NORTH ADAMS — City Council candidate Jason LaForest hopes to bridge the gap between residents whose primary concern is the tax burden and younger residents who see the benefits of expanding the economy.
Issues that are important to everyone in the city include bringing in more jobs, keeping taxes at bay, and addressing the opioid epidemic and associated crime, LaForest said.
"I'm a candidate that's seeking to protect the residents here who are concerned about higher taxes, but also encourage them to accept and promote a new economy that continues to expand and benefit all of the residents here," LaForest said.
LaForest said people from all over the world are visiting North Adams and expanding the local economy — and the city's tax base.
"They're spending money here, they are looking for hotels here, and they're going to restaurants. All of those expenditures are benefiting every resident of North Adams," he said.
Meanwhile, the city needs to "get ahead of the curve" in terms of regionalizing services, LaForest said, as it will be expected to provide more with fewer resources.
LaForest was born and raised in North Adams, the son of a nurse at North Adams Regional Hospital and father who worked for Berkshire Gas.
He returned in 1999 to be closer to family.
"North Adams is a fantastic place to raise a young family," LaForest said. "It is much safer than many other areas of the country and there's certainly good schools here, access to the arts, and access to the mountains that just aren't afforded anywhere else."
Five years ago, inspired by his work volunteering in Haiti after its devastating earthquake, LaForest became a nurse and now works as a Nurse Manager at Williamstown Commons.
LaForest can recall working part-time at the Appalachian Bean Cafe on Main Street while the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was under construction in 1997, delivering coffee to workers at the site.
"It's been a fascinating perspective to see Mass MoCA develop out of the ashes of Sprague Electric," said LaForest, who considers himself part of the last generation that was raised in the city's active industrial period.
LaForest has long had an interest in running for City Council.
"It's something I've always been interested in, but with young children it was something that I felt I didn't have adequate time to dedicate to the council."
But LaForest's children are teenagers now and his schedule at work is a better fit.
LaForest said, describing himself as "newly middle aged," said "it's the appropriate time for my generation to step forward."
Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter.