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Just weeks after North Adams mayoral tenure ends, Bernard to helm Berkshire United Way as President and CEO

Tom Bernard.
Josh Landes
Tom Bernard.

The Berkshire United Way announced this week that former North Adams, Massachusetts Mayor Tom Bernard will become the fundraising nonprofit’s new President and CEO. Bernard just wrapped up a four-year stint heading Berkshire County’s second largest community at the end of 2021. He did not seek a third term. Bernard, who starts his new job January 24th, spoke with WAMC about what he wants to bring to Berkshire United Way, and what he’s taking with him from his time in North Adams.

BERNARD: The great thing about the Berkshire United Way is that it has a terrific board and a fantastic staff. And they're clear and focused on the mission of the organization, as far as community impact, as empowering individuals. But I think what we're really going to see, and we're seeing it now in the conversations we're having during the Omicron wave, is that support for young people, which is at the cornerstone of the early childhood and youth development pieces of the United Way's mission, are just going to continue to be critical, and they're going to evolve in ways that we're still reckoning with over the period of the next several years. So that will be critical. And then in the in the hiring process, in the interview process, I had lots of really good conversations with the board and with the staff about their vision and our shared vision around inclusion, equity, diversity and belonging. So many of the conversations that are happening in government, in education, in communities are about how we not only take the first step, which is to signal our commitment, but then to do the deep and sometimes difficult work. And that's work that the board and staff and our community partners are going to be tackling. So those are those are the two big priority areas.

WAMC: At this point, are you seeing any carryover from your experience as Mayor of North Adams into this new position in the Berkshire community?

Sure. And in fact, I think it's kind of a synthesis of a lot of the work that I that I did at MASS MoCA, at MCLA, and in the city. And one of the key things is the connections and the relationships and the partnerships. We talk- I've talked and institutional and organizational leaders across the Berkshires talk about the power of collaboration, and it's real and it's meaningful. And one of the things that means is that I stepped into this role with a good network of partners and collaborators, and hopefully the ability to quickly build and strengthen relationships with new partners. So I've got a good, solid foundation to build on as I step into this new role.

Now, we're obviously days away from you actually taking on this new position- But at this point, any thoughts on what kind of Tom Bernard touch you want to bring to the position, any new directions or new strategies you have in mind for the Berkshire United Way?

You know, I think the place to start is with humility, and with getting to continue to know the team that I'll be joining and the board that I'll be working with, and really seeing where we are not just as an organization as we look at our community impact and as at our fundraising goals and mission, but certainly in the work both internally and in the community of getting to know each other. So I think, whatever the Tom Bernard brand is, I don't look to be repackaging at this point in the process.

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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