Berkshire political leaders to headline Lenox forum on making government work


LENOX -- Three area political leaders will be on the town library's hot seat on Sunday, taking the public's questions during a panel discussion titled "Local Government: Making the System Work for You."

Appearing at the 4 p.m. forum, part of the library's free monthly Distinguished Lecture series, will be state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and David Roche, chairman of the Lenox Board of Selectmen.

The first three-guest event of the lecture series was the brainchild of Jeremy Yudkin, a Stockbridge resident and professor of music at Boston University's School of Fine Arts.

"My idea was to invite the hierarchy of politicians that a local resident would consult for a problem," Yudkin stated. "They all accepted the invitation with alacrity. I shall be interviewing them as a panel on how people can make government work for them."

After the guests discuss their roles at the Statehouse and at Lenox Town Hall, there will be a question-and-answer session.

"It's a bit of a departure from our usual single lecturer," said Sharon Hawkes, the library's executive director. "It's an opportunity for the panelists to talk about their roles in state and local government."

"It's great that the library is doing this," Pignatelli said. "It gives people a flavor of how we work together and how much the federal government's action or inaction trickles down to affect us."

"I hope we'll have people attending who want to know more about how local government works, as opposed to state government," said Roche. "There are a lot of differences. I like to compare it to a pothole, which has no party, Republican or Democrat, and that's what the local guys are faced with."

Downing, first elected in 2006, has the state's largest state Senate district -- 52 communities in Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties. He is the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, and is vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

Before Pignatelli was first elected to the Statehouse in 2003, he served on the Lenox Select Board from 1992-2003 and, prior to that, on the Lenox Planning Board. He is on three Joint Committees -- Higher Education; Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development; and Ways and Means.

Winding up his third year on the Select Board and running for re-election this May, Roche owns the Berkshire Adult Equestrian Center in Lenox and is an instructor for Berkshire Enterprises, an incubator for new business owners and entrepreneurs. He is involved with the town's Historical Commission, library, School Committee and VFW.

If you go ...

What: ‘Local Government: Making the System Work for You,' a panel discussion.

Who: State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Lenox Select Board Chairman David Roche.

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Lenox Library, 18 Main St.

Information:, the library's Facebook page, or (413) 637-2630


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