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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Barrett's 12th Term

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, January 04, 2006

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III accepted the oath of office for the 12th time on Jan. 3.
North Adams – Mayor John Barrett III accepted a 12th consecutive oath of office during a Jan. 3 evening swearing-in ceremony at City Hall, and then delivered a feisty, focused inaugural address peppered with accomplishments, vision and challenge.

And there was something new; the inauguration marked the first time Barrett was sworn in by City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau, who was appointed clerk in 2004 after former City Clerk Mary Ann Abuisi retired.

A Long Way Traveled, A Long Way To Go

Barrett spoke with passion about the city.

“Our image has never been better,” Barrett said. “Our citizens feel good about their city and they have a right to.”

But the city won’t be resting on its’ laurels just yet, Barrett said.

“Sometimes people forget how far we’ve come,” Barrett said. “We are not an overnight success story. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”

Plans To Be Revealed Within Weeks


Barrett spoke to a standing-room only crowd following the Tuesday evening swearing-in ceremony.
Plans for a Mohawk Theater renovation project will be announced in two weeks, Barrett predicted, and told the full house gathered at City Council chambers that project cost estimates are now at $7.7 million. The increased costs mean that the project will unfold in three phases; the original proposal divided the project in two phases.

The First Hartford Realty firm’s plans for the K-mart plaza are slated to be made public in about three weeks, Barrett said. The current plans are much improved over the company’s original plans –which included a dollar-type store and a mattress shop – and include a façade change for the “L-shaped” building that houses businesses including Papa Gino’s restaurant and Radio Shack.

The city is poised to unveil a new city-focused Internet web site within the next few months, he said. The site will enable permit applications and other functions to occur on-line.

Financial struggles are facing the Armory and the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial ice skating rink, Barrett said. The city could provide some assistance but cannot be alone in offering support.

“Both of these need community support in order to survive,” he said.

"My Door Is Open"

Barrett scolded a local newspaper and its editor for a recent editorial that apparently overlooked plans and proposals for the downtown and suggested that strategies similar to Pittsfield’s Sheeptacular event be brought to the downtown.

The editorial ignored the planned Mohawk Theater renovations and the project’s anticipated impact on the downtown, among other things, Barrett charged, and he challenged “Mr. Editor” to leave the newspaper offices, walk along city streets, “and see what’s going on in North Adams.”

He issued an invitation to “Mr. Editor”: “My door is open. Come on over and find out what is going on in the city.”

Laptop Presentation Set For Friday

On Friday morning, laptop computers will be presented to a group of Silvio O.Conte Middle School students during an event hosted at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Barrett told the standing-room only crowd that he is proud of city schools and city students, and emphasized that education improvements will continue. He and school officials are continuing to review the merits of a longer school day, he said, and the city is also considering whether to launch its own charter school through a Horace Mann grant.

School-based music and art programs have been expanded, after-school programs continue, and the city’s public school system does not charge a student participation fee for any sport or program, he said.

City Turnaround A Group Effort

City residents deserve much thanks and praise for their support of the changes that have swept the city, a large contingent of civic volunteers who work with youth and other organizations are greatly appreciated, and city employees have proven themselves dedicated public servants, Barrett said.

City officials and residents packed City Council chambers for the ceremony.


He drew a wave of chuckles when he acknowledged that he can be a “demanding” individual. He drew more laughter when he “confided” “on very rare occasions, I lose my temper.”

An "Old, Tired, City" and An "Ordinary Person"

When he was first inaugurated in 1984, he inherited “an old, tired city,” Barrett said, and recalled months of dismal news, financial downturns, and a shabby image that permeated most perceptions of the city.

Barrett said that he knew he had to change the image of the city and convince city residents that “government could play a positive role in their lives.”

A focus on creating an attractive city and strong neighborhoods coupled with creating a diverse economic base, strong development regulations and standards and cracking down on “slumlords” has paid off over the past two decades, Barrett said. The arts have been a very strong catalyst leading to the city’s renaissance, he emphasized. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has greatly benefited the city, and led to additional growth.

“Look at the Eclipse Mill,” Barrett said. “People are living there and running businesses. The building is back on the tax roll.”

And despite improved city services “we have one of the lowest residential [property] tax rates in the Commonwealth,” he said.

His goal has been to serve as the “best possible mayor,” Barrett said, and he cited an inscription he’d read on a paperweight.

“It said ‘A leader is just an ordinary person with extraordinary determination,” Barrett said. “I hope that I am remembered as that kind of leader.”

An inaugural reception at the Holiday Inn followed the formal ceremony.

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