Mayoral Candidate Rudd Has Creative Vision for North Adams

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Mayoral candidate Eric Rudd says he has creative solutions to some of the city's woes. His website

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Well-known artist and developer Eric Rudd says he has the solutions for the city's woes.

"We need to reverse course, a dramatic shift in how we operate," he said last week after taking out nomination papers for mayor. He acknowledged it may be hard to change the direction of government, "but I came to the conclusion it's much easier when you're the captain. ...

"It takes strong leadership to say now we're going to move in this direction ... we need leadership. I tried for many years to do private projects, to influence from the sidelines, to make recommendations. It just hasn't worked."

Rudd believes his experiences as an artist, traveler, author, real estate developer, teacher and nonprofit leader will gel well with the needs of the city. There is process and regulations, he said, but he's sure he can make dramatic changes in the way North Adams operates right out of the gate.

He's already grabbed for his campaign.

"It's not always money, it's creative, intelligent, sometimes dramatic, sometimes innovative ideas that you have to implement," he said. "I just think I see things differently maybe. I have traveled all over the world. I am creative and I know how to free up my mind to think outside of the box."  

As a sculptor, it's not just about being creative, it's also knowing how to actually build your vision, Rudd said.

"You have to match the imagination with the practical knowledge."   

Rudd said he's not ready to roll out his "action plans" just yet. He wants to avoid details turning into sound bites; he also wants any other candidates to put their platforms up for scrutiny as well.

And he wants to make it clear he's not taking sides after three elections that have been seen as clashes between the supporters of Mayor Richard Alcombright, who is running for a fourth term, and former Mayor John Barrett III.

"Have I been critical of Dick? Yeah, but I was critical of John Barrett, too," he said.

Rather, said Rudd, he wants to focus on a positive campaign and offer himself as alternative to a city that's had only two mayors in 32 years.

More information on Rudd's campaign can be found on his website and Facebook pages.

"You go in with fresh ideas but you know, if you're there too long, other people with fresh ideas don't get a chance to step up to the plate."

Rudd first came to the area in 1987 at the invitation of GE Plastics, which gave him engineers and equipment to experiment with plastic sculpturing. He returned the following year, looked around, and decided to move here "lock, stock and barrel."

"I guess what really brought me to North Adams was an empty mill that needed someone," he laughed.

The Beaver Mill would be the first in a line of redevelopment projects that Rudd would tackle. The long-vacant former Sprague Electric mill was turned into artists' lofts, gallery space and the Rudds' home. He also took on the Eclipse Mill, successfully turning it also into artists' lofts after a public effort failed, revamped two empty churches into galleries, renovated the Flat Iron Building into condos and retail and more recently redeveloped property on High Street. Rudd had to take the city to court for it to recognize the nonprofit status of his most recent gallery in the former Methodist Church.

"I think I've done more than anyone else to save historical buildings," he said.

He also has continued to remain active as an artist and volunteer, although one of his best known contributions is the annual Eagle Street Beach Party.
"My joke is if you want a slow pace of life, move to New York City," he said. "Don't move to a small town. You're on one committee or another."

Rudd, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1997, said he'd spent the winter mulling over running for office and his vision for the city.

"I have this image of where I think we should be ... which I think would be mutually agreed upon by everyone," he said.

That's a bustling downtown, efficient services, new business and investment, and addressing social problems.

"We're not doing well. We're not drowning but our feet are in the water," Rudd said. "You can't keep taxing because that's not an answer. You can't keep cutting, because that's not an answer. ...

"The downtown is virtually deserted. We need new residences and new investment to North Adams and that will create jobs. But also there are problems with every aspect of our town, you name it — the police, the Fire Department, the transfer station — and they all have their issues. They're kicking-the-can-down-the-road problems."

Rudd says he has ideas for business development and investment that could make the city more attractive as a place to live and work, which will in turn will create jobs and halt the slide in property values.

The city's lost its hospital, a newspaper, a $300,000 lawsuit and a recent spate of small businesses, he said, and it's also facing the need for significant investment in its infrastructure. Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has been open for 16 years yet the city's still trying to figure out how to get some of its 150,00 visitors to Main Street.

Some of the problems the city faces are being seen nationally, but he thinks those issues are not being addressed forcefully enough on the local level.

"I don't like to call them mistakes but there are better solutions that were never applied," he said.  

Rudd said he'll reach into the city's deep talent pool for ideas but doesn't expect everyone to agree with him.

"You can't please everyone but you need enough positive motion," he said. "If people feel that things are not happening ... well, I feel I can propel those things into motion. ...

"If I get elected I have all the confidence I can accomplish what I set out to do."

Tags: election 2015,   mayor,   

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