PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City Council President Peter Marchetti feels he's brought "professional leadership" to the city and he wants to continue doing so.
Marchetti is again seeking re-election to the council. which will be his ninth campaign for council and 10th for elected office in the last two decades. He's had what he calls a "political rollercoaster" when it campaigns — he's either one of the top voter-getters or he loses — since his first unsuccessful run for council in 1999.
"In 2001 I ran again and was top vote-getter. I kind of had a political roller-coaster career. In 2003, I lost. In 2005, I was 100 votes from the top and in 2007 and 2009, I was top vote-getter again. I ran for mayor in 2011, that story speaks for itself. I came back to the council in 2015," Marchetti said.
He was top vote-getter in the last two elections and accepted a role as the council president. He feels his knowledge of the rules, ability to work with everybody, and level-headed approach helps bring stability to the government.
"I think trying to provide a certain amount of stability and professional leadership is just as important as entering the debates," Marchetti said. "We know we have factions within the council and I would rather try to be the person who plays peacemaker than the person who has to enter their opinion on every issue."
Marchetti is a Pittsfield native who brings a financial mind to the council. While other candidates may have experience with budgets and management, Marchetti is the only one currently working in finance. He is the senior vice president of retail banking and operations at the Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, a company that he's been working with since college.
"I worked my way up 31 years ago as a teller to where I am today," Marchetti said.
After high school, he went to Berkshire Community College for a year but he didn't really like college and the path he was on. He wanted to do something different. He took a job in 1988 with Pittsfield Co-op as a teller. Eventually, the company urged him to go back to school and he worked part time during his studies at what was then North Adams State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in math. The company showed loyalty to him while he earned his degree so he returned it by going back to the full time right after graduation.
"I'm a numbers guy and there is a lot of math in banking. Plus, there is a lot of customer service. Between the people interaction and numbers, it is a perfect fit," Marchetti said.
Over the years, he took on numerous jobs in various aspects of banking, moving up to the point he is at now. And at this point, "after 31 years, I'm not starting over," he said.
As he was continuing up the bank's promotional ladder, Marchetti's political career began when he was 31 years old. He ran for council but lost.
"I wanted to make a difference and the only way you can make a difference is get involved. If you want to sit back and play Monday morning quarterback or complain about everything but not willing to step forward and do any work, then you get what you deserve. I wanted to be an active participant," Marchetti said.
He was elected in 2001 and his financial background was immediately put to work. The city was facing tough economic times. Marchetti said a particular contribution he made was the formation of an "audit committee" that set the stage for the council to serve with greater oversight on the city's financial management.
"The city was in a financial hardship. We had gone through a troubling time and everyone was saying I didn't know about this or I didn't know about that and everyone was pushing blame," Marchetti said. "I kept calling for an audit committee, which really eventually got rolled into the Finance Committee. The city is set up with an executive branch and a legislative branch and our job is to be a check and balance and the biggest issue is the budget and the financial aspects."
Now councilors get monthly reports on the financial situation of the city and the Finance Committee meets quarterly to discuss it. He believes that's really helped the council when it comes to budgeting because councilors, and the public, are more aware of things such as police and fire overtime or snow and ice removal, which are traditionally unpredictable.
"It is good to keep an eye on them and as you get closer to the end of the year you have a better handle on where you are in the bigger picture," Marchetti said.
When former Mayor James Ruberto announced he would not seek re-election, Marchetti wanted to maintain the progress that had started. He ran for mayor. Marchetti boasts that he isn't part of the political factions that exist and he had campaigned in a manner that was eyed to break down that division.
"I wanted to be the person to bring all of that together. We ran on 'one Pittsfield,'" Marchetti said.
Looking back, he thinks his desire for that independence had particularly been detrimental. He wondered if things would have been different if he accepted help from people like Ruberto himself or others.
"I made mistakes along the way. Instead of accepting help from people, I tried to be much more independent," Marchetti said.
Off the defeat, Marchetti still wanted to help the city. He focused more on his work with the Morningside Initiative. He focused on coaching youth bowling. He continued on the board organizing the Fourth of July Parade. He serves on the board at Pittsfield Community Television.
Former Mayor Daniel Bianchi then appointed him to serve on the Charter Review Commission. Marchetti was vice-chair of the massive, 18-month long undertaking to completely re-write the charter.
"I felt it was better to continue that work and improve city government in that way. I felt after almost a decade of elected service, when you were talking about the nitty-gritty and how the charter should work, a lot of the things I thought could be changed. I then had an opportunity to make Pittsfield a better place by not necessarily being the person representing the city but changing the dynamics of where the city was going," Marchetti said.
