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Leigh Davis, Jamie Minacci and Patrick White were invited to speak Wednesday at the Dalton Democratic Town Committee meeting. The candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for the Third Berkshire District.
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Patrick White is a Stockbridge Select Board member with a background in finance.
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Jamie Minacci is a Stockbridge Select Board member and a special education paraprofessional.
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Leigh Davis is vice chair of the Great Barrington Select Board and works in the nonprofit sector.

State Rep Candidates Speak at Democratic Committee Meeting

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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Committee Chair Michele Marantz introduces the candidates. 
DALTON, Mass. — The three Democratic candidates campaigning so far for the Third Berkshire District spoke at a Dalton Democratic Town Committee meeting on Tuesday. 
Leigh Davis, Jamie Minacci and Patrick White spoke about their experiences, priorities, and their strategy if elected. 
They also answered questions from residents surrounding topics on climate change, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs,) and the cost of living, child care, and college.  
The candidates are seeking to replace William "Smitty" Pignatelli, dean of the Berkshire delegation, who is stepping down after 22 years representing South County and parts of Central Berkshire.
"We have three very intelligent Democratic candidates for state rep right now, and they all succeeded in convincing the group of their commitment to the region and they have very ambitious goals, different strategies, but basically the same goals," committee Chair Michele Marantz said. 
The Berkshire County residents are aware of the beauty of the area and are invested in keeping it that way, she said. "The other thing that I heard tonight, that I hear in conversations, is the issue of affordability and whether or not people's children can actually remain in the area.
"This is an issue that is, I think, throughout many states, but it certainly is a very sensitive one. In Berkshire County people are frustrated about that."
White, serving his second term on the Stockbridge Select Board, highlighted his financial background and the importance of not only obtaining as much funding as possible but also "making money cheaper" and developing alternative sources of revenue. 
"What I want to do is make sure that we don't have this awful choice between people who can't afford their taxes and having the government we need," he said. 
"We need to focus on more grants. We need to have a focus on economic development. And we need to have a focus on alternative sources of revenue. Things like ticket taxes and other ways that we reduce our reliance on property taxes."
White is a graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School and Boston College. He founded a successful graphic design studio and several internet startups, and is now chief financial officer for the nonprofit Berkshire Waldorf High School. He also serves on the Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Commission and the Affordable Housing Trust Committee.
Minacci is also a Stockbridge Select Board member, elected in 2022, and serves on the Conservation Commission and the Berkshire Regional Transportation Advisory Board and as the town's representative to the Stockbridge Bowl Association. She studied at Salve Regina and Central Michigan universities and is a special education paraprofessional in the Lenox Public Schools.
"I work hard. I am an advocate of the Berkshires and for the people in. I'm a special ed teacher. I work with the blind and the deaf and I have to listen, I have to be able to communicate, not only verbally but non-verbally," she said. 
Minacci stressed the importance of providing Berkshire residents with good wages so they can buy homes and groceries, pay their bills, and take care of their families without needing three jobs and struggling.
Although as a commonwealth there are a lot of programs that support residents such as food and fuel assistance, she wants "to give people the dignity to be able to have jobs and raise their families and buy homes."
If elected, one of her priorities will be infrastructure. "We cannot let our small towns go disproportionately into debt because they can't pave their roads and build bridges," she said. 
Davis, vice chair of the Great Barrington Select Board, emphasized the importance of community and making the area affordable so people can support their families. 
She noted her wide range of experiences as a mother of three, business owner, professor, marketing coordinator, among other hats. Growing up, her family instilled the importance of conversation, she said. 
"I grew up in a household being a biracial child. My father was a Republican and my mom was a very liberal progressive …I have this tapestry of experience," Davis said. 
"[While growing up] our dinners were very, very interesting. We had a lot of conversations around balance and listening to other people's perspectives, and really seeing through different lenses, [such as racial and gender lenses.]"
Davis left her tenured professor position in Ireland because of the high cost of living and moved to the Berkshires to raise her family as a single mother. She did the "Berkshire shuffle" to reinvent herself. She struggled so she empathizes with residents who are struggling, Davis said.
She says she has established a network in the State House and connections to top officials. 
Davis is in her second term on the Select Board is chair of its housing subcommittee and is liaison to the W.E.B. Du Bois Legacy Committee. She also serves on the Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force and the Community Preservation Committee. She graduated from Ithaca College and holds a master of arts from Ireland's National University. She has volunteered and worked with a number of nonprofits in the area and is currently communications director for Construct Inc. 
Whoever is elected the Berkshires will be well representative, committee member Steve Marantz said following the meeting. 
"We need a loud voice since we're way out here and no one in Boston pays attention to us. We need someone to jump up and down and let them know we're here and that issue is not insignificant," he said. 
"I think these candidates are well informed about what confronts us. So, I thought it was very educational, very informative, and I'm enthused that we have good people to choose from."
It is important to have people campaign who are passionate and bring their experiences to the table, committee member Valerie Conte-Mesquita said. 
"We have a lot of people that care and that are extremely talented, and thank goodness that they are interested in helping us shape our world and our home."
The state primary is on Sept. 3; the last day to register to vote is Aug. 24. 

Tags: campaign event,   election 2024,   primary,   

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Toy Library Installed at Onota Lake

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Feel free to use or leave a toy at Onota Lake's newest infrastructure meant to foster community and benefit kids.

Burbank Park now has a toy library thanks to Wahconah Regional High School senior Alexandra Bills. Located along the wall at the beach area, the green and blue structure features two shelves with sand toys that can be used to enhance children's visits.

The Parks Commission supported Bills' proposal in February as part of her National Honors Society individual service project and it was installed this month. Measuring about 4 feet wide and 5.8 feet tall, it was built by the student and her father with donated materials from a local lumber company.

Friends and family members provided toys to fill the library such as pails, shovels, Frisbees, and trucks.

"I wanted to create a toy library like the other examples in Berkshire County from the sled library to the book libraries," she told the commission in February.

"But I wanted to make it toys for Onota Lake because a lot of kids forget their toys or some kids can't afford toys."

Bills lives nearby and will check on the library weekly — if not daily — to ensure the operation is running smoothly.  A sign reading "Borrow-Play-Return" asks community members to clean up after themselves after using the toys.

It was built to accommodate children's heights and will be stored during the winter season.

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