Olver Will Retire After Completing Term

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Congressman John Olver marching as grand marshal in the Fall Foliage Parade earlier this month.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass.  — U.S. Rep. John W. Olver abruptly announced he would retire after completing his 10th term in office, citing family issues.

The Amherst Democrat , 75, as recently as June had expressed his determination to run for an 11th term in 2012 to continue representing the sprawling 1st Massachusetts District. However, his statement referred to his family's "substantially changed" circumstances over the past six months.

The congressman's wife, Rose Olver, has been battling ovarian cancer. She is currently on leave from the faculty of Amherst College, where she is a professor of pyschology.

In his statement, the congressman said:

"Since 1991, I have had the privilege and great honor of representing the people of the First District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district has grown much larger from the district as it was in 1991, and these twenty years have been tumultuous years for America.

Last December, I announced that I intended to seek to continue my congressional service beyond 2012.  Over the past six months, circumstances within my family have substantially changed, and I now find I must reconsider my earlier decision.

Therefore, I will retire from the House of Representatives at the conclusion of the current (112th) Congress."

The Western Massachusetts congressional district has grown over the past two decades as the state lost a representative and is poised to lose another in the next Congress. Olver has 107 communities in his district, which stretches from North Adams to Pepperell in the north and circles the greater Springfield region in the south.

The State House's Joint Committee on Redistricting is considering revamping the the congressional districts in a way that could pit some of the congressmen against each other; one scenario according to the Boston Globe has Olver facing off against  Rep. James P. McGovern of Worcester.

The former University of Massachusetts chemistry professor is the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the only member of the delegation on the House Appropriations Committee.

He was first elected to the State House in 1969 from Hampshire County and four years later began an 18-year stint in the state Senate. He won a special election in June 1991 to fill the seat of longtime Congressman Silvio O. Conte, a Pittsfield Republican who died in office. It would make Olver the first Democrat to represent Western Massachusetts since the Spanish-American War.

The outspoken liberal has funneled federal money into his mostly rural district, and advocated for housing, community block grants, bike paths, technology, education and, especially, rail. He was most recently in the Berkshires as the grand marshal of the 56th Fall Foliage Parade, of which he has been a regular marcher, and to celebrate a collaboration of local colleges in Pittsfield and the groundbreaking of an energy-efficiency project for the North Adams Housing Authority.

He won his last election against Republican and tea party-backed candidate Bill Gunn handily but was facing a Democratic challenge from Middle Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who announced in 2008 that he would seek the seat in 2012.

In a statement Thursday, Nuciforo reiterated his committment to be on the 2012 ballot and urged the redistricting committee to maintain two congressmen for the region.

"I agree with the congressman that Western Massachusetts should continue to be represented by two members of Congress, and urge the legislative redistricting committee to draw lines accordingly," wrote Nuciforo.

Statements on Olver's retirement:

"My friend and longtime colleague John Olver is a quiet man who lets his large accomplishments speak for him. He's a public servant of principle who has served Western Massachusetts with great skill and deep passions belied by his unassuming and humble demeanor. All of those qualities are a great credit to this remarkable public servant. He's been a congressional workhorse with the heart of an Amherst activist.

"Last June I was honored to join John in Holyoke to celebrate his accomplishments over two decades in Congress. Today we celebrate him again and the difficult decisions he's made, and we thank his beloved wife, Rose, and their daughter, Martha, for sharing him with the district and with Massachusetts for so many years." — U.S. Sen. John Kerry

"Throughout his career, John Olver has served as a bastion of support for his constituents, friends and family in western Massachusetts. While his leadership in Congress will be missed, I know that his advocacy and passion for public service will continue, and Diane and I wish him the best."  —  Gov. Deval Patrick

"For the past 20 years, John Olver has been what he promised he would be — a workhorse, not a show horse — representing Western Massachusetts in the U.S. House. It was an honor to work on his staff and I was proud to work closely with him as a state senator. I learned much about what it takes to be a good public servant from John Olver, and for that I can't thank him enough.

"We in western Massachusetts will miss having him represent us in Congress. I wish him, Rose and the rest of his family the best. He has given Massachusetts more than 40 years of public service, for which we should be eternally grateful."  — state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield

"John Olver's work on behalf of his constituents and the Commonwealth is immeasurable and will have a lasting impact for decades. In particular his ability to deliver time and again on improving our rail infrastructure has strengthened linkages that will create jobs and improve our environment."    Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray

"John Olver has been a great friend to the people of North Adams and the greater Northern Berkshire community. He always showed up, whether it was coming to our parade, our Community Coalition meetings, other community events or fighting for funding for local projects. Among many other things, he has provided significant and consistent funding for our BerkshireRides program and has championed funding for the bike trail and public housing.

"He defended the rights of American workers who are under fire today.  He was unafraid to take the heat for unpopular political stands, most notably when he resisted the rush to war in 2002. Congressman Olver will be missed by those of us who are so fortunate to know him but also by the many thousands more who benefitted from this kind and thoughtful man's compassion and wisdom." 
  Mayor Dick Alcombright

"I applaud John Olver for his dedicated service in the U.S. Congress. John has always kept the people of Western Massachusetts first and foremost in his policy decisions. I wish Congressman Olver, his wife Rose, and their family much health and happiness. I agree with the congressman that Western Massachusetts should continue to be represented by two members of Congress, and urge the legislative redistricting committee to draw lines accordingly. As I have said in the past, my name will appear on the ballot for U.S. Congress in 2012." 
  Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., Middle Berkshire register of deeds and former state senator.

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