A local artist, businessman and early supporter of North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright is now challenging the Democrat’s bid for a fourth term this November.
Eric Rudd says he is running for mayor because he is frustrated with what’s happening in North Adams, a city where he’s redeveloped mill buildings and churches into art galleries, condos and artist studios.
“I see North Adams struggling and I have solutions,” Rudd said. “I think that no one else will implement the solutions that really need to be put into place. It’s like seeing someone drowning and of course you’re going to dive in and try to save that person.”
Little downtown vitality, outdated municipal methods and the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital in March 2014 are among the problems Rudd identifies. He says he plans to reveal his solutions in the coming months.
“Everyone says we need jobs and to stimulate growth,” Rudd said. “Well how is that done? What’s been going on year after year is taxes and service fees go up, the quality of services go down as people start doing cutbacks and property values go down. You cannot keep taxing the same small group of residents. The only way that we’re going to climb out of the ditch is to invite new investment, to attract new people to move here, open up businesses and get things going. That’s not being done and I think I have the answers.”
Richard Alcombright ended John Barrett’s 26-year run as mayor in 2009. Rudd ran for mayor in 1997. An early supporter of Alcombright, Rudd says he isn’t running against anyone or with the Barrett or Alcombright camps, but feels he needs to be in the mayor’s chair to initiate change after years in the private sector. North Adams’ mayoral race is not party-affiliated. Having worked in banking, Alcombright says when he ran in 2009, being mayor was an eight- to 10-year community service commitment although he doesn’t necessarily like politics.
“We’ve seen particularly over the last three years a lot more private investment,” Alcombright said. “Our unemployment rate when I took office I think was 9.8 percent. We’re down to I think to 6.5 or 6.6 percent now. So we’ve seen some growth along those lines. We’ve seen some growth on our tax revenue side with the opening of Walmart, Cumberland Farms and other smaller businesses investing. We are seeing small shops continue to open. Yes we’ve seen some close, but we still see small businesses continue to open and some that are thriving.”
As he runs for a fourth two-year term, Alcombright points to MASS MoCA’s $55 million expansion, the planned Hoosic River revitalization, an emerging scenic rail attraction and the new Colegrove Park Elementary School as positive steps for the city. Alcombright says last year’s folding of the North Adams Transcript, a longtime city institution, into the Pittsfield-based Berkshire Eagle and the hospital closure hurt his chances as much as anything else. Explaining that both of those are private entities, Alcombright is focusing on the reopened emergency center and the services that have been restored by Berkshire Health Systems.
“We’ve got fully 85 percent of our services back right now and restored,” Alcombright said. “I don’t hear any loud chatter in the community that would suggest that BMC, this administration and other state leaders have not done right thing in bringing back services.”
If needed, North Adams’ preliminary election is September 22nd. The general election is November 3rd.