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Pittsfield 2014: New City Council, New President

Three fresh faces and a new president will shape the Pittsfield City Council going forward in 2014.

Two incumbent councilors have stood out as potential replacements for council president Kevin Sherman, who did not seek re-election. Councilor Melissa Mazzeo, the top vote getter  in November’s elections, is entering her third term and says she will accept a nomination if her name is put forward at the swearing-in ceremony on January 6.

“This time around I’m ready,” Mazzeo said. “A couple years ago I wasn’t. I still wanted to take it all in, be part of the debate and really still learn everything that has to do with it. But, this go around, if people want me in that position I’d be ready to take it.”

Council vice-president Jonathan Lothrop says he is also interested in taking the lead role.

“I’ve been on the council for ten years,” Lothrop said. “I certainly think I have a pretty solid grasp of the rules and the history of council. I think I can also provide a neutrality of leadership which I think is really important.”

Mazzeo says she is looking for harmony within the new council as it moves forward with projects like the ongoing downtown parking study. Lothrop says he is optimistic about bringing rail car manufacturing to Pittsfield or to the other proposed sites nearby. He says the biggest sticking point is the hundreds of expected jobs it would create.

“Making sure that we continue to make the investments we need in the public infrastructure,” Lothrop explained. “That’s really critical for the quality of life of the residents. I think that’s the mission in city council. It’s making sure that we’re finding that balance between the costs of investing in our infrastructure and services while maintaining a reasonable tax burden on the citizens.”

Kathleen Amuso fills the at-large vacancy left by Sherman. Amuso says she is also looking to secure rail car manufacturing in the area and hopes to strengthen the relationship between the council and the school committee, where she served as a member for ten years.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on the financial needs of the district and the budget,” Amuso said. “There’s no doubt about it, it’s obviously a significant budget. The needs don’t go down. We’ve changed a lot over the years. When I first started ten years ago, I think the free and reduced lunch rate was around 38 percent. This year it’s 59-point something. Our community has changed.”

Nick Caccamo defeated Richard Latura to fill the Ward 3 seat left vacant by Paul Capitanio. Caccamo says he wants to make sure roads and sidewalks are maintained and properly located, especially around schools with heavy foot traffic. At 27 years old, he says he offers a unique point of view.

“I’m slightly younger than most of the councilors,” Caccamo said. “I have that going for me. I’ve traveled across the country pretty extensively. I’ve seen some things in other cities that I think Pittsfield could emulate that have been attractive and made me say ‘Oh, wow that’s a really cool feature. I wonder if Pittsfield could do it.”

Lisa Tully defeated incumbent Christine Yon for the Ward 1 seat to become the other new council member. After running unopposed, Mayor Dan Bianchi is entering his second term. It will be the final two-year term for a Pittsfield mayor as the voter-approved charter extends the term to four years starting with the 2015 city elections.

“I think we have the folks who realize that our jobs are about public service and not politics,” said Bianchi.

Under the new charter the school committee will take part in the city’s swearing-in ceremony for the first time. Mayor Bianchi, the 11 city councilors and the city clerk will also be sworn in at the January 6 ceremony. It starts at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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