Tyer Heading For Second Term As Mazzeo Concedes Pittsfield Mayoral Race
Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer has won a second four-year term, bouncing back from a defeat in the preliminary election.
Tyer placed second in September’s preliminary election to challenger Melissa Mazzeo – a 10-year veteran of the city council and a frequent opponent of the mayor in the council chambers. The incumbent ran on her record, including her administration’s ability to develop the city’s economy, in the face of withering criticism of rising crime rates.
And in a city with a long history of tossing incumbents, the voters stuck with Tyer.
“There are people in every corner of this city who came out today and filled in an oval for progress, filled in an oval because they believed and affirmed the work that we’ve done in the last four years, and they said yes, yes we want more of what works,” said Tyer during her victory speech.
Tyer won with 52% of the vote to Mazzeo’s 48%. Speaking with reporters, the mayor acknowledged that crime emerged as the campaign’s biggest conversation.
“While I feel like we’ve done a lot to combat crime, I accept that there’s more work for us to do, and we’re ready to do that,” said Tyer.
She said some of that work is already in progress.
“We’re going to keep hiring more police officers, and we’re working on our High Intensity Drug Trafficking designation with our partners in the county and that’s going to be really powerful because it’s going to bring some federal resources to our county,” said the mayor.
The hotly contested race between Tyer and Mazzeo had even seasoned Pittsfield political insiders unsure down to the final weeks of the campaign.
“If it was a turn, it was a really gradual curve," said Tom Sakshaug, who ran Tyer’s 2015 and 2019 campaigns. He said hard work, social media strategies, and gaffes from the Mazzeo campaign were among the deciding factors in the race.
“I always felt like we were ahead, but I wasn’t sure," said Sakshaug. "But the last, oh, three or four weeks you could feel the change, you could feel the undecided coming to the Tyer side. So we felt pretty confident coming into tonight.”
“It feels good, but I’m running on caffeine fumes at the moment and they’re being replaced by beer fumes, I’m afraid," said Sakshaug. "I’m tired and I’m really ready to take a year off. The presidential election can take care of itself.”
“We decided in the beginning that we were going to run a campaign that appealed to people’s higher hopes," said Tyer. “And I think that that resonated in contrast to what I would describe as a lot of criticisms and complaints and blaming. A lot of people work really hard all across the city to make it the place it is.”
She pointed to key elements of her campaign’s strategy in the race’s home stretch.
“I think the debates informed a lot of people," said the mayor. "I think our policy op-eds that were published in the Eagle informed a lot of people.”
“We’re a little shocked, actually, I have to say,” said Mazzeo.
Just down the road from Tyer’s victory party at the Country Club of Pittsfield, Mazzeo held court with supporters in her family’s restaurant.
“For the last couple of months when we’ve been doing our door to door and taking our phone calls, making our phone calls, we have really been hearing an outcry from the residents that they’re not being heard, that they’re frustrated with the rising crime,” she told WAMC.
Claiming Tyer was “disingenuous” about Mazzeo’s record, the councilor told WAMC that she had no regrets about how she carried out her mayoral bid – and like her rival, she said local media played a role on the race’s outcome.
“I don’t think the Berkshire Eagle was a help in any way in all," said Mazzeo. "The fact that they not only did they – a lot of her letters got promoted and a lot of mine didn’t. And then they endorsed her, which is typical. They’ve never endorsed me. As a candidate, they’ve never endorsed me in my 10 years that I’ve been a city councilor. And then the fact that even on Monday, which is really considered a blackout day for politics, they still did an editorial on my mailer.”
A mailer released over the last weekend of the race, which paired Eagle headlines about crime in Pittsfield with an image of a SWAT team raid not taken in the city, proved controversial on social media. Mazzeo described it as “spot on” regardless of the photo’s origins.
“Well the image I used that wasn’t from Pittsfield was because I didn’t want to use the picture of the guys from Pittsfield because one, I would have had to buy that picture," she explained to WAMC. "When I tried to buy a picture of the Berkshire Eagle before, they wouldn’t allow it. Secondly, I almost didn’t want to use our guys because I didn’t really want to give away – if their names were on there, I didn’t really want to use them. We chose that picture from somewhere else, but we have plenty of pictures, if you go back and look in the Berkshire Eagle, of our SWAT team doing exactly that.”
Mazzeo says she plans on holding the mayor to her campaign promises even after her tenure on the council expires next month.
“When I’m done on the council, I’m going to continue to be an incredible watchdog,” she said.