North Adams Swears in New Council, Mayor Bernard
"Indeed, that's the only promise I make to you today: I WILL make mistakes, but I will never fail for lack of trying," the 26th mayor of the city of North Adams promised as he took possession of a corner office held by only two other mayors over the last 34 years. "We will face challenges and celebrate achievements together, animated by our belief in the awesome responsibility of service and by our love for and belief in the potential of our bright, busy, bustling, dashing North Adams."
Bernard gave an address that looked back to the traditions and history of the city, and the mayors who have preceded him.
"Their actions and decisions shaped the city we live in and lead now, and we have the chance to take the best from their examples while adapting ourselves to the conditions, resources, tools, and opportunities available to us," he said in his brief remarks, adding that it will be up to his administration and the new council "to listen and lead in equal measure and to act according to the most sincere dictates of our consciences and wisdom to shape a strong, prosperous future for our city."
Bernard and the newly elected City Council took their oaths of office at the well-attended ceremony in City Council Chambers on a frigid New Year's Day. Councilor Keith Bona, returning for his fifth consecutive two-year term, was elected as council president for the coming year and Councilor Benjamin Lamb as vice president.
Bona noted that he now has the longest tenure of those on the council and will have served under three mayors. Still, he told his colleagues, "your vote, your voice, your representation to the city is no less important compared to mine own or the councilor next to you. We are equals and each of our votes counts as one."
How each councilor votes can depend on representing constituents, a majority consensus or from the heart, he said. "There are times when you will feel each of those are appropriate and rarely will your vote make everyone satisfied."
The biggest misconception in the community comes over voting on the city budget, which means raising taxes, Bona said, directing his remarks to both to the four new councilors and the viewing audience. The council isn't a rubber stamp, he said, but rather has to make difficult decisions that will mean cuts to jobs, finances and services.
"When you sit in this seat, you see all the facts and numbers that have been provided by the administration along with understanding who our vote will touch, pro or con. ... It's anything but easy," he said.
Bernard also touched on the responsibilities of the elected officials gathered in the chamber.
"Public service is a public trust," he said to the councilors. "Our responsibility is to listen and lead in equal measure and to act according to the most sincere dictates of our consciences and wisdom to shape a strong, prosperous future for our city."
The new mayor outlined no specific actions in his address, having discussed his goals on efficiencies, investment and sustainability during his campaign, but rather evoked a continuity of the city's bustling past to a brighter future.
He read from the 1885 Gazetteer of Berkshire County that "North Adams is, I verily believe, the smartest village in the smartest
nation in all creation; the concentrated essential oil of Yankeedom. As you pass through its streets, you see evidence of this great truth everywhere; in the shops, in the manufactories, in the hotels: and, if these do not convince you, there will be no room for doubt when you come to the Hoosac Tunnel."
Much of that is still true today, the mayor said, pointing to the economic potential in the new Greylock Works, Tourists, the Norad Mill, B&B Manufacturing and Lever.
"Lifelong residents and recent arrivals are working in common purpose — investing and building equity in our community," he said. "Our job is to nurture these investments and the financial equity and social capital being generated in our city."
His inauguration was attended by both his immediate predecessors, Richard Alcombright and state Rep. John Barrett III. Also attending were current and past Presidents of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts James Birge and Mary Grant; state Sen. Adam Hinds; Michael Knapik, director of Gov. Charlie Baker's Western Massachusetts office; Matthew Russett from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's district office in Pittsfield; Pittsfield City Councilor Peter White; former City Councilors Lisa Blackmer, David Bond and Marie Harpin; Daniel Bosley, former state representative, and numerous department heads, friends and family. He also noted the absence of the late state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, who had served on the council for more than 20 years.
Also taking oaths on the council were returning Councilors Eric Buddington, Joshua Moran and Wayne Wilkinson and newcomers Rebbecca Cohen, Marie T. Harpin, Paul Hopkins and Jason LaForest. Harpin and Hopkins pulled the names and numbers for seat assignments and the council postponed the reading of the rules of order for the coming session until the next meeting in January.
Cohen and LaForest were selected to receive the new mayor, who was greeted in chambers by a standing ovation. The two new councilors are ready to work with Bernard to move the city forward, they said.
"It's very exciting to be a member of this energetic new council," LaForest said. "I think we're going to accomplish great things as a council and with the leadership of Tom Bernard as mayor ... North Adams has a lot of promise ahead."
"It feels amazing," Cohen said. "It feels exhilarating. I feel positive. I think North Adams is heading in the right direction."
