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Berkshire County will lose a statehouse voice, change senators in 2023

A group of people holding Paul Mark signs stand in a park on a grey, wet autumn day while a white man in a red sweater speaks at a lectern.
Josh Landes
The full Berkshire County House legislative delegation was on hand for Paul Mark's state Senate campaign kickoff in October 2021: Tricia Farley-Bouvier (Left, holding a black and white umbrella), Paul Mark (to Farley-Bouvier's right wearing a blue jacket), John Barrett (at lectern) and Smitty Pignatelli (to Barrett's right).

The Berkshire County state legislative delegation is undergoing changes heading into the new year.

While the names representing Berkshire County on Beacon Hill will remain the same in 2023, the statehouse delegation is losing a member.

After redistricting, the westernmost region of the commonwealth is down to three state representatives and one state senator. After an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary this year, former Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District State Senator Adam Hinds resigned to take over the Edward Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston in September. Before leaving, he reflected on the region’s unique challenges to WAMC.

“There's a recognition that the state has not stepped up for some basic infrastructure investment in our region," Hinds said. "And guess what, you know, we've seen that the implication of that is that the only two counties experiencing population decline are in this senate district: Berkshire and Franklin County. And so, it means standing up and making sure that folks understand that these regions need to be treated differently, and being creative in how we do that, whether it's funding and budget formulas or policy choices.”

In October 2021, Hinds’ successor stepped forward: Democratic State Representative Paul Mark of the disappearing 2nd Berkshire District.

At a rally in Pittsfield, his fellow Democratic state reps backed his jump to the higher chamber.

“Paul Mark has not only been my friend, and somewhat of a mentor to me, as I entered the legislature just about a year after he did, but he's also been a strong partner in representing and advocating for Pittsfield," said
Tricia Farley-Bouvier of the 3rd Berkshire District. "Paul also knows the needs of rural communities, which in this senate district, which is vast and complicated, is incredibly important. And for those reasons, and for many more, Paul has earned my support for state Senate and I'm pleased to be here today.”

4th Berkshire District State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, dean of the delegation, also voiced his approval for Mark.

“I did a little bit of research last night preparing for today," he said. "I went back seven state Senators from the Berkshires. Paul Mark will be the very first one to have had direct legislative experience going into the Senate. I think that speaks volumes. We saw the maps that came out with our redistricting the other day, sadly, we're losing a voice. We are going to be losing Paul Mark's voice. But here's our opportunity to retain Paul Mark's voice.”

After cruising to wins in both the primary and general, Mark told WAMC that his top priorities are transportation and housing.

“Especially with this winter coming up and the increases in costs for fuel and energy and heating, making sure that we have every resource at the disposal of people that are in need, that nobody ends up losing a house, nobody ends up foreclosed upon, nobody ends up unnecessarily evicted that we can prevent," he said. "So making sure those programs are in place and fully funded is extremely important. Then next, as people are looking to build, whether it's public entities, quasi-public, private entities, or even individual developers that have a good sustainable plan that's in balance with local neighborhoods and communities, that we're making sure that they have the resources they need, the know-how they need, and that some of the smaller towns are able to access the knowledge and the assistance that maybe is more difficult in one of the communities where you're often reliant on volunteers to do a lot of work that maybe some of the cities take for granted.”

Despite the reduction in numbers, Pignatelli told WAMC this month that he’s still optimistic about the Berkshire delegation’s ability to represent its constituents.

“I think the nice part about the remaining House seats in the Berkshires is that all three of us only have Berkshire County," he said. "So, Rep. Barrett, who had a couple of towns outside of Berkshire County, I had three towns for 20 years outside of Berkshire County- Now we can say all three of us only represent the Berkshires, and I think that's where our collective view of the world should be. Senator, soon-to-be Senator Mark has a much larger district, but the core is still the Berkshires. So, I think we have a lot of work to do. As long as we've worked together and we're all in the same direction, I think we'll be successful.”

John Barrett of the 1st district rounds out the delegation.

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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