Macksey Enters North Adams Mayoral Race
A new candidate has entered the North Adams, Massachusetts mayoral race as another exits. North Berkshire School Union Assistant Superintendent Jen Macksey kicked off her campaign earlier this month, while 21-year-old MCLA student Josh Vallieres ended his campaign in favor of a bid for school board.
That leaves a historic all-female slate of four candidates for mayor in the fall election. WAMC spoke with the 48-year-old Macksey about her run against Lynette Bond, Aprilyn Carsno and Rachel Branch.
MACKSEY: I believe I'm the right person for the job based on my roots, my experience and my reputation. I really believe it's time for me to give back to this community that I love so much. I was born, raised and educated here. And I've been very fortunate to have a great professional and personal life here in North Adams. My family is threaded into the community. My grandfather was a fireman, my other grandfather was a shoemaker at the Wall-Streeter shoe company. My uncle was a mailman. My cousins are teachers and roofers, and my parents ran a local variety store here on Marshall Street until my dad died in 1986. And then for myself, you know, I've always worked at City Hall. I have 16 years of a municipal experience. So my family is very rooted and grounded in this community, and I feel that it's really time to give back to a place that I love. With my extensive experience in municipal government, as well as education, I can really move the city forward. I'll be able to hit the ground running and address the needs of the community from day one.
WAMC: Should you take office Jen, what is on the top of your docket for things you want to address in the city of North Adams?
Well, I mean, to start, I'm announcing a little bit late to the game. But I'm working on my platform. So I'm not really prepared to talk about what my goals are. But I'm certainly ready to restore accountability and get city government organized and work with all of the constituencies and all of the city councils and city leaders to get things organized, and then move us forward. We need to start focusing on day to day operations, as well as developing clear policies and initiatives to move us forward. So you know, a lot about education, a lot about economic development. But from the beginning, I need to do a clear assessment of what's going on, how much money we have, where we're spending, where we need to dedicate resources, etc.
How do you describe yourself politically?
Well, this is my first run for a elected position. I am a registered Democrat. But I look at all angles. My focus here in North Adams is, you know, looking at working with all different sides of people, all different people with different views. And really, you know, doing some brainstorming and developing plans that, collaboratively, it will be the best for this community.
What are your thoughts in the tenure of departing Mayor Tom Bernard?
You know, Tom and I went to high school together, and he's a great guy, and I wish him the best.
As far as his time in office, were there things that you were excited to see him pursue, things you were disappointed that he didn't?
Um- I prefer not to comment on that at this point.
What is your strategy to win votes in this election? Do you feel like you have a demographic that you are comfortable with? Are there folks you need to reach out harder for? How are you going to go about this on the ground?
Well, absolutely. I think to start, in the next two weeks, we're running basically a grassroots operation. We're focusing on the people that I know, making sure they're with me. I have a lot of connections through my work with the city so people know what kind of worker I am. And I also need to be focused on the people that I don't know, and what their needs are and what they're looking for from a leader for this community. So right now, we're on the phones, we're talking to people, we're having a lot of meetings. We'll be launching our website very soon. And then we're going to dive right into the issues.
Last year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there was also a very public discussion around the Black Lives Matter movement, one that was very vocal in North Adams. What were your takeaways from that conversation about racial equity and systemic racism?
Oh, you got a good one there, Josh. You know, I think Josh, we have to be focused on understanding where people come from, we have to be understanding what makes people comfortable and uncomfortable. And we have to treat everyone equally. At the same time, we need to be sensitive to what people are feeling, what people are doing, how our actions in government affect others. And we need to work harder at being kinder and accountable for people in our action.
Jen, give me the elevator pitch. When you speak to folks about your candidacy, what is the big thing you want them to take away?
The big thing I want people to understand is that I'm rooted in this community. I've seen good times and bad in the community. I have solid municipal and educational experience that will help us move forward. I think the children of this community are our most valuable asset. And I have the reputation of getting things done. I'm a person known for taking action and creating solid plans and I think it's time for North Adams to have a thoughtful and forward-thinking leader, but you can't do it alone. So I'm very good at working with people. And I want to hear from people, I want to work with people, but at the end of the day my goal is to move this city forward.