RICHMOND >> I am running for state Senate because our district needs a state senator who is invested in this district; who has experienced the triumphs and the challenges of raising a family in this community; and who is committed to serving this district through more than just a few elections.
I am a small business owner, a parent, and an attorney. These experiences have inspired me to advocate for solutions to our district's most pressing problems.
I grew up in the Berkshires. My family has been in the Berkshires for generations — as employees at Sprague Electric and GE, and as farmers, carpenters, and housekeepers. In my family, you simply worked hard.
Thanks to my parents' hard work, I have had opportunities that they did not enjoy. I graduated from Pittsfield public schools and became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Then, I became the first person in my family to go to law school.
When my husband and I moved back to Berkshire County 10 years ago, we grappled with the challenge of supporting our family in a region that was experiencing population loss, so we purchased a small business — the Public Market on Main Street in West Stockbridge. While we have amazing customers and dedicated employees, running a small business is a tremendous challenge.
We struggle with finding employees. The BRTA doesn't serve our little downtown in West Stockbridge, so our employees need a car just to get to work. Talking with folks across the district, staffing and transportation are universal challenges for our local businesses. For example, General Dynamics is hiring 190 workers. As a senator, I would mobilize to ensure that those positions are filled — we cannot afford to lose anymore jobs.
We also struggle with energy. This is the Public Market's biggest monthly expense. I see the promise of investing in renewable energy and green jobs both as an opportunity for economic development and a long-term solution to global warming. We need to make this a priority for our local businesses to stay competitive and so that we can attract new business.
I joined Berkshares, Inc., an organization developing innovative ways to support local businesses, focusing on keeping more dollars here. We teach young people about entrepreneurship, and we are partnering with local banks to create a micro-lending program. Identifying products that businesses in our area can manufacture locally led to the creation of the "Community Supported Industry" program.
My husband and I returned to the Berkshires to raise our children here. Their education is of utmost importance to us. We are concerned by the stress that our teachers, administrators and students are under and we see the decline in population affecting our schools.
As parents we want all of our students to receive high quality, individualized instruction and we worry about the effects of high-stakes testing. I have advocated for a district-wide approach to providing all of our children with the very best education from preschool through college, including high quality after-school, mentoring and vocational programs for our students.
Courts offer insight
I have spent the last 10 years representing indigent criminal defendants and families across the county and state. As an attorney, I am one of the many people on the front lines of our region's opioid epidemic. Attorneys, police officers, therapists, nurses, and doctors are doing their work without fanfare. There are no awards for convincing a client to take a plea that includes essential treatment instead of going to trial.
My work in the courts has given me insight into the cycle of poverty and addiction afflicting our communities. For example, I noticed a theme among my legal clients — many lived in their grandmother's homes. In many families, that was the last generation with the financial security to buy a home. Substance abuse and crime is a symptom of a larger problem — it is the effect of a long-term economic decline.
My experience has taught me that with a fighting spirit and by working together, we can solve our most difficult problems. It is that spirit — that there is a solution to the effects of long-term economic decline — which I bring to my work every day.
As a senator, I pledge to:
* Bring a drug court to Berkshire County with the goal of shifting funds from incarcerating people to treating them;
* Invest in our transportation infrastructure, high speed Internet, and education so that we all have access to opportunity;
* Support the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield, to grow the life sciences sector and high tech manufacturing;
* Organize and advocate for state-wide and local approaches to support our local farmers, specialty-foods producers, artists, and entrepreneurs;
* Protect our environment by opposing the pipeline and pushing the state-wide effort to expand alternative energy sources, create more green jobs, and to protect human health from toxic waste in our communities; and,
* Bring more resources to our district through the budgeting process and by equalizing the taxes paid by people earning over a million dollars per year.
I am running because I am the passionate, practical, progressive leader that the four counties need to serve them in the state Senate, and I ask for your vote in the Democratic primary on Sept. 8.
Please contact me to join my campaign and to join me in building a district where all of our children can return to be part of a vibrant, prosperous community.
The author is a candidate for state Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden district. To reach Andrea Harrington email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.andreaforsenate.com for more information or to volunteer.