North Adams' Mayor-elect Thomas Bernard talks about the road ahead

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NORTH ADAMS — Thomas Bernard has officially learned the meaning of the phrase "phone blowing up."

In the hours since he defeated Robert Moulton Jr. in the race for the corner office, Bernard has heard from Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, U.S Rep. Richard Neal, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Municipal Association and a host of other people.

"I'm just trying to find some space in all that to take it in and process it a little better than last night, when it all hit," Bernard said.

The mayor-elect sat with The Eagle on Wednesday for a brief interview to discuss his immediate plans after his election victory Tuesday.

Bernard expects to sit down with Mayor Richard Alcombright and the city's department heads to dig deeper into specifics and learn "what the big things are on every department's plate."

Bernard said he wants to spend time with purchasing and finance and the assessor's office, because of their significance in the annual budget process.

"I want to get a very clear picture going into the office, because I know during that first 100 days, one of the things I'm going to jump into is the FY19 budget, and I want to be ready for that," Bernard said.

Through these conversations, Bernard hopes to glean information that can be useful in planning in the short term.

"It's a process review, it's a sense of what's working and what isn't," Bernard said.

Alcombright said he has reached out to department heads to provide Bernard information about what each department is facing. Alcombright said he also wants to bring Bernard up to speed on a number of ongoing projects.

"We'll just go through the entire laundry list," Alcombright said.

Alcombright also plans to schedule a tour of some of the city's facilities — such as the Department of Public Works headquarters and water treatment plant — for Bernard and new city councilors before they are sworn in on New Year's Day.

Bernard also wants to waste no time in planning for some of the city's long-term needs, such as addressing its aging public safety facility. Bernard said throughout the campaign that the city should work to create a "shovel-ready" plan for its fire and police departments so that, should funding become available, the city can tackle the long-standing needs of both departments.

The next mayor also wants to spend the coming weeks building relationships with those who will play a role in the city achieving those goals, including state Rep.-elect John Barrett III and state Sen. Adam Hinds.

Bernard noted that Barrett, the 26-year former mayor of North Adams, is stepping into a new role but brings a wealth of municipal knowledge to the Statehouse.

"As we find our way together, we're going to develop a good, strong, effective partnership — because we need to," Bernard said. "In order to succeed, those offices need to be coordinating and collaborating."

Bernard also expressed a desire to engage with those who didn't fill in the circle next to his name Tuesday, many of whom had "a feeling of being left behind, so I want to work on outreach."

Bernard said he wants to plan something akin to a listening tour by partnering with venues to host sessions with local residents of different neighborhoods. He reiterated his campaign process to be a mayor for everyone.

"Whether you voted for me, whether you didn't vote for me, or you didn't vote at all, I am the mayor of North Adams."

The city native also hopes to meet with the business community and related stakeholders, such as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

He'll also look to convene community stakeholder conversations, particularly with local agencies, to see what issues they're facing and how the city partners with them.

"I want it to be productive. I don't want it to be meeting for the sake of meeting or something that's symbolic," Bernard said.

Bernard will also be transitioning from his current job as director of special projects at Smith College in Northampton, where he has worked for more than three years.

His commute will decrease from about 70 minutes to three.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter and 413-496-6376.


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