The mayor of North Adams, Massachusetts says he’ll run for re-election this fall.
Nearing the end of his first term, Tom Bernard has a message for North Adams.
“Put very simply, I’m not done yet," said the mayor. "It’s been a good start and I want to carry through on the progress that we’ve seen.”
This fall, Bernard will ask city voters to keep him in the corner office for another two years. He says his list of accomplishments starts with efforts to plan for the future.
“One of the things is planning for change, really looking at how do we ensure long term sustainability for the city," said Bernard. "Things such as the move for the school department into city hall, which both is an efficiency for the city and school in terms of saving money but also for the potential for shared services down the road.”
The mayor points to a number of grants the city has brought in during his tenure.
“$90,000 to update the airport master plan, $50,000 to work on our zoning project, $30,000 for climate vulnerability preparedness, things that are about long-term planning for the future of the city,” he told WAMC.
In the realm of public safety, Bernard touts his selection of Police Chief Jason Wood to succeed Michael Cozzaglio among the major accomplishments of his first term.
“I said when I started that, that it was going to be the most important hire of this term," said the mayor. "And it has been, and I am pleased with the outcome.”
At a time when the city has grappled with high crime rates, staffing shortages, and a decrepit public safety building, the move wasn’t the only change the police force has seen under Bernard’s leadership.
“We removed the police department from civil service, which we’ve seen some positive effects on our recruiting and our ability to bring in officers,” said Bernard.
The mayor also noted his efforts to address facilities.
“Early on we got funding into the state bond bill for an engineering study for a new public safety building, and that money hasn’t been appropriated yet so we’re doing as much work as we can now to plan for that, to figure out the location, the siting, all of those things,” he said.
In terms of consolidating resources, Bernard has made efforts to divest from a number of city-owned properties during his term.
“We put out the Notre Dame building, which is moving forward, the salt shed on Ashland Street which unfortunately isn’t, we’ll be putting out the Mohawk Theatre RFP when we’ve got that developed," said Bernard. "I expect by the end of the fiscal year, by the end of June, we’ll have sold the former DPW property to Cumberland Farms.”
On the economic front, Bernard is proud of a tax increment financing agreement the city made with Stanley Black & Decker that will allow Tog Manufacturing to expand its operation in North Adams. Bernard says the move will bring close to 30 jobs to the city over the next three years.
“I was at an event at McCann School last week that was put on by MassHire Berkshire," said Bernard. "And it was a manufacturing certificate program and what we’re realizing is it creates connections in the community that will allow people to train and pursue jobs and careers here, raise families, buy homes, and then compete because as more folks are trained and the demand for labor increases, the salary demand for people should increase as well so we’ll see that effecting standard of living throughout the region.”
If given a second term, Bernard says one of his goals is to see the city become more transparent and accessible to its residents, as well as for it to make further progress on public safety.
“That we continue to focus on insuring we are a safe and a welcoming community, that we are working at every level to address the challenges of things like the opioid epidemic and the epidemic of domestic violence in the community, to insure that people are safe, that they are secure, that they are accessing the services that they need,” said the mayor.
While efforts to further develop the city’s economy and revive its downtown are high among his priorities, Bernard says North Adams must keep an eye on equity for it most vulnerable citizens.
“Making sure that we are working so that people are not left behind," he told WAMC. "That seniors and those on fixed incomes can afford to stay in their homes. That we are managing our operations in as fiscally responsible a way as we can and minimizing the added impact on ratepayers while insuring that we provide a high level of service.”
Bernard’s re-election campaign begins with a kickoff event on June 13th.