NORTH ADAMS — City Councilor Jason LaForest says he is exploring a run for mayor, after an announcement from current North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard that he will not seek a third term.
LaForest, who first was elected in 2017 and is serving his second year as the council’s vice president, told The Eagle it is “almost certain” that he will pull papers to run in April.
Though LaForest confirmed his plans with local reporters Tuesday, he said he had been considering the run since before Bernard’s announcement and has received a positive response so far.
“North Adams truly needs broad, transparent leadership,” he said. “That reflects who we are as a community, where we have been and where we need to go together, against the backdrop of tight finances.”
LaForest works for Berkshire Health Systems as a hospice nurse. He was born and raised in North Adams, went to local public schools and returned to the city more than two decades ago to be closer to family.
In his pitch for the mayor’s office, he pointed to his experience as a city councilor, his leadership roles at the Massachusetts Municipal Association as well as his work with the congressional delegation through the Hoosic River Revival. All of those factors, LaForest said, would help him engage with local, state and federal government. He also cited his experience as a nurse manager.
“I am able to take vast amounts of information and make split-second decisions that may mean difference between life and death for my patients,” he said. “The ability to juggle multiple balls in the air and focus on multiple projects at once, to move North Adams forward, is going to be critical for the next administration.”
As mayor, LaForest said, he would work to engage the legislative delegation in order to increase revenue and opportunities for the city.
“North Adams needs to expand both its tax base and its access to state and federal resources, through grants for infrastructure and safety, expanding education that reflects our needs in the 21st century, and encouraging tourism and economic development in the city,” he said.
LaForest said that, as a councilor, he continually has pushed the city to update its six-year capital outlay plan, which is supposed to be submitted each year per the city charter, and that, as mayor, he would take a “systematic approach” to repairing infrastructure.
He also would work to continue the city’s response to racial justice protests over the past year, including through the already-established Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access Working Group, led by Councilor Ben Lamb.
“As a historically white community that is currently reflective of expanding minority populations in our country, North Adams needs to embrace equality and diversity both as a community and in its leadership,” he said. “My goal for North Adams would be to continue the work that the city council has done through the IDEA working group, both to promote a sense of one North Adams and to engage people of all demographics in our city government.”
Praising the upcoming debate process, LaForest said he hopes to see “a lot of candidates” in order to allow the community to demonstrate its needs and desires for the next administration.
Lamb, the only city councilor so far to announce that he will not seek reelection this year, declined to say whether he intends to run for mayor when asked on Tuesday.