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There can only be two: Pittsfield voters to choose between Marchetti, Krol, and Kalinowsky in preliminary mayoral election

Pittsfield, Massachusetts mayoral candidates Karen Kalinowsky, Peter Marchetti, and John Krol.
Josh Landes
Pittsfield, Massachusetts mayoral candidates Karen Kalinowsky, Peter Marchetti, and John Krol.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts voters go to the polls Tuesday to send two of three mayoral candidates onward to November’s general election.

The preliminary election pits city council president Peter Marchetti, former city councilor John Krol, and at-large city councilor Karen Kalinowsky in a three-way bid to replace outgoing Mayor Linda Tyer. Tyer, first elected in 2016, was the first mayor in city history to serve a four-year term. Speaking with WAMC in February, Tyer said after two terms, it’s time to leave public office after almost 20 years in a variety of roles.

“For me professionally, this is the right time to step aside," said the mayor. "And there's also some personal elements to this decision as well. But I also think that now is the time for the community to have new leadership. I think that it's good for a community to engage in a rigorous debate about the future of our city and for the voters to select new leadership.”

While Tyer has yet to endorse in the race, historically her closest ally in the contest is Marchetti.

Kalinowksy ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 2019, and failed to proceed past the preliminary election with only 281 votes of more than 6,000 cast. The retired police officer, who was the lowest vote getter of the four at-large city councilors elected in 2021, has collected just over $4,300 for her campaign — a tenth of what Krol has raised, and a sliver of Marchetti’s over $37,000 in contributions. Over her term on the city council, Kalinowksy has had little political impact as an avowed member of the conservative minority in opposition to the Tyer administration and its allies on the body.

“I know I've only been on the city council for 18 months now," she said. "I think in that 18 months, I proved myself as an advocate for the residents here in the city. I've been physically involved all around the city in different avenues trying to help residents. I've advocated to lower your taxes. I've advocate to try to lower our budget to help you with the taxes.”

During her appearance in a PCTV debate earlier in September, Kalinowsky framed her scant record of legislative accomplishments as her strength as an outsider.

“I am not part of this old machine, I am not part of this old city council," said the city councilor. "Change is needed in this city. I see we can be better. We can change things around and make this city a lot better than it is right now.”

In his pitch to voters during the debate, Marchetti leaned into consistency and experience, citing his 16 years on the city council under three mayoral administrations.

“Over the years we've seen many great things take place in the city, such as the creation of the Berkshire Innovation Center, the reconstruction of the Pittsfield Airport, a brand-new Taconic High School, the opening of the Colonial Theatre, and the moving of Barrington Stage to Pittsfield,” said Marchetti.

He also invoked his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we hit March of 2020, and the world was shutting down, there were some members of the city council that said we can't have a meeting until we can meet in person," Marchetti said. "Well, thank God I didn't wait for that day. Thank God I stepped up to the plate and found a way to have city council meeting so that we could pass budgets and keep the city moving. Thank God we brought new businesses into the city, even when there was a time that the world was falling apart.”

Krol, who worked in the administration of Mayor Jim Ruberto, also took credit for some of the same wins Marchetti cited at the debate.

“I worked in an administration with a team that accomplished so much- Recruiting Barrington Stage Company to our downtown, opening the Colonial Theatre, the Beacon Cinema, starting Third Thursdays, and we had strong schools as well," he said. "We believed that anything was possible because it was, and it still is.”

The former Ward 6 representative served for a decade on the 11-member body, including a stint as vice president, and is now calling for change.

“It's time to bring a sense of urgency to the mayor's office, and it has been the focus of ours to make this mayor's office the most accessible mayor's office in the history of this city, because I believe that ultimately when we bring more people together, we can get so much more accomplished, and it is true,” said Krol.

He’s repeatedly used the phrase “boots on the ground” in his vision of policing in Pittsfield.

“Our downtown needs our help," Krol said. "Downtown needs our help. Yes, we went through our revitalization in the mid-2000s. But boy, we got empty storefronts, we have an empty Wright Building, we have a lot of challenges.”

Krol has promised to make Pittsfield more business friendly and to shake up the city’s public utilities department over the course of his campaign.

Pittsfield’s last preliminary mayoral election in 2019 saw a turnout of just over 6,000 voters – or 22% of the eligible population – compared with the nearly 12,000 who cast ballots in the general. That year, the preliminary was a political mirage, with city councilor Melissa Mazzeo winning the first vote by around 300 ballots before losing November’s general to incumbent Tyer by over 500.

Polls are open for Pittsfield’s preliminary mayoral election from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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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