STOCKBRIDGE — A high-stakes race for a Select Board post, a four-way contest for two Planning Board seats, and a challenge to the town moderator who has held the position for 43 years, highlight the annual town election.
The campaign has reflected the split in town between residents who prioritize retaining open space and restricting large-scale development and others who are more hospitable to growth, additional housing and population increases, especially young families.
In-person voting is on Tuesday in the Senior Center on the ground floor of the Town Offices from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. There are 1,641 registered voters, said Town Clerk Terri Iemolini, and 45 voted early in person, while 52 others requested either early or absentee ballots.
Seeking reelection for a third three-year term is Select Board Chairman Ernest “Chuck” Cardillo, who told The Eagle that “we have a very good board that works very well together for the good of the town. It has been a pleasure to work with Patrick [White] and Roxanne [McCaffrey] to achieve the work the board has done.”
Cardillo said he is seeking the opportunity to continue working on projects in progress — bridge replacement and restoration, Stockbridge Bowl, Main Street intersections and zoning issues, as well as improvements to town parks.
“We have a lot of work to do with some zoning issues and I feel that I can work with the Planning Board to achieve fair and proper bylaws that are in character with Stockbridge,” he stated. “The Select Board has worked very hard to set the agenda for the annual town meeting. It has been a little challenging during the pandemic with all the Zoom meetings, but the board has done a great job during these times.”
Running against Cardillo is Don Chabon, a Select Board member and chairman starting in May 2016 that lost his May 2019 reelection bid to Roxanne McCaffrey.
Chabon, endorsed in a secret ballot by 16 of the 26-member Stockbridge Democratic Caucus, discusses 33 local issues on his web page, donforstockbridge.godaddysites.com.
“Of ominous concern, however, is the larger picture, with attacks on the very foundations of our system,” he stated to The Eagle. “Like it or not, national events have regional effects. First and foremost, we know many state legislatures are exploring propositions that make it more difficult for citizens to vote. This needs urgent attention and coordinated opposing action at every level. Accessibility to voting is as important as the right to vote itself.”
Chabon also cited “the incursion of short-sighted profit over environment, not just with national industry, but locally working its sedition in unrestrained development, casual use of pesticides and herbicides, toxic dumps near residential neighborhoods and the subversion of regional administrative boards. Democratic values are what must be defended at all levels.”
“Localities also suffer the abuse of right-wing thuggery,” he said. “Through misinformed attacks, racial innuendo and the like, centralized right-wing organizations provide resources for local consumption, whose leaders copy talking points, forward blogs and transcribe news releases into regional formats. State and local committees must be incentivized to take on the slanted damage of the local right-wing.”
He advocated “a way to combat this — to get involved. A cornerstone of my candidacy is to increase the involvement of our citizens at all levels.”
The Planning Board contest among four candidates for two slots follows decisions by current members Marie Raftery and Christine Rasmussen not to run for additional five-year terms.
Incumbent Gary Pitney, seeking reelection for another five-year term on the Planning Board as well as an additional three years on the Board of Assessors, told The Eagle that “Stockbridge does not need fixing; it requires care-taking. Stockbridge is a gem of a community: So unique, people worldwide aspire to visit, often relocate, for its grace, solitude, safety, charm, beauty, history and culture.”
“My position was, and is, to continue to protect and care for what our predecessors have so graciously gifted us as a great place to live,” Pitney said. He is endorsed for reelection to both boards by the Democratic Caucus.
Candidate John “Jack” Henderson cited “over 40 years of experience building consensus between opposing stakeholders to facilitate reasonable and necessary growth. This can and must be done in such a way as to protect the downtown business area, maintain the character of what we all cherish about Stockbridge, address affordable housing, and create a community that is attractive and affordable for younger families while facilitating landowners’ rights to reasonable development.”
“As an environmental engineer, I know the technical and legal issues and approaches to sound environmental impact studies which accurately define the true impacts of development and determine the best ways to eliminate and/or mitigate any adverse impacts,” Henderson said. “This is a very achievable goal and I believe I am the best qualified candidate for the Planning Board to make this goal attainable for the citizens of Stockbridge.”
Longtime audio-video producer Mark Mills asserted that “with more than 100 properties of 20 acres or larger, Stockbridge’s 2- and 4-acre zoning will lead to construction of more million-dollar homes scattered across the countryside, mostly occupied by nonresidents. I favor the principles of Natural Resource Protection Zoning, which protect open space while providing a range of housing options for Berkshire-based families and local seniors who want to downsize, but stay in Stockbridge.”
Film and stage production designer Carl Sprague of Yale Hill Pictures described his campaign as “based on longtime respect and affection for our community. My experience working with the town, its people and its organizations will contribute to the future of Stockbridge.”
He called the town “a unique community which has been built by generations. While there may be differing opinions about direction, we share a collective vision of our town.”
Sprague, endorsed by the Democratic Caucus, pointed out that the Planning Board is working on bylaw revisions focusing on development density and open space.
“This is a valuable and necessary discussion which will require voters’ support,” he said. “As chair of the Stockbridge Historic Preservation Commission, we have been advising the Planning Board for close to 20 years. I will do my best to work with the board, listen to our residents and better our community.”
Among his goals, he listed “welcoming public discussion, sustaining historic preservation, protecting open space, fostering economic growth, building a vibrant downtown, easing use restrictions, protecting the character of Stockbridge, affordability for seniors and the next generation, and a bylaw revision voters will support.”
The contest for a one-year term as Town Moderator pits challenger Jamie Minacci against Gary Johnston, who has held the post for over four decades.
At a campaign forum held by the Democratic Committee, Johnston 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.” He suggested that speakers at town meetings may have to be time-limited in order to finish the meeting “in an orderly fashion.” He also described town elections as nonpartisan, not by party affiliation “but by belief on who can do the best job.”
Minacci, who chairs the Stockbridge Bowl Preservation Commission, described the town moderator’s role as “the ability to be neutral, unbiased, flexible and to create comfort and trust. … All positions should get a breath of fresh air, they should turn over and have term limits. It doesn’t mean someone’s doing a bad job, it means to bring in new life, new vitality and a new perspective.”
She also cited her ability “to be humble, to be honest and to work with other people” and stated that “all residents get an equal say and equal vote. Everyone should have the chance to speak, to vote and to be heard.” Minacci is supported by the Democratic Caucus.
The only other contest on the ballot is between Mark Faber and Hugh Page for tree warden. Unopposed candidates for reelection are Charles Kenny for Board of Health, Donald Schneyer for sewer and water commissioner, and James Welch for Housing Authority.