North Adams mayoral race: Challenger Branch takes chance to `stand up'

Mayoral candidate Rachel Branch describes herself as a low-income "seasoned citizen," and believes that "all local politics are global, and global politics are local."

NORTH ADAMS — Rachel Branch has a wealth of experience in a wide variety of professions, and she wants to bring those experiences and skills to City Hall if she wins the Nov. 5 mayoral election.

She is the only challenger to incumbent candidate Mayor Thomas Bernard.

Branch, 77, said she is running for mayor because "it's one more way for me to stand up and speak out." Also, "I don't believe any candidate should be running unopposed. It's not healthy."

She describes herself as a low-income "seasoned citizen," eschewing the traditional "senior citizen" phraseology.

Branch believes that "all local politics are global, and global politics are local." She wants to reform the "patriarchal systems," address the climate catastrophe, end domestic abuse and sexual assault, and enact campaign finance reform.

"There is just so much hate and division — I'm afraid for our country," she said.

She stresses that she is not running against her opponent, but running for the office.

A descendant of several city founding families, Branch was born and raised in North Adams. Later, Branch's life took her to places like Tripoli, Libya, Denver and Bridgeport, Conn., before returning to North Adams in 2000.

Locally, Branch said she still wants North Adams Regional Hospital to return, and is still angry about the "Mill Children" paintings on the pillars of the overpass outside the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art being painted over.

She also expressed concern about the condition of the city's infrastructure, and is opposed to any fossil fuel pipelines crossing through the county.

Branch's professional experience includes work as an executive assistant, legal secretary, volunteer coordinator for nonprofits, law school administrator, and secretary in the media office of a U.S. Air Force base in Tripoli in the mid-1960s.

She has a long list of volunteer experiences in local community groups both here and in Bridgeport. She has also testified to governmental boards a number of times advocating for the environment. For 10 days, she coordinated the disaster volunteer effort after the collapse of a building in 1987 in Bridgeport that killed 28 workers.

"One never forgets the enormity of such a disaster and the loss to so many families," Branch said.

Today, she hosts a local show on Northern Berkshire Community Television Corporation in North Adams and WilliNet in Williamstown called "Solutions Rising." She was also a foster parent for a number of years.

Branch has a number of concerns, including possible leaks in aging natural gas lines, the possibility of gentrification in the city, the opioid crisis and the crime rate.

"We have to build a sense of community — North Adams should be a healthy, warm and welcoming city," she said. "I really love North Adams and I want to see it as a premier city."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.