am glad to serve the town of Adams again and I will do everything I can," said the former selectman. "I really appreciate the voters."

All other offices were unopposed.

Town Clerk Haley Meczywor said 1,171 of the town's 5,861 registered votered made it to the polls, or about 20 percent. That's on par with last year's election at 1,182 voters.

 



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Three Vying for One-Year Selectman's Seat in Cheshire
By Jack Guerino On: 10:01PM / Sunday May 04, 2014

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Voters will decide a three-way race for the one-year seat on the Board of Selectmen on Monday.

James M. Boyle, Robert S. Ciskowski and Karmen B. Field-Mitchell are running for the vacant seat.

Boyle, originally from Windsor, has been involved in politics and business throughout his life.

"I think a combination of my business experience and working in the community would bring a new light to the town of Cheshire," Boyle said.

He was a Pittsfield city councilor for eight years and chairman of the School Committee when living in the city in the 1990s. He also helped create the tourism council in Pittsfield.

"I worked on a multitude of different economic development items that I worked on in Pittsfield trying to bring in more industry and jobs in the city," he said.

He has a business administration degree and has taken courses leading to a master's in public administration. He said he was a business manager for a nonprofit agency for 11 years.

"I have the financial ability to look over budgets and try to see where we can save some money and just general operations of good government," Boyle said. "Plus with working in the city, you develop a lot of contacts and relationships that can, hopefully, benefit everybody in the town of Cheshire.”

Boyle said he would like to help bring Cheshire into the "new century."

"I think we have a stagnant economic base as far as growth," he said. "The costs of the school and government are both going up, and the actual value of the town is going down due to lower assets so we are forced to push increase the taxes."

Boyle said he would like to bring in new businesses to help lower the tax rate.

"We need to expand the tax base so we bring in some new kinds of business in good locations to bring the tax rate down," he said.

Boyle also said if elected, he would fight for more government transparency and have selectmen's minutes more available. He also said the selectmen's meetings should be televised.

"I think everyone should know exactly what’s going on," Boyle said. "These things need to be brought out into the open so people can know and discuss things, and people need to know about them so they are not caught by surprise."

Boyle sees many assets in Cheshire and explained that he would like to look into creating a new senior center and expanding on the library.

"We have great assets here, but I don't think we are using them as well as we could," he said.

Ciskowski isn't a newcomer to town government. The Cheshire native served on the Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Finance Committee, the Town Government Reorganization Committee and the Cheshire School Advisory Council in the 1980s.

"I think with my background on the town boards, I have a pretty good understanding of how government works, and I also understand how it doesn't work sometimes," Ciskowski said.

He also owned North Mountain Excavating,a construction business based in Cheshire.

Ciskowski said he decided to run for selectman because he doesn't believe town government is moving things forward.

"I really think I can contribute," he said. "We don't have to throw out all the old ideas because a lot of them are good, but I think we have to realize it is 2014."

He said many of the things he worked on during his term as a selectman remain incomplete.

"I have some things I was working on a dozen years ago as a selectman, and I just don't think too much progress has been made on some of the things that I was working on," Ciskowski said.

If elected, he said he would like to make government more transparent and publish selectman minutes.

"I'd like for people to be able to see the government process and not just the end result," he said. "I think open and transparent is stronger."

He said he would also like to see board bring the community together.

"We all share common goals here in Cheshire, and I think the selectmen can be the ones who bring people together and work together," he said. "I think I did that last time I was selectman, and I think that I can do it again."

Ciskowski sees the town's decreasing population as an economic problem.

"If there are less people on the street we still have to plow them, and if there are less people in the schools we still have to have the schools," he said. "I think responding to the population decline is an issue, and it's not really an issue Cheshire can solve by itself, it's a system problem."

Ciskowski said he had a great life growing up in Cheshire and would like to make sure future generations can have the same experience that he did.

"I'd like to extend all the good I experienced and make it available for the next generation because all the decisions we make today will influence what tomorrow is going to be," he said.

Cheshire native Field-Mitchell is new to politics, but has been active in the community.

Trained as a special education teacher, she also managed a Rite Aid Pharmacy. She later became a member of the Council on Aging and was heavily involved in the Senior Center.

Field-Mitchell said she would bring proficient people skills to the Board of Selectmen.

"I am able to talk to people and listen to people," she said.

She would like to help Cheshire progress, but in a responsible way.

