North Adams Voters Keep Alcombright In Mayor's Office, Divide Re-Exposed

Nov 4, 2015

In one of the most compelling races in our region last night, voters in North Adams decided to stick with the current mayor instead of putting the man who led the city for a quarter century back into the corner office.

Incumbent Richard Alcombright beat out former mayor John Barrett by roughly 375 votes Tuesday in a rematch of 2009’s race.

“The vote yesterday said to me ‘Let’s keep going,’” Alcombright said. “Just keep going.”

And Alcombright will keep going into his fourth two-year term in January. The results were flipped from September’s preliminary when Barrett took 51 percent of the vote and every city ward. Alcombright called the weeks since an uphill battle.

“We knew we left a couple thousand people at home at that point in time so our job was to get the vote out and we did a great job at that,” said Alcombright.

About 52 percent of roughly 8,700 registered voters in North Adams cast ballots. Barrett, who announced his run in August, says he knew it was going to be a tough race when he got into it.

“There are a lot of new people who came to the city of North Adams and they were the area where the Alcombright campaign went after those new ones,” Barrett said. “They said some things on social media that just weren’t quite accurate and I think that had an impact. We didn’t run a negative campaign in any way, we stuck to the issues, but the new ones who came here really didn’t know me and they were listening to social media and other things. It’s too bad, but it happens. The people have spoken and that’s the way it will be.”

Alcombright says he did not run an attack campaign, but admits the race itself did get mean spirited.

“That was nothing driven by our campaign,” Alcombright said. “I think it was a lot years from a lot of people almost freeing themselves with stories of the former administration. But that’s behind us now. I’m just hoping it stays behind us and all of us can move forward.” 

As for mending the fences…as of Wednesday the two had not spoken to each other.

“I did that for a reason because I think it’s time that Mayor Alcombright honor his commitment to include and reach out to everybody,” Barrett said. “This is his opportunity to put the city back together. He’s got to understand that there’s a large segment of this community, and it’s growing each and every year from the first year that he was elected, that he’s got to include these people. He’s got to understand that there are more people in this city whose voices aren’t being heard than are.” 

Alcombright says he has respect for Barrett as a 26-year mayor and for his years of service to the community, but doesn’t intend to reach out to his predecessor.

“Quite honestly I think John and I, it’s been an adversarial thing for quite some time,” Alcombright said. “In 2009 I ran a good race. We took office. I would be lying if I didn’t say it hasn’t been disruptive for the past six years. I think the voters made a statement yesterday that they want to see the type of government that my administration is putting out here.”

You never say never in politics, but Barrett doesn’t think he will reenter the game. Instead he wants to finish a book on Massachusetts politics and North Adams’ transformation from a largely manufacturing city to that of a creative economy.

“Those people had always been there for me in past and I felt as though I owed them something to at least step into the fray one more time,” Barrett said. “But it’s time for me to step back and let the city take the direction that the voters want it to take.”

Alcombright says he wants to assist proposed redevelopments on the city’s West End and continue the fight against opioid abuse. One of the major campaign topics was healthcare following the 2014 closure of North Adams Regional Hospital. Barrett said he would push for the restoration of a full-service hospital while Alcombright vowed to continue aiding Berkshire Health Systems restore services, largely outpatient.

“I think that most people, and I say most people, have been satisfied with what we’ve done with respect to restoration of health services in North Berkshire,” Alcombright said. “Is it what we had? Of course not. But in many ways is it better than what we had? Yes it is.”