Tara Jacobs of North Adams runs for open seat on the Governor's Council
One of three Democrats competing for the office
A member of the North Adams School Committee is running for the seat on the Governor’s Council from western Massachusetts.
Tara Jacobs is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Governor’s Council from the 8th District. The incumbent, Mary Hurley, is not running for re-election.
Also running are Democrats Mike Fenton and Jeff Morneau.
WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Jacobs.
The Governor's Council is so important, the work they do is so vital. And there's room for more diversity in terms of background and perspective to be actively engaged in the work that they do and serve our community that all of Western Massachusetts representation matters. One of my motivating reasons for running from Berkshire County is one, going back to the mid 1900s. And maybe even I don't know if we go earlier than that. But we looked back all the way through the mid 1900s. And there hasn't been a representation from Berkshire County on the Governor's Council. And representation really does matter. We still have a shortage of judges in Berkshire County. And in terms of all of Western Massachusetts, right now, there is no representation on the Supreme Judicial Court from Western Massachusetts at all. And like I said, at the beginning decisions are made by those who show up. And one of my main goals is to be that voice for all of Western Massachusetts, Pioneer Valley, Hilltowns, and Berkshire County, and to be proactive in working towards fixing the representation problem that I see at play right now.
What do you believe qualifies you for a seat on the governor's council?
Sure. So I am in my second term, sixth year as a school committee member in North Adams for the public school district. I am in my third year as a trustee for North Adams Public Library where I currently serve as chair. I'm also chair of our North Adams Democratic City Committee. And prior to that, I served six years as a commissioner for the Berkshire County Commission on the Status of Women. And I also served on our northern Berkshire local Cultural Council, just to name a few. But I think those were the most meaningful in terms of actually effecting meaningful change, positive change for our community, and on people's lives. And in in those roles, I have been actively advocating on Beacon Hill for the status of women, for our public schools, for our libraries, for the art, and all of that through a lens of social justice, equity, transparency, and accountability as underlying philosophies and principles of what's important and meaningful for making positive change. And prior to all of that, I come from a business background where I was an advertising executive. And in that role, often took on pro bono accounts, and had a passion for social cause marketing accounts that literally did change behavior and attitudes in a positive and meaningful way in our culture. And I feel like that background is actually what motivated the work I've done since.
The highest profile roles that the Governor's Council undertakes is advice and consent to the governor on judicial nominations. How would you go about ascertaining whether an individual is qualified to serve on the bench in a position that the individual could hold for decades?
True, they are lifetime appointments. So that's very true. So yeah, so thank you for that question. So I think every case needs to be judged on its own individual merits in terms of the record the judicial record, that each individual brings forward. But beyond that, and I think equally important, is to assess the person on their their integrity, their character, what kind of a judiciary they’d be in terms of factoring in both the facts and merits of the case, but also the human factors of a case that are sometimes less tangible and really rely on the the character of the person doing the judging in terms of the lens they bring. So while I think every every case is different, and context is so important, at the end of the day, I would only vote to confirm judges whose records do indicate that they will perform to the highest standard of providing justice, equity and fairness both inside and outside of the courtroom. And and I would rely both on documentation and the ability that counselors have to conduct in depth interviews and come away with a true sense of who each individual is.
It comes up less frequently than judicial nominations, but from time to time the Governor's Council is asked to consider recommendations for commutations and pardons. How would you go about evaluating these cases?
So, it's interesting, they really didn't do much with commutations until very recently. It had been a long gaps in in that work, and recently, two cases came before them. And I really enjoyed watching the live stream. Not live but the videos that they were showing of of that process. I personally, again, it's sort of like the last question, it's each case on its merits of exactly, you know, who's before you. What their, what their record is. What they've done since. How they have behaved and their aspirations going forward, and the character and integrity of the person that you're that you're weighing in on. But I also think what was so key is that these are opportunities that inspire hope for the prison population in general, that this is an opportunity and it's based on the the integrity and the character and, and the way you comport yourself and your goals going forward. And while the case itself that you're judging is so important, I think the almost symbolic nature of what that means and represents for the broader community is also key.
You mentioned watching the live stream of the governor's council meetings, that is an option that is no longer available because the governor's council made the collective decision after the State House was reopened to public access to end their live streaming of their meetings. Now the legislature still live streams, their sessions, still live streams, their committee meetings. Would you like to see the governor's council go back to having remote access? Is that something that you would vote for, If you're if you're elected to the governor's council?
Absolutely, I think that is so key for a few reasons. First off, just transparency and accountability, which I absolutely stand for, but also accessibility, especially coming from Western Massachusetts, Berkshire County, the farthest west part of the state, but all of Western Massachusetts, there's an access and almost democratization of the process. issue at play, when prior and now again, they're the Governor's Council, you had to be present in that room in Boston on Beacon Hill to see and if you weren't in participating, participate in their processes. I think it's enormously important that it be available for people to understand I mean, the thing that's part of why people don't understand who they are, what they do. But also, there's an opportunity for community members to weigh in with their voice as well. But that opportunity is limited if transportation privilege is an access barrier, for full awareness and participation and what they do so I absolutely would vote to reinstate that live stream and and I had seen that there's an effort going on right now to do so.