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NORTH ADAMS Mayoral Race

History is in the making in North Adams election: A woman is moving in to the corner office

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NORTH ADAMS — Who will be the city’s next mayor? Voters will decide Tuesday.

Jennifer Macksey and Lynette Bond are vying for the position; Mayor Tom Bernard is not seeking reelection.

The election is historic: For the first time, the city will have a woman in the office.

North Adams is about to elect its first woman as mayor — what took so long?

In a preliminary election in September, Macksey and Bond easily beat two other mayoral hopefuls, Aprilyn Carsno and Rachel Branch, with Macksey receiving 802 votes, Bond 611, Carsno 26, and Branch 18, according to official results from the city clerk’s office. Voter turnout was low — only about 16 percent of the city’s approximately 9,000 voters cast a ballot.

Bond is a member of the city’s Planning Board, and works as director of development for grants and research at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Previously, she worked for the town of Adams, in the community development office.

Macksey is assistant superintendent of operations and finance at the North Berkshire School Union. Earlier in her career, she worked for North Adams as treasurer and tax collector and director of finance and chief procurement officer.

Where the candidates stand on some of the key issues

What they see as the city’s top issues:

“I feel the city of North Adams has an aging infrastructure that needs to be addressed,” Macksey said. “I feel we need to bring more jobs and businesses to North Adams. I also feel we need to focus on education and public safety and quality of life. But, most importantly, we need to have an affordable community for our residents.”

Bond agrees that infrastructure is key. “Of course our infrastructure,” she said when asked about the major issues facing the city. “We also need to look at our schools, and the buildings that support our teachers and our students. And we need to look at investment, and how we are attracting and bringing in new businesses to North Adams.”

Hear from the candidates: 5 questions with Jennifer Macksey and Lynette Bond

Priorities for developing downtown:

Revitalizing the Mohawk Theater is Macksey’s No. 1 downtown priority, she said. Also, she wants to beautify the streets with flowers in the median, work to attract more businesses, and strategize about how to bring more Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art visitors downtown.

To Bond, the Mohawk is not necessarily key for downtown. She wants to bring in more housing downtown, to update the streetscape, and to make downtown more walkable and bikeable.

“That’s through better accessibility for crosswalks, slowing down traffic, more accessible sidewalks, bringing some amenities from beautification with some of those planters, updated landscaping basically, and an improved traffic flow with roundabouts.”

Macksey said she is not interested in a roundabout. “I would have to explore that and learn more about the rationale.”

How to improve the city’s schools:

Bond sees getting state money to update school buildings as key, and also wants to talk about the possibly of regionalizing school districts, or at least share some services with other nearby districts.

“We have three elementary schools with an enrollment that is suitable for two elementary schools,” she said. “We will have to have those very hard conversations.”

Macksey is not interested in regionalization.

“I like the structure that we have,” she said. “I want to focus on building our enrollment in the sense of evaluating why students are choicing out of our district and really marketing our schools so maybe students will choice in. I think North Adams has a lot to offer in our education system.”

Addressing the opioid overdose epidemic:

Both candidates want to address substance use disorder in the city, but they differ in how they would approach it.

Soon, the city will have a new mayor. Jennifer Macksey and Lynette Bond, winners of the preliminary election in September, are vying for the mayor's office in the general election on November 2. What do the candidates think are the city's top issues? What are their plans for economic development? How will they strengthen the schools? Those are some of the questions Macksey and Bond answer in an Eagle video interview.

“It’s not all about law enforcement. It has to be about rehabilitation,” Macksey said at an October debate that The Eagle participated in.

“I think we need to have more programs in our neighborhoods,” she said. “I will have a no-tolerance policy for drugs. ... I am going to try to convince our DA that we can’t be letting people off for $40 bail and so they are back on their streets dealing again. And we are not going to tolerate people dealing drugs on our playgrounds or to our students.”

Replied Bond: “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. More police officers are not going to solve the issue of substance abuse in our community.”

“I don’t think the solution to the drug problem is arresting everyone,” Macksey clarified. “I think the solution is for those who need help, get them into the system and provide some resources. ... Sometimes, some people, they need to be pulled in just a little bit to get the help they need.”

Addressing blighted, vacant buildings:

“We need to get a hold of those landlords and work with them the best we can,” Macksey said. She wants to apply for grant money to address properties and bring back a program where the city helped flip houses.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to our neighborhoods and what our existing housing stock is,” she said.

The city needs more staff in order to address the issue, Bond and Macksey said.

“Right now, we only have a single building inspector and a single health inspector,” Bond said. “We need ... at least one more person on the ground addressing those code enforcement issues.”

Pay, particularly for entry-level positions, lags other Berkshire cities and towns and is making it hard to attract and keep staff, Bond said. Fixing that, “it’s not going to be solved overnight, but it needs to be addressed.”

Macksey also is concerned about city staffing levels and said pay is part of the issue.

Fixing the police and fire department building:

Both candidates agree that action needs to be taken on the aging public safety building, and said they want to work to secure state money for the building’s engineering and design.

“We need to be creative with state and federal funding,” Macksey said at the October debate. “As well as maybe we need to ask for some private investment.”

She added: “My goal is not to have a Proposition 2½ override any time. But, at the same time, we have to be realistic that we need to do something with this building.”

“This public safety facility is the No. 1 priority project of mine,” Bond said.

Macksey said she agreed. “I don’t understand why the administration that we have has taken so long to do this.”

Both candidates said they are open to a short-term space for the Police Department while a longer-term project is completed.

Other elections Tuesday

The mayoral candidates are not the only ones on the ballot. There are 14 people running for nine spots on the City Council.

Also, there are two uncontested elections. Four candidates — former Mayor Richard Alcombright, incumbent Emily Daunis, David Sookey and Joshua Paul Vallieres — are running for four spots on the School Committee. Two candidates — incumbent Gary F. Rivers and Diane Gallese Parsons — are running for two spots on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District School Committee.

Polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Parish Center on St. Anthony Drive. Early voting ended Thursday.

“People are still coming in, but as of right now, we have about 250 ballots cast between in-person voting and returned absentee votes,” City Clerk Cathleen King said in an email early Thursday afternoon. She added: “We had about 50 ballots cast at this time prior to the September preliminary.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.

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