Pittsfield officials take stock after tense election season

This story has been modified to correct a quote from Ward 6 Councilor John Krol, who said the new City Council will be "diverse."

PITTSFIELD — City councilors say they hope Mayor-elect Linda M. Tyer's call for more a collaborative relationship within city government becomes a reality in 2016.

"A lot of people who are really positive about Pittsfield got elected," said Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo, a day after a new mayor was chosen by voters, two former councilors were returned to office, and a new Ward 5 councilor was elected.

Citing former ward Councilor Peter White's return as an at large councilor, Caccamo said he believes White has prior government experience and has "his finger on the pulse of the community."

Caccamo said he looks forward to cooperating with White and others on initiatives that might have a citywide focus, adding that he knows and believes he can work well with new Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers, and is acquainted with and likes Councilor at large Peter Marchetti, who returned after a four-year absence from the council.

The Ward 3 representative said he hopes Tyer, the current city clerk who on Tuesday decisively ended Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's bid for a third term, can fulfill her pledge for more conversation and collaboration with all members of the 11-member council.

He added that he expects "there might be some shakeup as to who leads the council," and he will be hoping for committee assignments "with more teeth" in them, such as on the Ordinance and Rules Committee.

Current council President Melissa Mazzeo finished second in the seven-candidate race for four at large council seats, behind Marchetti, the top vote-getter overall. Marchetti, a strong Tyer supporter who in 2011 lost a close race for mayor to Bianchi, received 7,229 votes to 5,821 for Mazzeo, who was a prominent Bianchi supporter.

Incumbent Kathleen Amuso finished third in the at large race with 5,671 votes, and White was elected with 5,423 votes.

In other changes as a result of the election, incumbent Councilor at large Churchill Cotton finished fifth and was defeated in a bid for another term. And Councilor at large Barry Clairmont did not seek re-election.

In the race to succeed Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, who also decided against another campaign, Rivers outpolled former Councilor Richard Scapin, 743 votes to 730. A spokeswoman for the city clerk's office said, however, that paperwork to request a recount in that race was taken out but hadn't been returned as of closing time Wednesday.

Mazzeo said she is disappointed that the mayor was defeated, but won't allow that to deflect her from her goals for the city.

"I am hoping that everything that has been in the pipeline will continue, like the BIC (Berkshire Innovation Center) and Taconic High School," she said. "I'm confident it will. We are all hoping to get the same things done."

Referring to calls for greater collaboration, Mazzeo said, "I'm looking forward to everybody doing this. I know I intend to work hard. I plan on keeping up my end toward the common good."

In backing a candidate for mayor, Mazzeo said, "You go with the person you think can get the job done." If they lose, she added, "This is what elections are all about: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."

The key, she said, is to keep your own focus on helping to move the city forward.

"I think it will be a new day for the city of Pittsfield," said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol, who like Caccamo, was unopposed for another term.

Krol, a vocal Tyer supporter, said, "I think the approach of the new mayor is one in which she understands that often the administration will be challenged, and that's OK."

He said he looks forward to an approach that allows "spirited conversations on important issues that come together in better, stronger proposals. We will have a diverse City Council; we'll all have our voices, but I think we are all going to have our voices heard."

An open dialogue among officials and community members is what he would like to see, Krol said. Having once served as public affairs coordinator under former Mayor James M. Ruberto, the councilor said he knows that office "is where people come first with ideas," and it is imperative that "there is someone there who can help those ideas blossom."

Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell, the council vice president, said, "I want to get everyone to try to work together," adding that his natural tendency is to reach out even to those who he knows disagree with his position.

"I can work with anyone, even if they have not worked with me," Connell said. "I would still reach out."

Connell said he tried to remain neutral in the hotly contested mayor's race, "and never endorsed either candidate." He said another reason for that stance "was to protect my ward," against any negative fallout from his involvement in a mayoral race.

"As always it will be wait and see," Connell said, but he hopes Tyer will work to expand communication between the mayor's office with the council and in meeting time with councilors.

One initiative he hopes gets consideration, he said, is a task force study he has been involved in that has developed some recommendations on whether the city could benefit from public-private partnerships to handle operations of the city wasterwater and water systems.

The new councilors are people he knows, Connell said, and he foresees no problems working well with them.

City voters also re-elected all six incumbent School Committee members.

Chairwoman Katherine Yon said Wednesday that she was "delighted we are all back. I think we put together a great team," which she said has only had two years on the committee and will benefit from another term.

"I am excited to work with the new administration and the new councilors," Yon said. "I always pride myself on being able to work with people."

"Education is the bottom line for us," she said. "We are not about politics. We do our best work collaboratively with all our elected officials."

Yon said, "I have enjoyed working with Mayor Bianchi, and I'm looking forward to working with Mayor Tyer."

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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