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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Barrett Shines At Campaign Kick-Off

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mayor John Barrett III greeted supporters during a Nov. 8 election campaign kick-off.
North Adams – Supporters of city Mayor John Barrett III were lavish with their praise and their hugs during Barrett's Oct. 5 mayoral campaign kick-off at the Frank R. Stiles American Legion Post 125 post home.

“I’ve supported him since the beginning,” said city resident Paul Gigliotti. “I know he’s doing a good job. All you need to do is look at the city, look at the taxes and the infrastructure, to see it.”

Michael Vecellio agreed.

“I think he’s done a great job,” Vecellio said. “Everything speaks for itself. Look around. Look around the city, and look around here tonight. The support is here.”

Vecellio’s mother Ann Vecellio said that she likes Barrett very, very much.

“When you need him, he is there,” she said.

And City Councilor William Donovan, who has announced that he is moving from the city and is not seeking reelection to the council, said that Barrett is a strong, positive force.

“I believe in John Barrett because of the shape the city is in today,” Donovan said. “He is the center of gravity for this city.”

Barrett is seeking a 12th two-year term as mayor. The 58-year-old “dean of mayors” is the longest serving mayor in the state. Barrett was first elected in 1984 and was sworn into office in 1985.

He is being challenged by Walter L. Smith, 53, of East Main St., who has described himself as “blue-collar” and is an employee of the city-based Wal-mart store.

The election is scheduled for Nov. 8.

No "Shrinking Violet"


Mayor John Barrett III and Medford, Mass. Mayor Michael McGlynn
About 300 people filled the American Legion banquet hall during the campaign kick-off. Barrett moved through the room and stopped at every table to greet supporters, and often lingered to converse with individuals.

Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn, the second-longest serving mayor in Massachusetts, traveled to the city for the event. McGlynn acknowledged Barrett’s longevity and leadership skills.

“I take all my direction from Johnny,” McGlynn said before he spoke to the crowd.

Later on, McGlynn said, “He hits the subjects that are important to people. John is not influenced by special interests or corporations. The only thing that influences John Barrett are the people of North Adams.”

McGlynn left no doubt that he is a believer in Barrett during his public remarks. Barrett has earned the respect of mayors throughout the country, McGlynn said, and drew applause when he told Barrett’s supporters that during mayors’ meetings with U.S. presidents, Barrett is usually the one who “jumps up,” introduces himself, and makes it plainly known what the nation’s municipalities need in federal revenues and services.

“He’s no shrinking violet,” McGlynn said.

McGlynn introduced Barrett as “the man, the myth, the legend, the meanest of the mean, the baddest of the bad,” and cited Barrett as “a man who speaks up for this community even when he’s at the White House.”

Supporters thundered applause as Barrett stepped to the microphone. Barrett told the crowd that “this is a community we can be proud of, and a lot more will happen in the next couple of years.”

First-Class Community

Barrett recalled the mid-1980s and early 1990s, when the city was often pointed to as a national example of “urban blight.”

Things have changed for the better, he said, and cited the city’s evolution as a nationally-recognized destination point and an example of economic recovery.

Mayor John Barrett III mingled with supporters during a mayoral campaign event.


He always believed in building from neighborhoods into the downtown, he said, and noted the construction of the Brayton School, the extensive Drury High School renovation, the city’s water filtration facility project, and park and athletic field construction and renovations as proof of the city’s accomplishments.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has been a catalyst for change, but without the cooperation and support of city residents, positive changes would not have been possible, Barrett said.

The city has been ahead of the curve with economic development, Barrett said, and noted that many New England communities are still waiting for a large industry to turn their municipalities around, while North Adams saw the need to change and grow almost 20 years ago.

And the city welcomed the Steeplecats baseball team when other communities passed up similar opportunities, he said.

“We brought an amateur baseball team here two years ago, when no one else wanted them,” he said.

City infrastructure improvements such as the Veteran’s Memorial Drive project and additional beautification efforts have enhanced the city’s appeal, and all the work accomplished in and by the city has been done “with very little increase in [property] taxes,” Barrett said.

Barrett said that the City Council support has been instrumental in the city’s progress.

Barrett noted that Donovan’s action means at least one new face will sit on the nine member city council. Barrett asked voters to judge the candidates carefully and emphasized that whoever wins city council terms will have to work with some incumbent councilors.

Constant “bickering” among councilors will stall progress and be detrimental to the city, he said.

Barrett praised the city police officers and firefighters, and acknowledged the work that they do.

“And as much as I scream and holler and throw temper tantrums and everything else, I appreciate the job they do,” he said.


Talking with the Mayor
The Mohawk Theater reconstruction project should see construction begin within two years, Barrett said.

“And I have a very good feeling that it will be ready in three [years],” he said.

The site will serve as a 1,000-seat venue for major cultural, community, and other events.

A First Hartford Corp proposal for the K-mart plaza that includes a dollar-type store and a mattress shop might have been right for the city during the 1980s, but not at present, Barrett said. Affordable housing is better suited to the site now, he said, and added that downtown housing is preferable so that residents can retire and have an affordable place to live within the city.

“We used to do things cheaply in this city,” Barrett said. “We don’t do them cheaply anymore. We do things first-class because the citizens are first-class.”

He acknowledged enduring “some difficult times” in his life, and said that the community has become his family.

“Always remember that every decision I make is in the best interest of the city,” he said. “We have become attractive to others and we have become attractive to ourselves.”

“I am proud to be your mayor,” Barrett said. “And I want to be your mayor for two more years.”

That time frame should be altered, said city resident Julia Toohey.
“I think he should be the mayor until he doesn’t want to do it anymore,” she said.

Susan Bush may be reached at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.


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