Bernard sworn in as North Adams mayor

Vows to ensure city's future with healthy economy

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NORTH ADAMS — As he stood behind a podium for his first speech as the city's new mayor, Thomas Bernard made only one promise.

"I will make mistakes, but I will never fail for lack of trying," he said.

Officially sworn into office on Monday, Bernard gave an overflowing crowd in the City Council chambers an inauguration address that both praised the efforts of his predecessors while setting forth a new vision for North Adams.

"Their actions and decisions shaped the city we live in and lead now," Bernard said. "We have the responsibility to take the best from their examples while adapting ourselves to the conditions, resources, tools, and opportunities available to us."

Despite having never run for political office in North Adams, the city native handily won the race for mayor last November.

Replacing Mayor Richard Alcombright, Bernard becomes only the third city mayor in the last 34 years.

A former administrator at both the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Bernard ran a campaign on the platform of creating economic energy by improving the city's education, infrastructure, and public health.

On Monday, Bernard gave a passionate inauguration address that drew a standing ovation from the crowd. His emotion was evident throughout the morning — it took about two lines into Bernard's swearing in for his voice to begin to waver.

Mirroring comments he made throughout the campaign, Bernard sought to reconcile any differences between city newcomers and lifelong, deep-rooted residents.

Bernard read a passage from an 1885 edition Gazetteer of Berkshire County that described North Adams as "the smartest village in the smartest nation in all creation."

"Our strength is indeed in our people, whether they count their North Adams tenure in generations, months, or mere days," Bernard said. "And while we have work to do in the arena of economic development outreach and advocacy — particularly throughout our downtown — signs of progress and entrepreneurial vision are everywhere."

He noted the investments made in the Greylock Mill by Greylock Works, the Tourists Hotel project, B&B Micro Manufacturing, and other growing or new businesses in the city.

"Our job is to nurture these investments and the financial equity and social capital being generated in our city — from our neighborhoods and schools to our public services and city government to our anchor institutions," Bernard said.

The inauguration ceremony at City Hall drew a variety of local dignitaries, including state Sen. Adam Hinds and state Rep. John Barrett III, 1st Berkshire District, who served as the city's mayor for 13 terms prior to Alcombright's tenure.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and Gov. Charlie Baker sent representatives from their respective offices to the ceremony. Also present were former state Rep. Daniel Bosley, MCLA President James Birge and former MCLA president Mary Grant.

Bernard became visibly emotional when welcoming Grant, whom he worked under while an administrator at MCLA.

The new mayor was also joined by his wife, Jen, and their daughter, Alex, as well as his parents, Jane and Tom Bernard.

Bernard gave a special thanks to former Mayor Richard Alcombright and read a proclamation in his honor.

"Thank you for eight years of committed leadership as mayor as well as for your decades of service to our community in so many ways," Bernard said to Alcombright.

The new mayor also made note of the late state representative and former City Councilor Gailanne Cariddi, who died in 2017.

Bernard ended his speech on an optimistic note.

"We will learn and we will grow together. We will deliberate and we will disagree. We will face challenges and celebrate achievements together. We will do all these things animated by our belief in the awesome responsibility of service and by our love for, and our belief in, the potential of our bright, busy, bustling, dashing North Adams."

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-496-6376.


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