STOCKBRIDGE — A lively campaign season ahead of next month’s annual town election includes a two-way contest for a Select Board seat, pitting incumbent Ernest “Chuck” Cardillo against former board member Donald Chabon, who was chairman for two years.
Town Moderator Gary Johnston, a 43-year incumbent, is challenged by Jamie Minacci. Four candidates are vying for two five-year Planning Board posts.
During the recent Democratic Town Committee caucus, candidates seeking endorsement of the party aired their views.
Only committee members can offer endorsements of Democratic or unenrolled candidates at a secret ballot, which was held April 15, with 16 members voting.
At the caucus on the previous day, Cardillo said the current board “works very well together; if we don’t agree on something, we discuss it. We put our points across, vote on it and move on to the next topic.”
He cited “very low taxes compared to other communities” and pointed to bridge replacements and repairs, as well as construction of a new highway garage, during his tenure on the board.
Cardillo, who is completing his second term, listed other priorities “to move our town forward in a positive direction,” including bylaw changes, more work on bridges and roads, and improvements to town tennis courts and playgrounds.
“You know how I run the meetings,” he added. “I’d love to continue for another three years.”
Chabon described his single term on the Select Board as “very challenging, often frustrating, occasionally rewarding, time-consuming and it included some of the most agonizing moments of my life.”
But, he added, “I cared, and some friends commented that I have a deep sense of duty to Stockbridge, others said that I’m engaged, and a good number said they’re glad I’m running.”
He declared that “along with growth and change, it’s imperative that Stockbridge remains Stockbridge, and with your help, I hope to keep it that way.”
Cardillo and Chabon agreed that the Select Board should maintain its decision-making authority on special permit applications for major projects while considering Planning Board recommendations.
Chabon also proposed a gathering of former Select Board members to discuss how the three-member board deals with communication and whether an expansion to five members should be considered. Chabon won the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee via the secret ballot.
Planning Board candidate Carl Sprague urged close scrutiny of any projects submitted to the town under revised zoning bylaws.
“Stockbridge is not a great place for large-scale resort development,” he said. “I don’t believe you can build your way out of your tax problems.” He also advocated continuing to focus on keeping downtown “vital and economically viable.”
Mark Mills, also a Planning Board candidate, explained that as a journalist for more than 40 years, he has remained unenrolled in either party, to maintain impartiality. The former second-home owner became a full-time resident in 2014, after retiring as news director of Bloomberg Radio in New York City.
“I don’t want to just be a passive retiree, I want to participate in maintaining the vitality of the town into the future,” he said.
Mills cited the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Airbnb vacation-home rentals on the local real estate market, with soaring prices making it difficult for young families to purchase or rent a home in Stockbridge.
“Without young people coming along to revitalize us, we are a shrinking population,” he said, adding that open spaces are vulnerable to acquisitions by high-income out-of-towners on 2- and 4-acre parcels, instead of local residents.
Mills voiced support for revised zoning bylaws under consideration to preserve open space and clustering housing in large parcels, either homes or condos, that could enable young people “to get a toehold in our housing market.” He details his views at planningforstockbridge.com. In response, longtime Board of Health Chairman Dr. Charles Kenny contended that “it’s kind of an insult to an older person to make it seem as though the rest of us aren’t vital and that we can’t contribute at least as much vitality to the town.” He called for “nondevelopmental ideas to lower our taxes, not some mistaken reasoning.”
Sprague asserted that “we need to make sure there are affordable housing options that the community can access and that will help us maintain the integrity of our zoning bylaws.”
Longtime Planning Board member and former Chair Gary Pitney, who could not attend the caucus, stated in a letter to Anita Schwerner, moderator of the caucus and chair of the committee, that he is running “to give back to the town that has given me so much. It is very rewarding to be part of the community at the governmental level.”
He described his focus as being “accessible, approachable and fair, to make it easier for our community to feel comfortable asking questions and participating in our town government. We should all be on a level playing field with a common goal. We need to manage and care for our town as the rare gem that it is, handle it with care, be kind, be thoughtful.”
Pitney won the endorsement of the committee for reelection to the Planning Board and to the Board of Assessors. Sprague also was endorsed for the other seat up for grabs. Also running is Jack Henderson.
Minacci, challenging Johnston for town moderator, stressed her “belief in the democratic process, that every person, every citizen, every town member has a voice and a vote, and each is equal.” She declared that at a town meeting, “every person has the right to speak, even if it’s redundant. We all pay taxes, we all are part of this town.”
She also stated that “we have evolved; all positions have term limits, and change is necessary.” Minacci chairs the Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Commission and is a member of the Conservation Commission.
Johnston, who is not a registered Democrat, did not attend the caucus.
But, at a campaign forum in March, he stated that “my experience as town moderator speaks for itself. It’s very important to have open and fair town meetings; everyone gets an opportunity to speak. Sometimes there have to be limitations on how long people speak; we have to encourage them to get up, speak up and shut up, and then we go on and try to get everything accomplished in an orderly fashion.”
He also described town elections as nonpartisan, based on “belief on who can do the best job.”
The Democratic Town Committee endorsed Minacci for town moderator, Kenny, unopposed, for the Board of Health, and Donald Schneyer, unopposed, for Sewer and Water Commission.