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New England News

Hopkins To Step Down As North Adams City Council President

A smiling white bearded man with glasses and a red jacket stands before a green background.
North Adams
North Adams, Massachusetts City Council President Paul Hopkins.

In yet another twist in North Adams, Massachusetts politics, city council president Paul Hopkins announced his resignation Tuesday, effective once accepted by the remaining members of the nine-person body. With Hopkins’ impending exit, the mayor’s office and at least two seats on the city council will be up for grabs this fall. The two-term councilor spoke with WAMC about his decision to step down, which he says comes as a result of changes in his personal and professional life.

HOPKINS: I think as the President, I have brought a sense of keeping our eye on the ball and focusing on the business at hand. Politics is a funny animal, and that's not always easy to do. I think if you have listened in on the meetings or watch the meetings on Zoom, you'll see that my intention is to tackle the agenda, have the discussion and get to the vote. And I think I've done a pretty good job with that. I don't think I've been perfect, of course, but I think I've done pretty well.

WAMC: Well, let's dive into some of the accomplishments. What can you point to to say, you know, during Paul Hopkins’ time on the council and as president, this is an accomplishment that I can really stand behind?

We finally got Zoom to work for us on a regular basis. And that's only partly tongue in cheek. That was a real challenge for us a year ago as we tried just to get city business done in the new environment. I still like to think that, as a city councilor, I offered people a conduit for their concerns. Again, when you're a politician, you like to think you're going solve everybody's problems. And that's really not the case. But every now and then you get a small win and you help somebody out. And that's when it was worth all of the campaigning and everything else.

What about disappointments? Where are some areas that you think things could have gone better?

Well, that's an interesting question. I have not actually spent much time thinking about that today. You can always do better. I've always said that communication can always be improved. And that's always going to be my mantra for the rest of my life. You can't be too transparent or share too much information, generally speaking. So I suppose I could always have done better in that arena.

You served the community during a pretty wild time in American history, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to the Black Lives Matter movement, ongoing discussions of equity, serious infrastructure concerns in North Adams- What kind of memories are you going to hold on to you from some of these extraordinary experiences?

I think just that I tried my best to lend a level approach to things so that when things started to feel like they were getting out of control, whether that was the pandemic or anything else, that as I talked with people, I think I tried to help them see that, indeed, you know, we would get through things, that things would be just fine. Maybe that's just my nature. But that's certainly my goal with people.

So why now? Why are you stepping down?

Well, I've been contemplating some changes in my personal life for some months. And as it is, the stars aligned and things came together a little bit quicker than I had anticipated, but not that much faster. So this decision has been kind of pending for some time. I had already decided a couple of months ago that I wasn't going to seek reelection. But again, as I have said to several people recently, if you walk into the North Adams city council chambers, you look at the old portraits of city council members, they are overwhelmingly older white men. I think North Adams is probably ready to shake that up a little bit and change the makeup of their city council. I'm happy at this stage of my life to step aside and let someone else give it a shot.

What mechanisms come into play with you leaving? Will someone be assuming the president position? Will there be a new vote to affirm the leader of the council?

That's going to be up to the remaining eight. I think you'd have to ask one of them.

At this point, looking forward, what are the next leaders of North Adams going to be facing in the months to come?

Well, I think a critical example of it, just in the last few months, sort of this touchstone issue of fire hydrants that didn't work. Well, I think North Adams needs to take a real close look at how we fund government and local services. It's real easy to say I don't want to raise your taxes. When I ran for office the first time, I promised people I will raise your taxes. I won't lie to you and tell you I won't. But I will do everything I can to make sure your money is well spent. Well, the fact of the matter is that a small community like North Adams has pretty limited ways to raise its revenue. And when we don't explore those ways, when we refuse to raise taxes, you wind up with fire hydrants that don't work.

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