PITTSFIELD -- School Committee Chairman Alfred E. "Alf" Barbalunga has announced he won't seek re-election this fall and he will leave another city board as well at the end of the year.
Barbalunga had taken out nomination papers to run again in November, but he said Monday he now intends to leave at the end of his committee term in December. He cited personal and professional responsibilities that might require him to step down before the end of the next two-year term cycle. He works in the Massachusetts Trial Court Probation system.
Barbalunga said he'll also step down in December from the Community Development Board, on which he has served for 14 years. That position is an appointed one.
"I have contributed 18 years of combined service to the city of Pittsfield, and I feel very grateful to be a member of this vibrant community," he said. "I anticipate being back in public service again, possibly as soon as 2016."
Barbalunga also noted that only five candidates had thus far taken out nomination papers for the six open committee seats. He urged interested citizens, especially younger residents, women and minorities, to consider running.
The last day to turn in papers to the registrar of voters to have the required 300 voter signatures certified is Tuesday, Aug. 6, City Clerk Linda Tyer said. The general election is Nov. 5.
"During the past year," Barbalunga said, "I have had the unique experience of co-managing the Pittsfield school district with three different superintendents. Among many accomplishments, we were able to sign all of the union bargaining contracts and present annual budgets, which will allow this school system to move forward."
Jason "Jake" McCandless, who became superintendent of city schools on July 1, said he was "saddened" by Barbalunga's decision.
"I know it is a time-consuming position," he said. "I am just sorry I didn't get to work with him longer."
"I was very surprised when he called to tell me," said 16-year committee member Daniel Elias, "but I understood his reasons."
"I will miss him," committee member Katherine Yon said. "It was a pleasure working with him."
She said she was surprised by Barbalunga's decision but sees it as "indicative of the time commitment required to serve on the committee."
Yon and Barbalunga also mentioned the fact committee members, unlike city councilors, are not paid, although a section in a proposed new city charter -- expected to be on the ballot in November -- would allow payment if the mayor and council agree to implement that.
Elias said he has seen the number of candidates for committee vary over the years from seven to 12 for the six seats available. "Normally, we have at least seven," he said. "It is very rare to just have six."
Elias said he recently spoke with incumbent board member Terry Kinnas, who said he remained undecided on the election. Kinnas could not be reached for comment Monday.
Two other incumbents, Kathleen Amuso and James Conant, have taken nomination papers for at large City Council seats.
Those currently expected to run for the committee include incumbents Elias and Yon and challengers Cynthia A. Taylor of Wendell Avenue, Brittany Lynne Douglas of Center Street and Joshua Cutler of Brookside Drive, who took out papers Thursday.
"There seems to be a general lack of interest" in the city election this year, Elias said, with unopposed council candidates in most wards and no announced challenger for Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi.
Barbalunga said another factor in a dearth of candidates may be the harsh criticism office-holders sometimes receive. While he has been able to handle the criticism office-holders receive from multiple media sources, he said he often has people say to him, "I don't know how you can stand it."
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