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Shade’s election to North Adams city council a Berkshire County milestone

A blonde woman with glasses in a pink hat and shirt and blue jacket with pins smiles into the camera on a city sidewalk
Josh Landes
Ashley Shade.

North Adams, Massachusetts voters made history Tuesday by electing a candidate believed to be the first transgender person in public office in Berkshire County.

With over 1,200 votes, 34-year-old Ashley Shade secured a seat on the nine-member North Adams city council – as well as a place in Berkshire County history.

“As far as I know, I'm the first transgender person to be elected in Berkshire County," she told WAMC. "So that alone is remarkable. And I'm extremely grateful for the city of North Adams and the people who voted for me and believed in me, and I look forward to serving the people of North Adams.”

An avowed Libertarian, Shade – who works in customer service – wants to focus on making life easier for small businesses in the Northern Berkshire community of around 13,000.

“We have some ordinances that really make things difficult for small businesses to run," said Shade. "And I think, for example, a sign permitting process going through four different departments to get approval, it just makes it harder for small businesses who already don't succeed in our town that much more difficult. A business has to apply for a new license even if they're in the same zoning district- It doesn't make too much sense. If they move, they've got to reapply for a license and pay all the fees. Why? We've already approved their business, they should be able to move as long as they're on the same zoning. So things like that I think we can make easier.”

A North Adams resident since the age of 4, Shade is committed to the council tackling city infrastructure projects come 2022.

“I want to see us in that shovel ready state, so when the grants are ready for us, we can apply for them," she said. "We need to get all of our sewer infrastructure, we need the public safety stuff, we need that stuff and that shovel ready process. So we've got to get the blueprints going, we've got to get the grants and the studies going, so that way, when we're ready to apply for that money when it's available, we can apply, and boom, we can get that done.”

After a lively campaign season that saw Jennifer Macksey narrowly defeat Lynette Bond to become the first female mayor of North Adams, the new city councilor is calling for unity.

“Now that we know the results, it's time to pull everybody together," said Shade. "Because it's not just the people on the council who have a voice, it's not just the mayor has a voice. We need the whole city to come together to help with the issues that we have. It's going to take all of us to work together to solve the problems we're having here in the city- The infrastructure, the school problem with Greylock, all of that. We need all the voices. So we really need everyone to come together, work with us. I look forward to listening to everybody and hearing their ideas, because I don't have all the answers, but I'm willing to listen and find them.”

Shade came out publicly as transgender in 2014. She reflected on the weight of responsibility that comes with being a first.

“It's a little nerve wracking, but exciting," she told WAMC. "I've kind of already broken ground, luckily. I'm the first transgender state party chair in Massachusetts, being the chair of the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts. So this was just another breaking ground event. I love my community, I represent my community, and I work for my community. The people that I work with in the different organizations and the different things I do will tell you that I work hard and I get things done. And that's my goal. My goal is to represent my community, to make us visible. We don't always get to be visible, and so to have the honor to be able to represent people like me and help amplify their voices is the best thing I can do with my life, and I'm glad I have that opportunity and I'm ready to serve.”

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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