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Branch Running For North Adams Mayor For Third Straight Time

An older white woman sits in a television studio at a table
Josh Landes
Rachel Branch.

North Adams, Massachusetts resident Rachel Branch is running for mayor for the third consecutive election. Branch, who hosts a public access television program called Solutions Rising, has served on the North Adams Housing Authority as well as the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District Committee.

Mayor Tom Bernard is not seeking a third term this fall.

Branch – whose father was once president of the city council – joins MCLA student Josh Vallieres in the field, though city council Vice President Jason LaForest intends to enter the race. Branch tells WAMC Berkshire Bureau Chief Josh Landes that public service, feminism and representing the community’s youth are at the core of her latest campaign.

BRANCH: Well, I think if you go back to 2017 and 2019, all of the issues that I spoke about then are still relevant. Obviously, with the COVID pandemic, we have additional issues that need to be addressed. And obviously health is at the top of the list. I don't go 1, 2, 3, 4 – health is… Infrastructure. Certainly, fire hydrants have to be fixed in North Adams. So if you talk about health, water, air, my energy fights for clean energy. These are all basic to service to the community, and to having what I call a warm and welcoming community. And you have to take care of the public service needs first.

WAMC: This being your third run for mayor, how are you going to approach it this time around? Do you feel like you have a new strategy to make it to the corner office in city hall?

I have an additional strategy. I'm going to use my own Solutions Rising program to be interviewed by different people on the different areas of my life that I have committed and fulfilled community service and public service.

If you had to break down for people the key aspects of your life in public service in a nutshell, what exactly has your experience been serving communities?

Trying to solve problems. And I think that's probably it, Josh – trying to solve problems for everyday people. For everyone, actually, but for obviously the most vulnerable. I always talk about the most vulnerable and that accent first starts with children.

You announced your candidacy on Earth Day. Was there any significance to choosing that day to enter the race?

There's great significance for me, both because it was Earth Day and because I have been fighting for clean air and clean water since 1997. I have testified in Hartford, Connecticut. I did a lot of work in Connecticut, three times, to clean up power plants. I helped stop an asphalt plant in my neighborhood when I lived in Bridgeport. I fought up here in North Adams, just testifying, fought Kinder Morgan, Tennessee Gas. So that was very important on Earth Day. And also, which I didn't put in my announcement, that was my father's birthday anniversary. So I thought it was a very special day to have Earth Day and my father's birthday anniversary be the day that I announced.

You're also the co-producer of a community radio station program, Jazz Oasis. Rachel, what is on your spring playlist this year?

Oh, I have an ongoing list. Well, the next one I'm going to do is Mildred Bailey. And I've done everything from Duke Ellington, Clark Terry, Doris Day – who lived in North Adams– Peggy Lee. I've done a mixture and it's always about telling stories.

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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