“You just can't come in and bulldoze your way through; the Cheshire people won't allow it," she said. "We have to keep moving forward, but not at the speed of light."

Field-Mitchell said Cheshire has to be mindful of its older population, yet make it interesting for the younger generation.

"We have a nice mixture of country and class here, and a lot of people that move to Cheshire want that attitude and environment for their families because its family friendly," she said. "Yet we still understand that we need to progress in order to keep the young people interested in wanting to raise their families here."

Field-Mitchell sees the mixture of different people and attitudes in the town and she wants to be able to help and please everyone.

"I want to help the people," she said. "I want to help the seniors, the children, the animals, and help keep our town country with class."

She said she loves living in Cheshire and wants to maintain what makes it such a special place to live.  

"I like Cheshire because it is still a small town, it's still country, it's still classy, and it's the heart of the Berkshires."

The election takes place Monday, May 5, from 9 to 7 at the Senior Center on School Street.



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Scholz Challenges Incumbent Astorino in Cheshire Election
By Jack Guerino On: 05:08PM / Sunday May 04, 2014

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Political newcomer E. Richard Scholz is challenging incumbent Paul Astorino for a three-year seat on the board of selectmen.

Astorino has served four terms on the board since 2002.

"I take pleasure in seeing things come to fruition and people enjoying what has been gained for them and just a good quality life," he said. "If I can do anything to help that that's what I want to do."

Astorino retired as manager of contracts at General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems.

"I think that the people skills that I have developed over the years at General Electric and General Dynamics have made me a good listener, open minded, and a good communicator," he said.

Astorino was a member of the Fire Department from 1978 to 1980 and on the Berkshire County Selectmen's Advisory Board as a member of the Executive Committee. He has also served on the board of directors of Elder Services of Berkshire County from 1980 to 1983.

In 1981, he was appointed to a six-year term on the Berkshire Community College Board of Trustees. There he chaired the Finance Committee, which oversaw the expenditures of state funds at the college.

He served from 1990 to 1996 on the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee, and on board of directors of the Adams Ambulance service from 2004 to 2013.

"I believe that my 35 years of business experience and service on other boards has given me the tools needed to deal with the financial issues facing the town," he said. "Creative thinking will be needed as Cheshire moves into the 21st century to better the position of the town so it is a more affordable place to live while still providing the required services to the town's people."

He wishes to continue to serve the town where he was born and raised.

"I have been active in many facets of town government, and my whole quest of the matter is to try and give back to the town that was good to me and my children," Astorino said.  

With the reduction of state aid, Astorino sees Cheshire facing more financial struggles in the future.

"I truly believe that the Board of Selectmen should serve as a catalyst and bring all the town's boards together to develop a master plan of goals for the town in order to develop a strong and affordable five-year plan and develop budget estimates which reflect the true needs of the town," he said. "Only then can we provide sound fiscal management while providing the required services."

Scholz was raised in Cheshire and left for college and work in Boston and New York before returning in 2004.

"The Berkshires are among the best places to live on Earth, and Cheshire is the best town," Scholz said.

An electrical engineer, he worked in telecommunications, wireless and consulting. He said he has experience in managing budgets and staffing organizations and that he has launched a startup telecom companies in the Boston and Hartford, Conn., markets.

Hee has been involved in projects such on the NYNEX Corporation's Science & Technology team and the Project Aurora Broadband expansion experiment, and has taught in Northeastern University's Continuing Education Program.

"I have extensive business experience including managing large complex projects, first of a kind experiments, new product introductions, launches of new business ventures, recruiting and staffing organizations, and more," Scholz said.

He would like to use his business, management, and technological experience to change Cheshire's government.

"I am up for pushing things to their limits to see what you can get out of them," he said. "You have to start somewhere, and I think there should be more done."

Scholz said he thinks Cheshire could benefit from expanding the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.

"If two board members agree with how things should be done they run Cheshire," Scholz said. "With five board members, more people serve the town, more voices are heard, and more representative decisions result."

He also would like to get more people involved in the local government.

"I really think if we get more people involved there will be less frustration with government," he said.

Scholz also wants to improve the availability of information, including posting government documents and meeting minutes on the Internet to allow better communication between the government and its people.

"Information sharing is critical to town's people actively participating in town government, and it's not good enough anymore to just invite the them to Selectmen's meetings and have paper copies of all the important documents during business hours at the Town Hall," Scholz said. "Cheshire town government should be using today's technology and media tools to reach out to town's people."

