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Marchetti beats Krol in a Pittsfield mayoral race with a historically low voter turnout

Peter Marchetti.
Josh Landes
Peter Marchetti.

City Council President Peter Marchetti will be the next mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts after voters chose him over former city councilor John Krol on Tuesday.

The contest to replace outgoing two-term Mayor Linda Tyer was a bruising one, with both hopefuls’ campaigns mired in controversy in the final weeks of the race. Krol was accused of embezzling from a nonprofit cat shelter he served on the board of, and Marchetti – along with other leaders at Pittsfield Cooperative Bank where he works – was accused of harassment, sexual discrimination, and abuse in a federal lawsuit. Both strenuously denied the allegations.

The election had the lowest turnout in a competitive mayoral race in recent memory. While in 2011, 2015, and 2019, around 42% of registered voters made it to the polls, only 31% – less than 10,000 people – showed up this year. The 2013 race – the last before Pittsfield adopted a four-year term for mayor – saw incumbent Dan Bianchi run unopposed, leading to a turnout of under 25%.

Despite the low numbers, Marchetti’s final margin of 5,800 votes to Krol’s 3,500 was enough to make his win undeniable.

WAMC caught up with the mayor-elect at his election night party at Berkshire Hills Country Club.

“When I got here, all I could say was ‘wow,’" said Marchetti. "I think the message that we put out in the campaign about my years of experience, both in the fiscal world and in the political world with all the boards and commissions and volunteer organizations, resonated with the voters, and they're willing to give me a chance, resoundingly give me a chance to serve as their next mayor.”

Marchetti acknowledged he has bridges to mend in the community.

“Campaigns are sometimes divisive," he said. "We need to come together. I had a campaign slogan of ‘One Pittsfield,’ and when you look at some of the people in the room and you look at some of the people that came to work on the campaign, they weren't people that you would normally see me in a room working with. And so, we're going to go out tomorrow and reach out to Mr. Krol and see what we can do to work together to make Pittsfield a better place, because that's what we both campaigned on. We both campaigned on a better Pittsfield, and that's what I'm going to start working tomorrow to be able to do.”

Marchetti laid out some of his priorities for when he’s sworn into office in January.

“Police chief search, a mental health and substance use disorder task force, and a complete relook at our roads and sidewalks to update our plans so that we have a more proactive plan,” said the mayor-elect.

Also Tuesday, the city council’s conservative minority evaporated, giving Marchetti – at least on paper – a friendly legislative body to work with for the next four years.

“That's wonderful, but I want them to hold me accountable," said Marchetti. "We've talked about in this campaign that I may have a good idea, and when I share it with members of the council and they add their input, we're going to have a great idea. I want that from the city council. I want them to push me just as I'm going to push them.”

WAMC asked the mayor-elect what he thinks ultimately defined the choice between him and Krol.

“I actually think it boiled down to who had the leadership that could do the job, who had the experience, and who had the dedication to the city, and I think that's what it came down to,” Marchetti answered.

Krol’s election night party was at the Proprietor’s Lodge on the banks of Pontoosuc Lake.

“Oh, man, we ran one hell of a campaign, I can tell you that," he told WAMC. "Our message resonated with so many people. We’re obviously disappointed with the results, but hey, we made an impact, and I think we changed the direction, to some extent, of the city. And we have a lot to be proud of.”

During the election, Krol – a longtime fixture at city hall with a decade of experience on the city council – framed himself as an outsider candidate going up against a political machine.

“We went against a buzzsaw, which is a political establishment in this city, and there's no question that- It's a ferocious attempt to try to go against that, so," he said. "But I can tell you that we had a message that resonated, no question about it. We had a ground game that was unprecedented in the city, and you know, the results are what they are.”

Krol offered his hopes for the coming Marchetti administration.

“I hope that they take the ideas that we presented and take them seriously, because there was a lot of momentum behind those ideas," he told WAMC. "And I think having fiscal transparency, having the schools, having a real conversation about the schools, which has never really taken place during a mayor's race, and to the classroom experience, which really has not been touched in the mayor's race before. Those are things that really, people are concerned about, our parents and teachers. That was something that I think was a hard right turn in a mayor's race, and I think it needed to be, so. Public services, making Pittsfield more business friendly- That was something that Peter decided to also move with as well as far as his messaging toward the end. So, I'm hoping that he will take some of that and help make Pittsfield better by addressing those issues.”

Among the many results from Tuesday’s vote, city clerk Michele Benjamin won her unopposed re-election bid and city voters rejected a ballot question that would have eliminated a residency requirement for municipal public safety heads including the police and fire chiefs.

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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