Alcombright Wins Third Term; Younger Council Elected
|Mayor Richard Alcombright won a third term for mayor on Tuesday night.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright decisively won a third term on Tuesday night, calling for unity and saying it was "time to move this forward."
Alcombright polled 2,149 votes to challenger Robert M. Moulton Jr.'s 1,479, winning about 60 percent of ballots cast.
This election, even more than Alcombright's 2009 victory, was a changing of the old guard.
Along with returning the mayor to office, voters also swept a new, far younger slate of councilors into City Hall by large margins.
Kate Hanley Merrigan, 34, led the pack with 2,517 votes. The four incumbents running were also returned — Keith Bona, Lisa Blackmer, Nancy Bullett and Jennifer Breen. Newcomers elected were Josh Moran, Benjamin Lamb, Wayne Wilkinson and Eric Buddington.
"I'm both proud and humbled to be elected to this third term," said Alcombright to cheering supporters, many clad in green, at Mediterra.
"Well, you always hope to win, we didn't win. We got the message out there. It doesn't resonate I guess with the voters. But we believed in it we were passionate about it," said Moulton, at a quieter gathering at the American Legion. "Dick's an awful nice fellow and we lost and he won and people get what they vote for and that's the American way and I can live with that."
Alcombright said he'd spoken with his longtime friend and hoped to get together with him in the coming months to see if they hash out some of their differences. He thank the former city councilor for running a great race, along with every candidate who had put themselves out for a chance to serve their city.
"It takes great courage to put yourself and your family into the public arena these days," he said.
Left out of the running for council were David Robbins, Robert Cardimino and Michael Hernandez. Returned to office were School Committee incumbents Heather Boulger, John Hockridge and Mark Moulton and McCann School Committee incumbents Paul A. Gigliotti and Gary F. Rivers.
But he wasn't holding back on who he thought his real opponent was: The last three elections have been "literally about John Barrett," whom he ousted from the corner office in 2009 and who has supported the last two mayoral challengers, Moulton very publicly.
"I have run each time against John Barrett and I have now beat him three times," he said to applause. "I'm hoping that three is the charm."
He called for an end to negativity and challenged residents "to pull the rope in the same direction, those of us in green, those of us red, and yes, those of us that are still in blue."
It was time to stop petty politics that slow things down, said Alcombright, saying that the city needed to grow to solve its financial situation.
"We've got to stop this, we've just got to stop this," he said afterward. "We have a community that wants to move forward. We've got a new young energetic council.
"It's time ... it's my time and it's our time to move this city forward."
"I think there are going to be some exciting projects and we don't have to worry about someone trying to knock it down," said Bona, who added that he thought running on negativity doesn't win elections — or aligning with city's longtime former mayor.
One of those new councilors, Moran, said he's looking forward to "positive discussions with people who don't necessarily agree" but who can work together to compromise.
"They might have their own avenue how to address an issue," he said, adding it was time to overcome the city's negativity. "It's going to be really fun to hear people say we want to go after that. ... That is our city and this is how we're going to do it."
Buddington, who squeaked into ninth place by 11 votes (unofficially) on this third council try, said he was thrilled to have a chance to represent citizens. "It's so gratifying to live in a city where everyone is pleasant and civil ... with some exceptions."
"I think mostly people are seeing the growth, I think they're seeing the unemployment rate coming down, I think they're seeing the good things we're doing," he gave as reasons for his re-election."
But, he said, it wasn't about him but about everyone who'd been working with him. It was about unity, said Alcombright.
There was agreement among those celebrating at his victory party.
"I think bottom line though, it all comes down to having a council that's strong and visionary, and there are a lot of visionaries on this new council," said resident Kurt Kolok.
Turnout continued to be steady all day, with more than 30 percent of voters heading to the polls. At St. Elizabeth's Parish Center, some 42 percent of the voters in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5 had cast ballots by 5:30.
Both mayoral candidates said they felt good about the voters they'd seen and spoken to at the polls.
"It's been a great day, I think voter turnout has been pretty good," said the incumbent, Richard Alcombright. "I fell pretty comfortable right now, seeing folks who are voting. I seem to be getting a good reaction."
The challenger, Robert M. Moulton Jr., on the other side of the driveway, also was feeling a good response.
"We've talked to hundreds of people, people have been good, it's been a great community thing," he said. "It's very heartening to see the community come together like this no matter who wins."
Both said at this point, it was up the voters.
Michael Hernandez and Eric Buddington were hoping the voters will swing their way this time around. Both have been up for City Council seats before and need to get into the top nine vote-getters of the dozen running.
"I feel great, I feel good I'm optimistic I'll win a seat," said Hernandez, who noted the large and steady turnout. "It's been larger than I would have thought."
Buddington, who spent much of the day at the polls with his young son, Solomon, said he didn't like to guess.
"But it's sure been a nice day out, warm and not too breezy," he said, and referred to a collegial atmosphere among the candidates and supporters. "This section has been very warm and welcoming to everybody. There's been no strife in this part ... we've been very well behaved."
