To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Five gubernatorial candidates recently visited us here in the Berkshires, the beginning of a long and important year of politics in Massachusetts. We had a chance to hear each speak. Good folks, all of them. And while I perhaps had a sense of one of them coming more strongly into the forefront for myself, I ask myself why I’m not all that excited to jump into the political fray. Well, it’s because I can’t bear losing our current Governor Patrick. We’ve had an amazing 7-plus years of this extraordinary man who has led us to excel.

He’s led the way to leaving the recession behind faster than most states, to regain all the jobs lost in the recent recession (and we’re still adding jobs). He’s guided the helm so that our students are at the top of the charts in achievement, and our state is at the top of the charts nationally in clean and alternative energy. Under Gov. Patrick’s lead, we’ve found our way to be first in the nation in entrepreneurship, health care coverage, veterans’ services, and energy efficiency. And we don’t leave anyone out in the cold. We guarantee shelter for all.

The list goes on. We have a man who governs for the long term. A man who thinks not of the election ahead, but of the generations to come. We have a man who sets a standard for humanity that has made us proud.

To me, the issue isn’t perfection, for surely there are places we might disagree. But the standard for our state has become leadership by care, by integrity, by big thinking.

So we can’t afford to sit back and bemoan the loss of a gifted governor. We have to seek out the same qualities that we have loved in yet another man or woman who courageously steps forth to run for our state’s highest office. We have to ask the important questions, and listen not only to the words, but the thoughtfulness between the words, the essence of a humanity that will meet the unknown challenges of the next four years with wisdom.

We’ve got to push the candidates to continue to make Massachusetts a state that leads the country in important ways, to continue our work in education, in energy, in the economy, and most importantly, to do so with a big listening ear, an outstretched arm, and a golden heart.

SUSAN OLSHUFF

Lenox