Letter: Williamstown Racial Justice & Police Reform Supports Bernard for Interim Town Manager
To the Editor:
Despite the enormous racial justice and police reform challenges facing Williamstown, the town has been operating with less than a full-time town manager for over seven months. We call on the Select Board to choose North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard as interim town manager.
We believe that Mayor Bernard is the unicorn that Select Board member Jane Patton hoped for when she asked for administrative and racial justice experience in a candidate. Mayor Bernard has hired a police chief, one of the key tasks for the next town manager. Furthermore, Mayor Bernard said "North Adams also has been part of an overdue national reckoning with the legacy of racism and white supremacy," in his State of the City address.
Although he has not shown tangible results in the 17 months since the murder of George Floyd, he has listened closely and avoided many of the pitfalls that neighboring cities and towns, including our own, have experienced.
We commit to the work of structural change necessary to ensure that this town's future includes safety, dignity, and collective responsibility for each other. We believe Mayor Bernard will uphold Articles 36 & 37 in ways that center those who are and have been marginalized in our community. We know that Williamstown is not exceptional in its exposure to white supremacy and structural racism.
We firmly believe that the insistence of transparency and accountability from those in leadership positions is a positive development that shows respect for every resident and visitor, regardless of their life experience. The recent accusations by Mayor Bernard against Representative Barrett should not impact this decision. If we allow it to adversely impact the decision we are doing exactly what Mayor Bernard was trying to guard against by making the accusations public. Mayor Bernard is not being accused of any wrongdoing in regard to the Mohawk Theater and he should not be treated as if he did something wrong.
We hope residents and leaders will closely examine the vestiges of our town policies and Charter to imagine creative improvements together and open Williamstown and its many gifts to others for decades to come. Mayor Bernard has a personal and multigenerational connection to Williams College that will let him hit the ground running on some of these bigger issues facing the town.
It is for these reasons that we enthusiastically support the candidacy of Mayor Tom Bernard for the interim town manager of Williamstown.
Huff Templeton, Bilal Ansari, Hugh Guilderson, Arlene Kirsch, and Janice Loux, representing Williamstown Racial Justice & Police Reform