To the editor: I am writing to ask the voters of Pittsfield to elect Craig Benoit as a city councilor at large.

As many of you may recall, I was an at-large councilor for 10 years, and it didn’t take long to realize that being an independent voice on a council of 11 was not going to be easy. Often, there was pressure to agree more with the mayor and your colleagues than to vote for what was right for your constituents. Staying true to the promises that got you elected is what a public servant should be doing.

Craig Benoit will be that kind of councilor. He’s not running to be a career politician; he is running because a strong, business-minded voice is needed on the City Council. When COVID-19 shut down the food industry, Craig, the owner of the Hot Dog Ranch, was struggling along with his fellow restaurant owners. When the city opened indoor dining again, he went to work with his loyal employees and served the community again. Not long after, Mayor Linda Tyer shut down all Pittsfield eateries due to an isolated breach in COVID protocol. Craig spearheaded a petition to ask the mayor to reconsider. He didn’t take no for an answer. He wanted a chance to speak and plead their case and, within days, restaurants were open for business again.

Craig told me then and there that he never realized how important having a voice in city government is for small businesses. So much was lost in the city with this shutdown — meals tax revenue, unemployment for staff and no money to donate to youth organizations and nonprofits. Pittsfield is made up of small businesses and they need to have a strong, independent voice on the council, and that is what they will get by electing Craig Benoit.

Another independent voice to elect is Karen Kalinowsky. Being a retired police officer with many years spent as a school resource officer, Karen will bring real experience in public and school safety, and is not afraid to ask tough questions. I ask you to put your faith in Craig and Karen as you did when you elected me for 10 years. Thank you.

Melissa Mazzeo, Dalton

The writer is Craig Benoit’s campaign manager.