Monday September 26, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Tuesday's preliminary election in Pittsfield has half as many candidates for mayor as two years ago, yet the five listed on the ballot are as varied as the 10 who competed in 2009 for City Hall's top job.

Stephen Fillio, Donna M. Walto, Ward 7 Councilor Joseph C. Nichols, Daniel L. Bianchi and Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti are vying for the corner office currently held by Mayor James M. Ruberto. Ruberto announced in January he wouldn't seek a record-tying fifth straight two-year term as the city's chief executive.

The top two finishers in the preliminary contest will square off in the Nov. 8 general election.

Voters will choose from five mayoral hopefuls with a wide variety of political experience and personal backgrounds.

Walto and Fillio are making their third attempts to become mayor: Walto lost to Ruberto in 2005 and ‘07 while Fillio didn't make it past the preliminary elections in ‘07 and ‘09. Bianchi hopes to build on the support he garnered in 2009 when the former Ward 6 councilor of 10 years lost by 200 votes to Ruberto in the general election.

While Marchetti and Nichols are both first-time mayoral candidates, Marchetti has five city-wide councilor at large campaigns under his belt -- winning four two-year terms. Nichols made his political debut two years ago by capturing the Ward 7 council seat.

Outside the political arena, the candidates range from being self-employed to being key company officials and, in one case, a self-proclaimed blue-collar man.

Fillio, 47, considers himself a candidate of Pittsfield's working class, having held a number of skilled labor positions such as automotive technician and heavy equipment operator.

"I am a well-grounded person who can work with all kinds of people," he said.

Walto, owner of Berkshire BackRoad Tour Co. finds being a mother and grandmother has "grounded her in reality" and makes the 62-year-old qualified to be Pittsfield's next mayor.

"This, along with my strong background of a liberal arts degree from Williams College and my creative entrepreneurial skills give me the ability for critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and leadership," she said.

Nichols, 45, claims being self-employed gives him an edge over his opponents.

"Being a manager or employee doesn't give you the same leadership qualities as beginning and running your own business," said the owner of the Cove Bakery.

Bianchi is the Pittsfield manager for Global Montello Group, a Waltham-based energy services company, and has municipal government experience, aside from being a veteran city councilor. The 60-year-old was Pittsfield's finance director and treasurer from 1988-1993 and served on the state Finance Control Board, which monitored Pittsfield's severe money woes from 2001-04.

"I have a strong work ethic and strong governmental and business experience to serve the public," said Bianchi.

Marchetti, 43, believes he has a more well-rounded resume, citing his 23 years as a volunteer for local youth bowling and employee of The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank and his 10 years as coordinator for the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade.

"I come with effective leadership skills in the private, non-profit and public sector," he said.

If elected in November, the five mayoral candidates also have differing goals for their first six months in office.

Marchetti wants an earlier start to the budget review process with the City Council and improved communication between City Hall and the residents. He plans to air a pre-game show of sorts on Pittsfield Community Television prior to regular City Council meetings also broadcast on PCTV.

"The show will give a better understanding to residents why items are being put forward to the council," Marchetti said.

Strengthening the city's public safety effort, a specific economic plan for Pittsfield Public Schools and a jobs initiative are atop Bianchi's priority list.

"We should have been marketing a jobs initiative years ago," he said.

Nichols, too, wants to accelerate the city's effort to boost the local work force, as well as make significant changes at City Hall.

"I will be organizing and training staff and department heads concerning any new policies I would like to implement," he said. "I will be administering cost-saving measures throughout each department."

Walto, like Marchetti, said she will make the mayor's office more visible through PCTV and in person.

"I will visit the children in our schools so that they will feel a personal connection to our city and our heritage," she said. "I will advocate for civics to be part of the school curriculum so that our children realize the importance of government in their lives."

Job creation and public education are also high on Fillio's to-do list, if elected, during his administrations first six months.

"I will help existing businesses and get new, good-paying businesses in [Pittsfield]," said Fillio. "I also want the school to be repaired as needed and make sure our kids and residents have a safe place to live."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.

At a glance ...

What: Pittsfield preliminary election

When: Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Races: Mayor and Ward 4; top two finishers in each race advance to the Nov. 8 general election

Absentee voting: Absentee voting: Absentee ballot applications are due today, noon, at City Hall. The application is required in order to qualify for an absentee ballot which will be accepted up until 8 p.m. when the polls close on Tuesday.

Information: Call the Registrar of Voters at (413) 499-9460.