Seven North Adams, Massachusetts residents are in the running to fill a vacant seat on the city council.
Robert Moulton resigned from the council under pressure in late July after making controversial statements about Black Lives Matter and COVID-19.
Now, the second largest community in Berkshire County has a seat to fill on its nine-person city council.
“It’s not very often that this has to occur, but it has happened a couple times in fairly recent history," said City Councilor Benjamin Lamb, who was council president when a mid-term seat-filling last occurred in 2017, when Nancy Bullet resigned to move out of state. “So what we did is we structured it so that each interested party who had to submit a letter of interest was given I believe 5 minutes to essentially present themselves to the council, to make remarks as to their candidacy and their reason for wanting to fill the seat. And then the council is essentially given time to both discuss and then also do a formal nomination and voting process. So it’s pretty efficient, it’s pretty straightforward, and it’s really a matter of the council getting a sense of the individuals who are interested in the role so that they can make an informed decision.”
Peter J. Oleskiewicz, Bryan K. Sapienza, Ronald K. Sheldon, Gina Maria Consolini, J. McConnell, Ashley Shade, and Wayne S. Gelinas submitted letters of interest to the North Adams city clerk.
“One of the big things that came into the discussion last time when this occurred was really the vote of the people," said Lamb. "So when you look at, from the very logistics point of view, who ran last time and who was number 10 in the votes, for instance. That would be essentially the next person that would have been in line for potentially becoming a councilor.”
Three of the potential new councilors ran in the 2019 election. Oleskiewicz came in 10th with 877 votes. Sapienza received 863 and Sheldon got 352.
“But other considerations that come to mind – trying to have a diversity of voices on the council, in terms of both political affiliation but also backgrounds, knowledge base," Lamb told WAMC. "It’s good to have a well-rounded set of career paths as well on the council, so having folks that come from different backgrounds can speak to that. Having a robust cross section of people that are both transplants to the area but also individuals who have lived here their whole life.”
Lamb says that unlike the city’s school committee, the North Adams city council has very little on the books about the replacement process – allowing for different incarnations of the body to interpret it in different ways.
“Sometimes it’s the number 10 councilor, the number 10 vote getter. Sometimes it’s been completely different. A good example of that is when Danny Alcombright passed away and Dick Alcombright was selected to fill his seat. That was a different model that was used to select a person," said the councilor. "So it does change, and it’s something where we don’t have something written firmly in our protocols around how to address this. Being that it has happened now twice since I’ve been on council, it does raise the question of if maybe that’s something we should put some more thought to.”
The North Adams city council convenes virtually at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.