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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Myra Wilk:"Let's Get Focused"

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, September 07, 2006

Adams Selectwoman Myra Wilk
Adams - Town Selectwoman Myra Wilk expected that by the end of a Sept. 6 Selectmen's meeting, she would be a former member of the five-person board.

"It was my intention resign," she said on Sept. 7 during an afternoon interview.

But Wilk did not step away from selectwoman duties. She did tell those in attendance at the meeting that she'd been prepared to step down but was instead "willing to hang in a little longer."

Wilk's current elected three-year term expires in 2008.

A sense of stagnation prompted Wilk to give serious consideration to leaving the board, she said during Thursday's interview.

"Boom! It Stopped"

"Over the last three years, Adams has been moving forward," Wilk said. "We did a lot of projects, projects that have been mirrored in other places."

For instance, a Downtown Committee, with a membership that plans many major town events, launched several years ago. Strategic planning was initiated about three years ago, with much of the energy provided by town Community Development Director Donna Cesan and James Wojtasek, who is a member of the town's Finance Committee, Downtown Committee, and Prudential Committee, she said.

An intra-government group that hosted public forums focused on the various arms of town government and their functions was in place. Another group made up of community leaders worked in conjunction with the town's Finance Committee to assist with the creation and understanding of a Fiscal Year 2006 town budget, she said.

"People were coming together and working together, people were realizing that it was important to be on the same page," she said. "The intra-government group was part of the process to involve the voters. People were becoming involved and active [with town issues]. All these things were happening and then -boom!- it stopped."

"There doesn't seem to be an interest in bringing people in," she said. "There doesn't seem to be a focus."

Stagnant

Many people worked very hard over the past several years to better the community and foster an atmosphere of inclusion, Wilk said. Efforts to "move forward" were developed under the Selectmen's chairmanship terms held by Selectman Edward Driscoll, Selectman Joseph Dean Jr. and her own time as chairwoman, she said, and emphasized that no one person carried the town accomplishment ball on their own.

The current Selectmen's chairman is Edward MacDonald. Wilk did not cite MacDonald or his leadership as a specific reason for what she believes is a lack of progress.

"Everything just seems to be stagnant," she said.

Wilk was first elected in 1998 to fill an unexpired term left vacant by the death of former Selectman Joseph Lefebvre. She has been reelected three consecutive times.

Eight Years

Since Wilk was first elected, the town has changed immeasurably. The Ashuwillticook Trail opened and delivered a boost to the town, the Renfrew Field project has been completed, Armory Court was developed, and the Topia Arts Center has taken a prime post in the downtown. The Berkshire Visitor's Center has been built and opened.

"That's a lot for eight years," she said.

And there was the major disappointment of another failed attempt to develop the Greylock Glen.

After enormous hoopla and state assurance that a turn-of-the-century development plan would become reality, acting Gov. Jane Swift pulled state funding from the project.

"Our first Downtown Committee formed in August of 2000," Wilk said. "You have to remember, the Glen was moving at that time. We believed that we would need the linkage to the downtown. We were getting a Greylock Glen project going, until 2001."

Other projects include the development at the former Plunkett Hospital. That property was rehabilitated by real estate developer David Carver.

Mentioning the changes isn't meant to showcase Wilk but is meant to showcase a town that has the ability generate improvement and be emulated, Wilk said.

She noted that since a summertime "Movies Under the Stars" weekly event launched six years ago, other communities have introduced similar movie nights. The Adams outdoor movie night idea was first presented by former town Selectman George Haddad.

Beyond Selectmen Control

Driscoll agreed that things do seem to be moving at a slower pace. Part of the slowdown is caused by economic factors, such as less state funding dollars.

"Things are moving slower," he said during a Sept. 7 evening telephone interview. "Some of it is that funding is slower and it is frustrating, especially when there are things that are beyond our control."

Driscoll said he is hopeful that the group which worked in conjunction with the Finance Committee last year will be able to resume their efforts this year. That group was able to gather and decimate information and also visited various town constituencies, such as senior citizens, to discuss town finances and help people understand the town's financial dynamic, Driscoll said.

He wants Wilk to remain on the Select Board, he said.

"I like her a lot," he said. "I think the five of us [himself, Dean, MacDonald, Wilk, and Selectman Joseph Solomon] can work together."

Keeping a positive momentum is very important to the town, Wilk said.

"There is a lot of work to be done," she said. "I didn't say what I did to garner press but I do want to keep things moving. I love this town. It can't always be all about 'the Board'. You have to pull from resources, from the talented people we have in this town. We have to work together."

"When you pull from your talent, from your community, it does make a better town."

MacDonald and Dean did not return phone calls seeking comment. Solomon was not able to be reached.

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