Scholz has been digitizing the board's minutes and publishing them online.

Astorino has served four terms on the board since 2002.

"I take pleasure in seeing things come to fruition and people enjoying what has been gained for them and just a good quality life," he said. "If I can do anything to help that that's what I want to do."

Astorino retired as manager of contracts at General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems.

"I think that the people skills that I have developed over the years at General Electric and General Dynamics have made me a good listener, open minded, and a good communicator," he said.

Astorino was a member of the Fire Department from 1978 to 1980 and on the Berkshire County Selectmen's Advisory Board as a member of the Executive Committee. He has also served on the board of directors of Elder Services of Berkshire County from 1980 to 1983.

In 1981, he was appointed to a six-year term on the Berkshire Community College Board of Trustees. There he chaired the Finance Committee, which oversaw the expenditures of state funds at the college.

He served from 1990 to 1996 on the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee, and on board of directors of the Adams Ambulance service from 2004 to 2013.

"I believe that my 35 years of business experience and service on other boards has given me the tools needed to deal with the financial issues facing the town," he said. "Creative thinking will be needed as Cheshire moves into the 21st century to better the position of the town so it is a more affordable place to live while still providing the required services to the town's people."

He wishes to continue to serve the town where he was born and raised.

"I have been active in many facets of town government, and my whole quest of the matter is to try and give back to the town that was good to me and my children," Astorino said.  

With the reduction of state aid, Astorino sees Cheshire facing more financial struggles in the future.

"I truly believe that the Board of Selectmen should serve as a catalyst and bring all the town's boards together to develop a master plan of goals for the town in order to develop a strong and affordable five-year plan and develop budget estimates which reflect the true needs of the town," he said. "Only then can we provide sound fiscal management while providing the required services."

The election takes place Monday, May 5, from 9 to 7 at the Senior Center on School Street.



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Adams to Decide New Treasurer/Tax Collector
By Jack Guerino On: 02:13PM / Sunday May 04, 2014

ADAMS, Mass. — Voters will decide two races on Monday, including for treasurer/collector.

Melissa McGovern-Wandrei and Kelly Rice are vying to complete the two years left on the term being vacated by retiring Holly Denault.

Originally from Clarksburg, McGovern-Wandrei has been the Clarksburg tax collector, and more recently treasurer/tax collector, for a total of 15 years. She is currently the president of the Berkshire County Treasurer and Collectors Association.

She is a Massachusetts certified treasurer/collector.

"I am experienced," McGovern-Wandrei said. "I know all of the laws, and I have a 95-97 percent collection rate in Clarksburg, which is very good."

McGovern-Wandrei now lives in Adams with her husband, Lenny Wandrei; some of their children have been in the Adams school system.

"Adams is a good place to raise your children, and it is very community orientated," she said. "The people in Adams have been very supportive of me."

McGovern-Wandrei said she is the most qualified person for the job.

"There is a lot to this job, and I think a lot of people think it is just an accounting job," McGovern-Wandrei said. "It takes a certain kind of person to do this job well, and I think that person is me."

Rice is originally from Savoy but has lived in Adams for nearly 30 years.

"I love Adams," she said. "Adams is a small little tight-knit town, and I like it."

Rice said she worked as the cafeteria manager for Hoosac Valley High School for 14 years, taking care of bookkeeping and all deposits and reconciliations.

Rice said she has also worked for the town as the building inspector's administrative assistant. She moved from there to the financial assistant for grants in the Community Development Department.

"I take care of millions of dollars through all of the grants we have had for the past eight years," she said.

Although not certified, Rice said she has learned the proper skills for treasurer/collector position through her involvement in the town government and also has gained a strong work ethic.

Rice said she wants to help Adams.

"I live in the town of Adams, and I need to take care of the town of Adams," she said. "We need to get some revenues back in for all of the leans and takings, and I would be proud to be part of that."

Also on the ballot is a race for a three-year selectmen's seat; candidates for other offices attended a forum last month.

The town election is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, May 5, at the town garage.



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Town Elections
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Adams:

Cheshire: Election, May 5;

Clarksburg: Election, May 27, noon to 7; town meeting, June 18

Williamstown: Election, May 13, 7-8; town meeting, May 20, 7 p.m.

 
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