"It's been fun, even since after election day, people are not shy about telling me what they think and I expect that only to continue," he said, adding he'd "resurrected his landline" with an answering. machine. "I'm really looking forward to it. As I said during the campaign, I've not been this optimistic about North Adams in a lot of years."
Hopkins thought it was a combination of factors coming together at this point that's making the city more attractive to younger people.
The name Harpin isn't new to the council but the person is. Marie T. Harpin said she is ready to serve the people, and hopefully fill the shoes of her mother, Marie Harpin. The elder Harpin served 16 years before deciding not to run again in 2013.
"It gave me a little full circle because my mom has been trying to talk me into this for quite some time," Harpin said. "So I took the plunge and I'm ready to serve the community."
School Committee members Ian D. Bergeron, Heather Putnam Boulger and James C. Holmes were also sworn in. Re-elected McCann School Committee members Paul Gigliotti and Gary Rivers did not attend and will be sworn in at a later time.
Bernard set what could be a precedent in the handing off from one administration to another by presenting "citizen" Richard Alcombright with a plaque and proclamation commending him for his many contributions to the city during his lifetime, including serving with "dedication and distinction, humility and humor, candor and clarity for four terms."
He got both laughter and light applause as he declared, "now therefore I, Thomas W. Bernard, mayor of the city of North Adams, present this proclamation ... ," signaling that a new leader has taken over.
Mayor Thomas W. Bernard's inaugural address:
Good morning and Happy New Year. As we welcome 2018, we do so prepared to continue the traditions of public service and leadership that have for so many years been hallmarks of city government in North Adams. We do so with gratitude and humility, mindful of our rich heritage of creativity and innovation, and inspired by the new energy and new ideas that will build on that proud legacy.
As we celebrate a new beginning for our city and chart a course toward a prosperous future I am honored to be joined in chambers this morning by many dedicated leaders who have given so much service to our community.
First to my predecessor, Dick Alcombright. Thank you for eight years of committed leadership as mayor as well as for your decades of service to our community in so many ways.
Welcome and thank you to our former mayor and current state Rep. John Barrett III. As mayor, John guided North Adams during more than a quarter-century of change and reinvention. I know this legacy will continue in his new role.
Welcome also to former state representative Daniel Bosley who has been a champion for North Adams and the Northern Berkshires from Main Street to the State House to our nation's Capitol, and beyond.
I also want to acknowledge the memory and legacy of our late state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, who also gave many years of dedicated service as a city councilor in this very chamber.
Welcome also to the other elected officials and community leaders who are with us this morning, including:
- Michael Knapik, Director of Governor Baker's Western Massachusetts Office
- State Sen, Adam Hinds
- Matthew Russett from Congressman Richard Neal's district office in Pittsfield
- Superintendent Barbara Malkas from the North Adams Public Schools;
- Former North Adams City Councilors Lisa Blackmer and Marie Harpin;
- Pittsfield city councilor Pete White;
- Dr. James Birge, president of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
- Former MCLA president and the new director of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate Mary Grant. Dr. Grant's mentorship and friendship were the cornerstones of my growth as an administrator and leader, professional development that made it possible for me to stand here today.
I am honored to have these colleagues and partners here as we mark a new beginning in the business of local governance.
I also want to acknowledge and express my gratitude to two of the remarkable spiritual leaders in our community: Rabbi Rachel Barenblat — who was instrumental in bringing me back to North Adams — and Father William Cyr — who as pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish offers comfort, guidance and inspiration to his congregation, as well as to me personally. Thank you both for your presence and your words this morning.
Congratulations to our newest school committee members for the North Adams public schools as well as to the returning members of the McCann School Committee. I look forward to working with you on the most important work a community does — engaging the talents and nurturing the potential of our young people. You are leaders in education. Along with our teachers, paraprofessionals, coaches, school administrators and staff you are charged with meeting standards of achievement and ensuring continuous improvement in our students and our schools. Know that you do not do this vital work alone. We all have the opportunity and the obligation to serve the cause of education in our community by conveying knowledge and information, teaching critical skills, modeling the values of citizenship and critical inquiry, and instilling a hunger for learning and discovery in each student.
To the returning members of the City Council, and especially to your newest colleagues, my heartfelt congratulations. I am confident you will exercise the responsibilities inherent in the oaths we took this morning with dignity, sincerity, mutual respect, and a deliberative spirit. Public service is a public trust. Our responsibility is to listen and lead in equal measure. Our task is to act according to the most sincere dictates of our consciences and wisdom to shape a strong, prosperous future for our city.
Congratulations especially to Council President Bona and Vice President Lamb, for taking on the particular responsibilities of administrative leadership of this body. I look forward to working with you to bring forward important work on behalf of our constituents.
