Election Brings New Dynamic To Pittsfield City Council
After Tuesday’s elections in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, there is a new political landscape on the city council.
The next two years of Pittsfield politics are perhaps no better understood than through the post-election remarks of Ward 4 councilor Chris Connell. Despite his victory over challenger Mike Merriam, an ally of Mayor Linda Tyer, Connell was despondent at the election night party for Melissa Mazzeo – his longtime ally on the council who lost the race to Tyer.
“Kind of a shallow victory in my perspective because I was hoping for Councilor Mazzeo to be elected mayor, and I was also looking for a couple of other candidates to be elected, namely Jay Hamling as councilor at-large,” Connell told WAMC.
About 42% of Pittsfield’s over 28,000 registered voters cast a ballot.
With Mazzeo unable to defend her at-large council seat while running for mayor, her loss was magnified by newcomer Yuki Cohen – another Tyer ally – picking it up.
“I’m happy I was re-elected, but I will miss some of the support going forward,” said the Ward 4 councilor.
Connell and Mazzeo – the council’s most outspoken critics of the Tyer administration – were often joined by Ward 2 councilor Kevin Morandi and Ward 7 councilor Anthony Simonelli in their opposition. Ward 5 councilor Donna Todd Rivers would sometimes join them to block supermajority votes in memorable instances like Tyer’s initial efforts to pass a controversial wastewater plant reconstruction bill in 2018. Simonelli and Rivers didn’t seek re-election.
“We still have a minority, OK, that’s how I see it right now," said Connell. "But my voice will always be heard for the ward and the city. I care about the city and the ward, and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that everything is being run in an efficient manner from the city’s standpoint so it minimizes the tax ramifications to the residents.”
“The voters sent a message pretty loud and clear that they are happy with those that have got re-elected, and in cases I think they have chose wisely in the new councilors that they have elected," said Council President Peter Marchetti. Heading into his nonconsecutive seventh term, he received the most votes of any city council candidate with almost 8,500 as he was re-elected alongside fellow at-large councilors Earl Persip and Pete White.
“We have all or should have all received a message that at the end of the day I think collaboration, compromise, and teamwork is what voters are looking for,” said Marchetti.
“As far as city council goes, I look at it like it’s a job," said Patrick Kavey. The 26-year-old – who will easily be the youngest on the rostrum come January – will replace Rivers in Ward 5, beating Tyer ally Jonathan Lothrop. While he was found at the Mazzeo election night party back in September when she triumphed over Tyer in the preliminary, his ward went to the mayor.
“We’re all professionals, we all need to get along," said Kavey. "It doesn’t matter how anyone feels personally about one another, we’re here to work and we’re here to get things done. So hopefully there’s civility on the council. I think there will be with the group of people we have this time around.”
“You know, I think in the past, there were a lot of different views on the council," said Dina Guiel Lampiasi. "And while that can be a good thing, it’s also really powerful when you’re starting from a place of a common vision for the future.”
Guiel Lampiasi is also a council newcomer, fending off former councilor Joe Nichols to take over John Krol’s seat in Ward 6. Krol did not run for re-election.
“From there you can really have, I think, productive dialogue or difference of opinion when you’re at least having a similar end goal in mind,” she told WAMC.
“We’re also going to be a very, pretty young council,” said Helen Moon.
Ward 1 councilor Moon held off challenger Kenny Warren Jr. In 2018, she took action alongside her fellow class of 2017 councilor Persip to help fresh faces like Cohen, Kavey, and Guiel Lampiasi acclimate to life on the council.
“I’m actually very happy that Earl and I came forward with a petition to have new councilor training, so when new councilors are elected, they are shown kind of the ropes of city hall," she told WAMC. "They’re introduced with all the city heads of departments, so this way, we’re trying to bridge that gap a little bit quicker so that they can jump on board and have those conversation that really are effecting their constituents and working on behalf of their constituents sooner.”
In Ward 2, Morandi ran unchallenged, as did councilor Nick Caccamo in Ward 3. In Ward 7, Anthony Maffuccio – another former councilor – took Simonelli’s vacant seat over J. David Pope.
The new council will be sworn in in January.