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Pittsfield, North Adams Voters To Decide Mayors In Tuesday’s Election

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After months of campaigning, debating, and rallies, the Pittsfield mayoral election is down to its final hours.

At-Large City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo has made Mayor Linda Tyer’s efforts to secure a second four-year term – the second such term in city history – strenuous.

“I’m a member of Zonta international, I’m the president of the Gladys Ellen Brigham Center and the board of directors for Girls Inc.," said Mazzeo. "I support our veterans and our seniors in our community with anything I can do. I’ve been a councilor for 10 years in the city of Pittsfield, as your councilor, and having said all that, it leads me to that I am very frustrated after being on the council for so long with our lack of leadership, and let me say very clearly – if elected, I will be a four-year mayor.”

Mazzeo has based much of her campaign on the assertion that Tyer has ineffectively handled the city’s rising crime rate, and has done too little too late with her time in office.

“As your mayor, I will take action to make certain that every time your tax dollars are being spent, they are being spent thoughtfully and wisely, and not just because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” she said in September.

Mazzeo topped Tyer in September’s preliminary election by around 300 votes, and also won the support of the two candidates who were eliminated in the vote – former cop Karen Kalinowsky and businessman Scott Graves, owner of the Rusty Anchor Marina.

“Well, I just believe that she has my beliefs," said Graves. “[I] want to take care of crime and help strengthen the city and make it grow moving forward and really focus on business and getting more businesses here and existing ones to expand.”

“Even at the beginning, I knew that me and Melissa had some of the same things when it came to schools – the accountability of the administration," said Kalinowsky. “The city streets, as she knows from 10 years on the council, the problems that we’ve had. And with the crime in the area. So I believe that working together, hopefully, we can get those things taken care of in the city.”

Meanwhile, Tyer can point to the support of the city’s firefighters, whose union made a rare endorsement in October. Robert Leary is president of local 2647 of the International Association of Firefighters.

“Her efforts and honest approach to advancing the opportunities and services in the city of Pittsfield are commendable," said Leary. "We can attest to her administration’s openness to listening to our concerns, considering our observation of the community’s needs, as well as the needs within the department and public safety.”

She’s also been backed by the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, and won the support of Democratic State Senator Adam Hinds, who endorsed Tyer on Facebook just days before the election. He described her as “a force to work with,” and said that she “has proven to me she is moving the city in the right direction.” He obliquely referred to the tenor of the campaign at large, writing “It is not a time for wedge issue politics that divide us as community members. Too often this type of division succeeds because it plays on fear and nostalgia for a previous time. Instead, in these moments we should ask how we can move towards each other to confront our challenges together.”

“I have been honored to represent the people of Pittsfield in various capacities over the course of my professional life, and the common theme throughout my tenure has been an attitude of ‘how can we,’” said the incumbent. Tyer served as the city clerk before running for mayor in 2015.

“How can we accomplish more, do more, be better?" asked Tyer. "How do we build bridges and create alliances? How do we encourage more people to participate in government? How can we energize the economy? We’ve done that. We’ve created new jobs, we’ve invested in the Police Department, we’ve advocated for our schools, and we’ve been securing grants to the tune of $17 million so we can do more in our city without putting pressure on our tax payers. I am a solution oriented, hardworking, and I am tenacious in fighting for every citizen.”

Poll are open tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Also Tuesday is the race for mayor in North Adams, Massachusetts. Tom Bernard is looking for a second two-year term.

“Put very simply, I’m not done yet," said the mayor. "It’s been a good start and I w ant to carry through on the progress that we’ve seen.”

Bernard touts the appointment of Police Chief Jason Wood as among the most significant decisions of his first term, and says he’s looking into the city’s future.

“One of the things is planning for change, really looking at how do we ensure long term sustainability for the city," said Bernard. "Things such as the move for the school department into city hall, which both is an efficiency for the city and school in terms of saving money but also for the potential for shared services down the road.”

His opponent is activist Rachel Branch, who frames her bid as standing up to systemic discrimination.

“Part of it is hoping other women would run for office and hoping to break up patriarchal systems and women that support it," Branch told WAMC. "The fact, that is a little unusual, that only one other woman has run for mayor in 1983 since 1895. I believe in women’s equality, equal opportunity employment. We do not have women, the numbers we should have. What are we, 52% of the population? We don’t have them in our city, state, and federal offices.”

Polls in North Adams are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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