Some changes are coming after Tuesday’s election in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Eric Gabriel and Garfield Reed were voted onto the selectboard while incumbent Kate Burke was narrowly unseated.
Unofficial numbers from the town clerk show that the race for two three-year seats came down to a handful of votes. Gabriel secured 649, Reed 619 and first-term selectboard member Burke 599.
“If you look at the breakdown with the vote count, my neighbors, everybody in Housatonic really turned out for me," said Eric Gabriel, a 44-year-old electrical contractor who hails from Housatonic, a village within Great Barrington set just apart from the town proper. “It was a higher than normal vote count in Housatonic I feel, and everybody just really turned out and showed up for me. So, I think it's just everybody feeling the need that they need at least one person from this area on the on the board, to have a voice be heard and have somebody that they can stop when, when at the post office or at Aberdale’s and just to relay their concerns, and people are better at doing that and feel like they're being heard more than over an email, you know, so it's that personal connection, I feel is, is what got me through.”
The village’s dilapidated former school building is one of the community’s chief concerns.
“Obviously, the Housatonic School needs to be addressed," said Gabriel. "And that's something that we've been working on in Housatonic Improvement Committee for a year and I think we're getting close to making some decisions on it.”
The other new selectboard member describes himself as a blue collar working class man who wants to be a champion of the unheard.
“Being 70 years old, I think I will look to try to see if I can get through a tax deferral for seniors," said Garfield Reed. "That is something that has been brought to me by one of the constituents in Great Barrington. And I think it's worth looking at because I am a senior.”
Reed, who works part-time at the Plaza Package Store, sits on the Great Barrington Affordable Housing Trust Committee and is an associate Planning Board member.
“I think I would like to hope to facilitate something happening at Monument Mountain High School, it does need some repairs," he told WAMC. "We all know that the population is shrinking, the school population. So there are school boards who are speaking about possibly consolidation and maybe having a better vocational program. I would like to try to champion it or work for it.”
With the vote, Reed becomes one of the few elected people of color in Berkshire County, and says he wants to make sure the community is safe for everyone.
“We here in Great Barrington have a small minority community and a growing but small immigrant population, and I want to make sure that the police are up to standards with their training, their sensitivity training and all the police reform that's being introduced," said Reed. "And I spoke with the chief of police are doing a fine job. I commend what they're doing. And I will intermittently, periodically speak with the chief to make sure they're still on line and going forward.”
Beyond sitting on the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Committee, Reed lives in a home made available to him by Great Barrington-based affordable housing non-profit Construct.
“We are putting 14 homes in Housatonic through the Great Barrington Affordable Housing Trust Fund," said the new selectboard member. "So anything that promotes affordable housing, I'm up for and I know we do need to stand behind Construct and other places that are making it possible for some people to live here and still live here by the rental programs. We're a service industry. We don't have a lot of high paying jobs, I love to think that we could facilitate it. We haven't had talks about job creation in a long time.”
The next major Great Barrington political event is the annual town meeting over two nights on June 7th and 10th at Monument Mountain Regional High School.