Pittsfield City Council, School Committee and new city clerk sworn in

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Ben Garver — The Berkshire Eagle
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PITTSFIELD — City officials new and old swore oaths to Pittsfield residents on Tuesday, promising to set aside differences and move the city forward.

"So help me God," vowed members of the City Council, School Committee and a new city clerk, during an inauguration ceremony at City Hall.

Among the group were council newcomers Helen Moon and Earl Persip III, both of whom said the event was emotional.

"There's a lot of hope for the city, but I also feel a lot of weight because I want to do right by the people who live here," said Moon, who represents Ward 1.

Persip, who will serve as councilor at large, said the day was a long time coming.

"This is something I talked about for years," he said, grinning widely. "I'm ready to hit the ground running."

During its organizational meeting on Tuesday, the council was unanimous in voting to return Councilor at large Peter Marchetti to the president's seat. Ward 6 Councilor John Krol narrowly held onto his vice president's post in a tight contest against Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo.

Krol earned the support of Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo, Marchetti, Moon, Persip, and Councilor at large Pete White; Mazzeo was backed by Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers and Ward 7 Councilor Tony Simonelli.

The room buzzed with tension leading into the roll-call vote, when Krol's 2-year-old son, Beckett, freed himself of his mother's grasp and scuttled up to his father's lap. The toddler clung to Krol's left shoulder as he used his right hand to swear the oath.

After the organizational meeting, Connell said that he voted for Mazzeo because of her knowledge of council rules and because he felt she would bring the council together.

"I think Melissa, had she been elected, would have brought some unity to the council, and professionalism," he said.

Mazzeo said she knew Krol would win the seat, and it won't change her pursuit of "good civil debate" on the council.

"To me, that's unity," she said. "You're never gonna get 11 people who sit up there and think the same way."

Krol said he was glad to see a contest for the seat, and also that he'll continue to serve as "an extra set of eyes and ears for the president."

"I respect Mazzeo for going for it and I respect the people who voted for her, and I certainly appreciate the people who voted for me," Krol said. "I think it's good we have that engagement."

Councilors often cast opposing votes, Marchetti said upon the body's formation, and those votes can change between meetings. But what's important is councilors push their chairs in and continue making the decision that is most right in the moment.

"Collectively as a City Council, we need to do what's best for the city of Pittsfield," he said.

At the start of the ceremony, outgoing City Clerk Jody Phillips swore in her successor, Michele Cetti, who in turn swore in members of the City Council and School Committee, including newcomers Dennis Powell and William Cameron, and sitting members Joshua Cutler, Daniel Elias, Cynthia Taylor and Katherine Yon.

Mayor Linda Tyer congratulated them all in a speech that reflected on Pittsfield politics past and present, from the city's early days as "a daughter of a loved and honored and honorable commonwealth" to recent incentives awarded LTI Smart Glass and the Berkshire Innovation Center.

The School Committee continues to reshape a school system enduring significant budgetary cuts, and the council next week will take up the controversial issue of a tote-based trash pickup program.

There are critical decisions ahead, she said.

"It challenges our character," she said, adding that she hopes that as they wade those waters, the new representatives "lead our citizens despite their reservations."

"I am eager to work with all of you on behalf of our citizens," Tyer said.

As for the greater citizenry, Tyer said she's excited to see "community activism is alive and well" in a city with a noble history in abolitionism.

"Today we build from this proud foundation and design our destiny," she said.

As the council collectively weathers "waves of high confidence and worrisome doubt," the mayor borrowed words from Theodore Roosevelt, advising them it is "not the critic who counts." Rather, it's the one in the thick of it "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood."

"We vow to do the next right thing for each other and for our city," she said. "One of us cannot succeed without the other."

Amanda Drane can be reached at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, at @amandadrane on Twitter and at 413-496-6296.


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