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Macksey promises infrastructure improvements, commitment to public safety in North Adams inauguration

Jennifer Macksey.
Josh Landes
Jennifer Macksey.

History was made Saturday as North Adams, Massachusetts swore in the city’s first female mayor.

Jennifer Macksey took her oath of office at Drury High School before a masked crowd, then laid out her vision for North Adams.

“My administration's biggest challenge will be to regain the confidence in our residents to believe in government so they believe that we will and can work in their best interests," said Macksey. "I've always believed that government should be here to help people, not complicate their lives. My commitment to the residents of North Adams is that we will have an open and inclusive government. Residents should expect that their government be efficient, inclusive, and well managed.”

The new mayor promised she would be out in the community, visiting schools and businesses to build trust in her administration.

“North Adams has been talking about a new public safety complex for years, and it's time to stop talking and take action," said Macksey. "Taking on this project when inflation is at the highest will be a challenge but we can no longer wait. The goal is to break ground within the next two years. Working in conjunction with the city council, we must find a way to finance this project without placing an unfair tax burden on our taxpayers. In addition to the new public safety building, we must also address our decaying infrastructure, deteriorating streets and sidewalks, our aging underground water and sewer system, and our failing flood control chutes. And we can't forget our beautiful historic library that needs immediate attention.”

Macksey committed to submitting a capital outlay program to the city council with this year’s budget to address both building and infrastructure needs.

“Police officers will be out patrolling, so you know them in good times and bad," she said. "Crimes and drugs are issues that will be addressed head-on, especially in areas were known drug dealers are preying upon our citizens. As I will have a no tolerance policy for drugs and crime in our cities. I understand that it can't be eliminated completely. But we will make it difficult for dealers to sell drugs here in North Adams. At the same time, I'm sensitive to addiction. I will not forget those who are suffering from addiction. We've all been affected in some way, and we as a community must help everyone who's struggling. I look forward to a positive working relationship with the district attorney to address these issues.”

Macksey described a North Adams with neighborhoods in disrepair and in need of governmental intervention.

“I commit to the citizens of this community that my administration will work to rebuild our neighborhoods, eliminate litter, blight, and abandoned cars," she told the crowd. "I want to make it clear that the days of landlords neglecting their properties are over. The city will be reinstating the code enforcement officer position, and we will ensure that properties are inspected on a regular basis, ensuring that we have adequate and safe housing for our residents. We will also seek out grant programs to help property owners improve their properties, to boost their housing stock. We will work with people who are struggling financially to pay their taxes in water and sewer bills.”

Macksey pledged to prioritize beautifying the city’s core, starting with the long-awaited redevelopment of two downtown properties: the shuttered Mohawk Theater and Heritage Park.

“This once beautiful historic park has become an embarrassment to the city," said the mayor. "The deteriorating buildings and unkempt grounds along with the graffiti all over the buildings and trains have become an eyesore, after the state put nearly $10 million into the restoration of the historic railroad yard. Adding insult to injury, the beautiful grass park has just turned into a cement ghost town. I love this park, I love the current people who are in it, and the city saved it years ago and we will save it again. And I will work to make this an attractive component of our city.”

Macksey takes over after two two-year terms from Tom Bernard, whose administration she sharply criticized on the campaign trail.

She won November’s election by a difference of around 200 votes over rival Lynnette Bond, who was backed by Bernard.

“I believe in North Adams and its future," said Macksey. "And I'm honored that you all believe in me. Thank you, North Adams, for giving me the privilege to serve as your next mayor. And as my father would say in true Irish pride, I will never forget whence I came. Now can I really get to work?"

The inauguration also saw the swearing in of the city council, which includes the first transgender person and person of color to serve on the body. Lisa Hall Blackmer was voted council president for the new two-year term.

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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