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MCLA Student, City Native Josh Vallieres Running For Mayor Of North Adams

A white man with glasses, pierced ears and dark hair wearing a black collared shirt under a beige sweater
Josh Vallieres.

As the North Adams, Massachusetts municipal election gears up, a new candidate has entered the fray. With incumbent Mayor Tom Bernard choosing to not seek a third two-year term, 21-year-old Josh Vallieres intends to run for the corner office. A former Boy Scout, a native of the Northern Berkshire community and a junior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Vallieres tells WAMC that he wants to bring a new perspective to the city government.

VALLIERES: Our biggest priority I would say is infrastructure. The whole fire hydrant crisis was a wakeup call. You know, two fires and the 100 out of service fire hydrants is a danger to public safety. And we can't allow things like that to happen in the future, you know. We need to act ahead of the curve. And I think part of acting ahead of the curb, you know, there's a really important need right now in the city for a grant writer on staff. By having a professional grant writer involved, I think that we can have a better chance of actually acquiring funding from the state and federal government, which can go a long way in terms of providing quality backing for institutional development, you know, our parks and recreations, our infrastructure that still has a long way to repair, and our public safety building that needs renovation and relocation. Having a grant writer can be an enormous benefit for the city.

WAMC: What are your thoughts on the tenure of Mayor Tom Barnard, who will of course not be seeking reelection in this fall's municipal election?

I think Tom Bernard’s, a really great guy, and I appreciate his dedication to public service. But I'm more focused on what I can do for North Adams, rather than reflecting on the previous administrations.

Some would look at your bid for mayor and say, this is a 21 year old running for mayor of North Adams at the end of a long stretch of really unique challenges for the city from COVID-19 to the economic downturn. Given your lack of experience in the public sector to date, do you think this is the kind of job you can learn, really, on the ground, in the midst of all of this?

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's one of the things that I really want to prove to people. You know, we can take precedent from Holyoke mayor, Alex Morse, who around the same age, 21 years old, ran for mayor without any prior electoral experience, and I really want to show that young people can be just as efficient. I think that, you know, there's a deeply held problem in not only just the city, the state, but you know, the national level, of ageism. And young people can do the job too. It’s public service for a reason. I think that going for it, I really want to prove that to people, and encourage young people to, you know, run for public office or even just being involved in the political process.

Another candidate in the mayoral race is city council vice president Jason LaForest. What do you think you could offer the folks in North Adams that Mr. LaForest couldn't?

So like, as of right now, I don't know that – I've heard that Jason LaForest is speculative. I don't know that he's actually announced so far. I'm the only one that has announced. And I know Jason, he's a great guy. And I appreciate his dedication to public service and the city council. At the end of the day, I think it's a matter of who can best serve North Adams and that I think people are looking for a change in the way that North Adams is run, from transparency. And I think it all comes down to, you know, who can better lead the city. And I look forward to the chance to prove myself in the coming months.

When it comes to transparency, what kind of steps do you think the city could take to increase its transparency?

I think that as far as transparency goes, making more available, especially, like at the, you know, website, and really just making sure that people are able to see on a daily basis how government is run, and what we're doing and the steps that we're taking. I think it's – The priority at the bottom line is the city of North and the people in the city, and having their availability to see things, rather than, you know, hiding behind – you know, I think it's very important for people to be able to see how government’s run and I really want to encourage steps to take that.

One of the many conversations in North Adams is about housing: the demand for public housing, the demand for both low income housing and mixed income housing. What are your thoughts on how the city could develop its housing stock in the years to come?

Yeah, absolutely. I think housing is really important. As far as, you know, I think a lot of – a large problems is who – younger people have a disproportionately harder time in owning homes due to affordability. And I think that, you know, there's also a large percentage of people in North Adams that are renting houses as well. And I really, I'm looking forward to working with city councilors, and you know, officials in the North Adams government on how to better help housing affordability in the future.

As a young person, what exactly- If you had to articulate the vantage point that you have that, you know, would be a historic first for the city to elect someone of your age, how do you sum that up?

I really, I just want people to go in with an open mind. And you know, I hope that people will look past my age and see what I can offer to the city. I'm really excited for the future of North Adams and I think it has a lot of potential and, you know, in its arts and in its job development. And I’m really looking forward to that. You know, I'd also want to say to people you know, make sure you check out my website, Joshvallieres.com, my email, Joshuavallieres@gmail.com, and check out our social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

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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