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Jacobs’ tenure on Governor’s Council as sole Berkshire representative gets underway

Tara Jacobs
Tara Jacobs.

Last year, Tara Jacobs of North Adams ran a dark horse campaign and won a packed Democratic primary for the open Western Massachusetts seat on the Governor’s Council. The eight-member body advises the commonwealth’s top executive on issues around the parole board, judicial appointments, commutations, and more. After following up her primary victory with another in the general, Jacobs was sworn in last month to become the first Berkshire County woman to hold a seat on the body. WAMC caught up with Jacobs to hear how she’s settling into her new role on the Governor’s Council, which met for the first time under the new administration this week.

JACOBS: It's been an interesting start coming in with a new administration. So, so far my experience has been the inauguration, my own swearing-in. Governor's Council has to be present for the swearing in of legislators. So, we've had a few swearing-in ceremonies for sort of stragglers and a couple of elections that had delayed results. And then there's some housekeeping work that we've had for our official meetings, things like approving lists of our new notaries public, justices of the peace, and there's an ongoing need for us to approve significant state monies. So, the first meeting was $6.3 billion in state money allocations, and the next meeting was another several billion. So that's been the official experience so far while we wait for the new administration to get up to speed. They need to issue new executive orders around the judicial nominating process, and then restaff the judicial nominating committee. And then I look forward to nominees starting to come through and getting to do that work. So that's sort of the official side. I've been keeping very busy in-district and around the state familiarizing myself with our courts and our correctional facilities and going to a lifetime parole hearing next week, actually a few of them, and doing the work of just setting myself up to be the best at this job that I can be and the most familiar with Western Mass and our needs in our judicial system. I was in Hampden County yesterday at the courthouse there, which, that building has just urgent, urgent need where just the list of employees who have died working in that courthouse, who are sick in that courthouse, and then just the design of it is just sort of appallingly unsafe. So, I'm hoping to advocate for us to get some urgent attention from the state to move them out of that very dangerous building, and ideally build a new one.

WAMC: Now at this point, have you met with Governor Maura Healey?

I haven't had like a long sit-down meeting, but I have, every week when I'm in Boston for these meetings, I've had an opportunity to have short chats with her. I have sat down with Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll and our new Chief Counsel Paige Scott Reed, and I do hope to have an opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with Maura Healey soon around the issues of our judiciary and the various components,

What's been like getting to know your colleagues on the council?

You know, it's been fantastic. They are, they have been so welcoming. They've been so helpful in offering me just the benefit of their years of experience and advice, including things that are just sort of very mundane, like just getting up to speed with getting my business cards and my IT and around the building and things like that. But they've been really lovely and welcoming, and they're really jovial crew, a lot of humor, and just very personable, so it's been really nice joining their group and I'm really looking forward to the point where we're- Our meetings right now have been literally like just a few minutes long because there hasn't been a lot on our agendas yet. But you know, at the point when we have nominees and are conducting hearings and the work really ramps up, I'm really looking forward to being in their company doing that work.

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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