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Conant to run for second term as Pittsfield’s Ward 4 city councilor, endorses Marchetti in mayoral race

James Conant.
City of Pittsfield
James Conant.

James Conant is running for a second two-year term as Ward 4 city councilor in the Pittsfield, Massachusetts municipal election. In 2021, he narrowly beat Andrew Wrinn for the seat with around 52% of the 1,200 votes cast. So far, he is unchallenged this year. Conant has previously served Pittsfield in a number of capacities, including as a member of the school committee, parks commission, community preservation commission, and more. City residents will go to the polls for the preliminary election September 19th before the general on November 7th. Conant spoke with WAMC about his priorities in 2023, and why he’s endorsing city council President Peter Marchetti in the mayoral race.

CONANT: When I'm talking to residents, it's really about public services- Snow plowing issues, the timeliness of getting streets cleaned up. Just got through that season. That's always on people's mind during the winter months. The things that bother people the most are conditions of sidewalks and roads, and to that end, I think we're going to address that with some one-time monies to try to make a dent in it. And hopefully, moving forward, there's a good plan in place to know we can, in five or six years, we can be in a really, really positive spot.

WAMC: When you look back over your first term in office over the last two years, what do you point to as the things you're particularly proud of as far as accomplishments as a city councilor?

I pride myself on getting back to people. Being a ward councilor, you get a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls. I always return both, whether it's good news or bad. But some accomplishments that we were able to get was a new basketball court at Williams School and the paving list priorities, trying to get those in the right spot. Those are really the accomplishments. And as a budget-wise, as a former school committee member, I'm going to support school system. We need to have the best, strong school system that we can have for our community. There's no question about it.

Now, your approach to the council is a more subtle one than some. You're not a really outspoken member of the body. How do you approach your role on the council when it comes to speaking up or choosing when to stay silent during meetings?

Well, I- One of the things that I, initially, the first few months, I wanted to be more of a listener, that's really my strong point. But I, as a strategy to get things done, I make a lot of appointments with department heads, and I go see them personally so I can develop a professional relationship with them. I find that very helpful to get things done that residents are looking for, whether it's a clogged pipe, a storm drain, roads, sidewalks, tree removal, stump removal, those nuts and bolts services, garbage pickups that were missed, recycling issues. These are the things that ward councilors are right in the middle of all the time. And I strongly feel that the city council meeting is not the place to play “I gotcha.” Go and hash it out what your complaints are with them professionally, in a meeting with them. I don't see it serves any good to bring a department head up and a microphone and put them on the spot. It doesn't move the ball forward at all.

Now, this year, we have City Council President Peter Marchetti facing off with former city councilor John Krol in the mayoral race. They're certainly the marquee matchup in this year's election. At this point, do you have any plans to endorse either candidate in the campaign?

Yes, I will endorse Peter Marchetti and I'll tell you why. Peter has a vast experience in municipal law, in municipal finance. When you compare it to John, his experience is twofold in those regards. Moving forward, the city of Pittsfield, it has almost a $200 million budget and we need people with experience on especially financial matters, but also how municipal law works within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As far as I'm concerned, Peter understands and has knowledge, vast knowledge, on both of those subjects. There's no question. Just the way he runs city council meetings, it’s all you need to watch. He runs them effectively and fairly. That's the way I would think he would be as mayor as well.

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.