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Bernard, Moulton Tops In Preliminary North Adams Mayoral Race

JD Allen
It's now a two-way race for the corner office at North Adams City Hall.

The field of mayoral candidates in North Adams, Massachusetts has been pared from five to two. 

Tom Bernard and current City Councilor Bob Moulton Jr. were the top two vote-getters in the preliminary.

In the sparse turnout – only 18 percent of the city’s registered voters showed up – Bernard garnered 1,045 votes, compared to Moulton’s 431.

Rachel Branch, Robert Martelle and Peter Oleskiewicz will not advance to November’s general election.

City elections in North Adams are non-partisan. Mayors serve two-year terms.

Bernard, a city resident who works as the Director of Special Projects at Smith College in Northampton, was the first to take out nomination papers.

“What’s been validating is the conversations I have had, the platform themes that I have put forward around education, infrastructure, public health, and economic development are the things are what’s on people’s minds,” Bernard says. “A lot of concern about the opioid and heroin issue; it’s making sure that we have a vital, vibrant downtown but that we are also taking care of conditions in the neighborhoods.”

The political newcomer wants to make the city more attractive and affordable for families – and says the school system is a good place to start.

“Securing a strong future for our children,” Bernard says. “I know that, that both of us are starting from a common place which is a deep, a deep love for the city where we were both born and raised, and we both have the same aspiration, which is for the best city that we can have. And we have real differences on what the best way to move forward is, but if you look at the job description of mayor and you look at my qualifications and my experience, you’ll see that they match up very, very nicely.”

“I think I am more connected to the people,” Bob Moulton Jr. says. “I know he’s in – being an academic person with the college and MASS MoCA and those kinds of things. And those are great catalysts, but I really feel that those types of entities in North Adams don’t need North Adams. I mean, they are existing on their own. So I want more public service what we got to do in the city, get the people together, get the downtown together.”

North Adams City Councilor Bob Moulton Jr.’s focus is on regionalizing public safety and education with an eye on long-term economic growth.

“Last time I ran in ’13, it was overwhelmingly crime – not that that is not there. But the biggest thing was the tax issue. People’s taxes have gone up,” Moulton says.

Moulton says property taxes have gone up more than 30 percent in the last decade – and people can’t keep up.

“It’s about not a lot of jobs, or high-paying jobs, here,” Moulton says.

Moulton says he could see jobs expanding in healthcare services in the city of about 13,000.

It has been a time of transition in the healthcare industry in the region. In 2014, North Adams Regional Hospital closed abruptly and its parent company declared bankruptcy. Berkshire Health Systems now operates the building as the north campus of Berkshire Medical Center. Advocates continue to call for a full-service hospital to return to North Adams.

“I know people want beds but when that becomes economically feasible hopefully we will maybe get some long-term beds,” Moulton says.

This is the first mayoral election without an incumbent in 34 years in North Adams.

Outgoing Mayor Richard Alcombright first won office by ousting 25-year incumbent John Barrett in the 2009 election. Alcombright said he won’t seek a fifth term in June.

“It’s now time for North Adams to move into its exciting future with new leadership and new energy,” Alcombright said.

The general election is November 7th.

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