Finally, thank you to everyone who works in city government — to those in City Hall, to our first responders in public safety and to our public services staff. You are on the front lines of serving this community, especially on a cold morning like this one. As I join you in this work I do so committed to ensuring that we are responsive to and inclusive of the needs of everyone whose lives we touch. We'll double down on the things we do well. We'll work together to improve ineffective and outmoded practices. And we'll never be satisfied with the idea that good enough is good enough when it comes to serving the people of North Adams.
As those of us who hold elected office swore our oaths today, we did so as the inheritors of a tradition of service passed down from previous school committees, councils — and in my case from the 25 mayors who preceded me. Their actions and decisions shaped the city we live in and lead now. We have the responsibility to take the best from their examples while adapting ourselves to the conditions, resources, tools, and opportunities available to us.
Beyond the connection to our history and our predecessors in governance, none of us who serve this community arrived in this place alone. We are here because of the family, friends, neighbors, supporters and volunteers who believed in us. They placed their trust in us. They shared their hopes and concerns with us. They were willing to work as hard — if not harder — on our behalf than we were for ourselves. They pitched in and asked what they could do to help, and they showed us kindnesses large and small. These acts of generosity continue to humble us and inspire us to be better than we otherwise would be on our own.
For me, that support, and that motivating energy, comes first and foremost from my family. I'm especially grateful to my parents, Jane and Tom Bernard; my sister, Kate; and most of all to my wife Jen and our daughter Alex for sustaining and believing in me. Thank you.
As I stand here this morning, I am reminded of the rich history and resiliency of our city, and of a community that has weathered many challenges but that remains proud and strong. In preparing my remarks this morning, I looked to that history, and found this passage in the Gazetteer of Berkshire County, Mass., 1725-1885:
I quote: But I think bright, busy, bustling, dashing North Adams, with its lively streets and peculiar surroundings, will show off well in this cool, clear atmosphere. To my mind, the most notable thing in this fine old town, or its bright village, is the people...North Adams is, I verily believe, the smartest village in the smartest nation in all creation; the concentrated essential oil of Yankeedom. As you pass through its streets, you see evidence of this great truth everywhere; in the shops, in the manufactories, in the hotels: and, if these do not convince you, there will be no room for doubt when you come to the Hoosac Tunnel."
With just a few small substitutions, this passage applies just as powerfully to the North Adams of 2018 as it did to our city in 1885. Our strength is indeed in our people, whether they count their North Adams tenure in generations, months, or mere days. And while we have work to do in the arena of economic development outreach and advocacy — particularly throughout our downtown — signs of progress and entrepreneurial vision are everywhere. From Greylock Works and the Tourists hotel to the Narad mill, B&B Micro Manufacturing, and the Lever incubator, lifelong residents and recent arrivals are working in common purpose - investing and building equity in our community.
Our job is to nurture these investments and the financial equity and social capital being generated in our city — from our neighborhoods and schools to our public services and city government to our anchor institutions. Indeed, we all can agree that there is no room for doubt that North Adams is "the place" when you come to the massive edifice of Mass MoCA and see our tradition of innovation and creativity on full display at a scale as ambitious and audacious in our time as the Hoosac Tunnel was in the 19th century.
And so I look with excitement toward the work of my administration, and toward the future that we will shape together. In his recent book "87 Marshall Street," John Sprague recounts the rich and complicated history of the site that over the past two centuries has played host to various industries including Arnold Print Works, Sprague Electric and its current occupant, Mass MoCA. In the book's final chapter Mr. Sprague writes about economic development. He writes about harnessing the opportunities that arts, education, and tourism provide while also aggressively pursuing necessary opportunities to diversify and grow our economy. He concludes with the prescription that will unite our potential and our aspirations: leadership.
And his formulation of leadership resonates with me as I assume the duties of this office, just as I imagine it resonates with my fellow officials who were sworn in today, as well as with all who work in service to our city and its residents. Mr. Sprague writes "Leaders are
human and fallible and can and will make mistakes but will never fail for lack of trying."
Indeed, that's the only promise I make to you today: I WILL make mistakes, but I will never fail for lack of trying. I will listen attentively to your concerns and suggestions, and I will make difficult decisions. We will learn and we will grow together. We will deliberate and we will disagree. We will face challenges and celebrate achievements together. We will do all these things animated by our belief in the awesome responsibility of service and by our love for, and our belief in, the potential of our bright, busy, bustling, dashing North Adams.
Tags: bernard, inauguration, North Adams City Council, swearing in,
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