Two particular things that came out of that, Marchetti cited, is the five-year capital plan and an annual meeting on the financial condition of the city. Those are two requirements of the mayor as written in the charter.
"We put in a specific process for the budget where the mayor has to have a state of the city financial address. It has to happen so many days before the budget comes out. There is an opportunity to have that conversation about where we are," Marchetti said.
He said the requirement of a five-year capital plan has led to a new consideration as to what exactly is considered a capital project that requires taking on debt for versus what is annual maintenance. He also said the plan not only identifies projects years but also starts the process of identifying funding sources — setting a "roadmap" for the future.
Marchetti is also glad that the city has adopted a five-year forecasting model that will help show impacts of various financial decisions down the line. While financial plans can change, he feels it is good to have that longer view on decisions being made.
"We are in a delicate spot. We are better than we were a couple of years ago. Nobody wants to be upside down with the levy ceiling but I think we made some solid moves to put Pittsfield back in a solid place," Marchetti said. "We now have a five-year forecasting model. It is hard to predict five years from now, but at least you have a plan."
He did not run in 2013 because professionally, he had just gotten a promotion and some people we asking him to run for mayor again. Running for office wasn't right for him at the time. But by 2015, he had missed it so much that he wanted to return and won.
"I think I have a fair and balanced approach to the way I do things and us as a city, and as a nation, always want to say you are on this site and you are on that side. There are always factions in the political world. Sure you align with a side or philosophy but I try not to allow that if I disagree with you on an issue that means I don't like you. We can agree to disagree, vote the way we need to vote, and that the votes we take and the issues we talk about don't get personal," Marchetti said.
Now, he is seeing crime as a top issue for the city to tackle. He said crime has had its ups and downs during his 20 years in government and this is one of those ups.
"The issues that are causing the crime, we know what they are. We know it is the opioid crisis. We know that it is poverty. We know that it is mental health. How can we work in a greater picture with other communities and our state delegation to solve those problems to curb the amount of crime that is taking place?" Marchetti said.
Marchetti agrees that hiring more officers does help in some way but he also sees the need for state and national changes. Those often start with town and city governments taking the lead and pressing state and federal officials. And being a leader in the city, Marchetti feels he's able to work with those officials to bring resources to Pittsfield and have those conversations.
"They are not Pittsfield problems per se, they are state and national problems. I don't think we can sit back and wait for somebody to solve the problem, we need to be part of the solution too even though we play a more minor, supportive role," Marchetti said.
With crime, he wants a focus on addressing opioids by increasing the treatment options available. He recalled how a constituent called him and wanted help but the resources were too limited here. While those changes can't be done via a petition to the City Council, councilors can work with state and federal officials to do so.
"If they are not provided the proper treatment, we know the cycle. You commit the crime. You do the time. You commit the crime. You do the time. We've got to break that cycle and get people to not spin on that wheel," Marchetti said.
On the city level, he believes trash collection will continue to be an issue — even though most people won't like the changes.
"We know that the costs are escalating. We know we need to find ways to change behaviors. You are not going to make anybody happy changing the way we do things but if you look throughout the Berkshires and you say how many other communities have curbside pickup and then add the word unlimited, the answer is none. So what can we do to improve that so it costs less and doesn't allow for trash to be dumped in our parks and corners," Marchetti said.
He wants to bolster the neighborhood initiatives as well, looking to expand them to include more people and more areas of the city. Meanwhile, he said there are a lot of little things that are done for residents every day such as road paving that often goes unnoticed.
"I think we sometimes want to focus on the negatives and focus on the pickleball argument, that makes the big news, but I think we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture," Marchetti said.
He cited renovations of parks that have taken place recently such as Clapp Park done with state and private donations as benefits to the city. He also cited the wastewater treatment plant as something the council got done despite the sticker shock and lengthy debates.
"I sat in the room with the EPA when they were here. There wasn't a lot of wiggle room. We've been kicking the can down the road for a long time. Everyone is complaining about the price tag but if we had sat down and solved that issue 10 years ago, would it have cost $50 million or would it have cost $25 million?" Marchetti said. "I think there have been a lot of things happening over the years."
A continuous look at the bigger picture is what Marchetti hopes to continue. He believes much of what has is done to benefit the people on an annual basis is partly due to his leadership on the council and collaboration and compromise with other elected officials.