Fellow council candidate Cardimino had reportedly continued to clash with police over his attempts to make contact with voters.
|Candidates and supporters line the sidewalk around St. Elizabeth's Parish Center.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Voter turnout is described as "steady" at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center early this afternoon.
Candidates and supporters lined the street in front the polling location for Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5 in the chilled air, waving at drivers.
Election worker Ron O'Brien pegged the turnout so far at about 10 to 12 percent, or a little over that.
"It's been steady but not a big crowd," he said. "There have been no lines except when we opened."
The expectation is for 30 to 40 percent of the city's more than 8,000 registered voters to cast ballots. O'Brien pointed to a mayoral race with candidates of very opposing views as well as the slate of very new candidates running for City Council as good reasons for a larger turnout.
Last election saw a turnout of 42 percent; polls are open to 7 p.m.
Some of the candidates outside said they'd been getting good responses from voters.
"A lot of people have shaken my hand," said City Council candidate Robert Cardimino, who was frustrated when officers told him he could no longer reach over a low wall to shake hands with voters. "I can't shake hands with you ... the police told me I can't, " he said as a voter reached across to him.
Cardimino said he called Police Director Michael Cozzaglio to find out why shaking hands was a problem.
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North Adams to Elect Mayor, Councilors on Tuesday
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There will be a change in government in the city by Tuesday night, and how different it will be depends on which chief executive voters chose.
Polls will be open Tuesday from 9 to 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center (Wards 1, 2, 3 & 5) and Greylock School (Ward 4.)
It's a duel for the corner office between longtime friends Richard Alcombright, the incumbent, and Robert M. Moulton Jr., the challenger.
Alcombright is running for a third term for mayor on the progress he's made over the last four years, and his intention to continue along that course. He has pointed to a growing Main Street, the retention and expansion of jobs at Crane & Co., regional partnerships with law enforcement and municipalities, and two landmark initiatives: the Conte School renovation and the privatization plans for Heritage State Park.
Moulton, however, insists that the city hasn't prospered enough and says the incumbent hasn't done enough to combat crime. He is calling for hiring more police and personnel for other city departments, including inspection services, and creating a city-operated charter school, although he has not detailed how those would be funded. He also said he would not support the current deal to privatize the Heritage Park and would instead look for different investors.
No matter who's mayor, one thing is certain: The City Council for 2014-15 will have a very new, likely very younger, face than it has had for years. Links to candidate profiles and forums can be found here.
Five of the dozen candidates are under the age of 35; nine are under the age of 50. The oldest candidate is age 77. Still, differences between the candidates are more a matter of degree than distinction.
Four of the candidates are incumbents, with Keith Bona, 45, having the longest tenure. A local businessman and McCann Technical School graduate, he is running for a third term but spent eight years on the council in the 1990s, making him the veteran with 12 years total.
Incumbent Lisa Blackmer, 49, is seeking a fourth term. She has served as vice president of the council, represents the city on the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and works in accounting and human resources at Wheatleigh.
Incumbents Jennifer Breen, 34, and Nancy Bullett, 58, are each seeking a second term. Both are city natives who operate their own practices: Breen is an attorney and former assistant district attorney and Bullett is a physical therapist.
Past candidates trying again for a spot on the council are Eric Buddington, 40, Michael Hernandez, 42, and Robert Cardimino, 77.
Buddington works in information technology and is a musician and musical instructor, Hernandez is a real estate agent, and Cardimino, a retired GE worker, is a part-time landscaper.
The newcomers include Benjamin Lamb, 28, Joshua Moran, 31, Kate Merrigan, 34, David Robbins, 33, and Wayne Wilkinson, 62.
Lamb is assistant director for student involvement at Williams, Moran is a civil engineer, Merrigan is a program coordinator for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and Robbins is a National Guardsman and property manager. Wilkinson, a commercial assessor, is new to the council but not to City Hall, having been a longtime member of both the Planning Board and Mobile Home Rent Control Board.
The candidates are in general agreement that the city should continue the master planning process, that the Conte School renovation is a done deal and that they support plans to privatize Western Gateway Heritage State Park. The exception is Cardimino, who believes privatization should not be done at the expense of the nonprofits, including the city's history museum, currently in the park.
All agreed that crime is a serious concern and that more attention needed to be paid to preventative action such as community organizations, education and drug use. Breen, Blackmer, Moran, Lamb, Bona and Cardimino agreed that hiring more officers would also be helpful, although there would have to be a plan for how to pay for them.
The top nine vote-getters will be seated on the next City Council.
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Pittsfield Election Set For Tuesday
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Letters: Alcombright Right Man for the Job
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North Adams City Council Candidate Profiles
|Forum 1: Michael Hernandez, Benjamin Lamb, Kate Merrigan and Wayne Wilkinson|
|Forum 2: Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, Nancy Bullett and Robert Cardimino|
|Forum 3: Jennifer Breen, Eric Buddington and Joshua Moran|