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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Race is On: North Adams Election 2005

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, August 09, 2005

North Adams – Mayor John Barrett III will not run unopposed during a Nov. 8 city election.

Barrett’s challenger, Walter L. Smith Jr. of 225 East Main St. returned his nomination papers on Aug. 5 and the papers were certified, according to information provided by City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau.

Barrett returned his nomination papers on Aug. 8.

Mayor's Race

Barrett is seeking a 12th two-year mayoral term. The 58-year-old “dean of mayors” is the longest serving mayor in the state, and was first inaugurated in January 1984. He has defeated challengers during every subsequent election except the 2003 election when he ran unopposed. Barrett was a fourth-grade teacher at the city’s former Johnson School at the time of his election during the fall of 1983. He was unrelenting during a years-long quest to launch the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art within the walls of the Marshall Street mill space once occupied by the Sprague Electric Co., the firm that announced its plans to leave town just months after Barrett first took office. Mass MoCA opened in May 1999. He is often asked to speak to other communities about the city’s evolution from a mill town to an arts-and-culture community.

Barrett lives at 229 Corinth St. and earned a master’s degree in education at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts when the school was known as the North Adams State College. He also holds a bachelor of science degree. Barrett was married to Eileen Barrett, who died several years after Barrett was first elected mayor. The Eileen A. Barrett Oncology Center and Foundation at the North Adams Regional Hospital was founded by Barrett, and he has reportedly said that the center is the “personal achievement” of which he is most proud. Barrett has no children.

Smith, 53, is an employee of a Curran Highway Wal-Mart store. During a July 26 interview, Smith described himself as “blue-collar” and as having no previous political experience. He has said his primary reason for opposing Barrett is “I believe people have a right to a choice.” Smith moved to the city from Chicopee about two years ago seeking employment opportunities and spent several months looking for work before being hired to unload delivery trucks and stock shelves at Wal-Mart. He has acknowledged a “hand to mouth” period when he visited the city’s food pantries and other meal assistance programs. Smith is divorced. Past employment includes 18 years of periodic work at a Facemate Inc. mill in Chicopee, Smith has said. A job loss caused by the mill closing was a factor in Smith’s move to the city, he has said. Smith lives in a rental unit owned by city property owner Charles “Rusty” Ransford.

Smith has said he disagrees with Barrett’s opposition to a First Hartford Realty Corp. K-Mart Plaza development plan. A K-Mart store at the property was closed following the corporation’s bankruptcy; Barrett’s opposition to the First Hartford plan reportedly stems from a concern that stores involved with the proposed plan are not of a caliber that would benefit the city. Smith has said that he believes the First Hartford plan would bring jobs to the area. Smith has also questioned the costs associated with city-initiated lawsuits and has cited his belief that Barrett could use a recent United States Supreme Court decision that favored a municipality’s taking of property through eminent domain proceedings as leverage to acquire properties for the city.

He has also said that he has "a lot to learn" about other city issues, including the Hoosac Water Quality District, the situation facing the city’s public schools, and other priorities.

City Council Campaign

An energetic City Council campaign is also likely; nine incumbent councilors are facing six challengers. Incumbent councilors are Richard Alcombright of 40 Williams St., Michael C. Bloom of 179 Bradley St., Clark H. Billings of 206 Corinth St., Ronald A. Boucher of 645 Barbour St., Gailanne M. Cariddi of 100 Galvin Road, William E. Donovan of 74 Chestnut St., Marie Harpin of 15 Rock St., Alan L. Marden of 569 West Main St., and Robert R. Moulton Jr. of 1362 Massachusetts Avenue.

Challengers are Eric Buddington of 68 Veazie St., Andrew J. Etman of 83 Franklin St., Richard Harlow of 243 Union St. #207, Kelly Lee of 243 Union St. #106, Peter D. May of 119 Summit Avenue, and Christopher J. Tremblay of 57 Harris St..

Unopposed

Three terms on the city public schools school committee are unopposed. Incumbents Heather Boulger of 8 Williams St., John Hockridge of 1020 Mohawk Trail and Mark P. Moulton of 215 North St. are seeking relection.

There is also no contest for two city seats on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District School Committee. Richard Alcombright is seeking reelection to the committee, as is Paul A. Gigliotti of 43 Frederick St..

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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