Barrett vows to be 'visible' as newly elected 1st Berkshire District representative

NORTH ADAMS — John Barrett III was just elected to the Statehouse, but he has no plans to become a Boston politician.

"I'm not hanging around down there all week just to hang around. Most of my time will be in the district," Barrett said. "Most of the time I will be visible in the district."

Barrett handily defeated Lanesborough businesswoman Christine Canning in the race to represent the 1st Berkshire District in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, returning to elected office for the first time since 2009.

The largest obstacle Barrett faced in the election was the primary, which pitted four Democrats with similar policy viewpoints against each other. But Barrett prevailed, with 42 percent of the vote.

The special state election was held to fill the vacant seat of Gailanne Cariddi, who died in June. Barrett will serve the remainder of her term, until Jan. 19, 2019, though he has said he intends to run for re-election when the time comes.

The state representative-elect and former mayor of North Adams for 26 years sat with The Eagle on Thursday to discuss his transition and priorities.

In the immediate aftermath of his victory, Barrett said he is spending considerable time just answering all of the messages he has received from supporters on Facebook.

But he's also already working to establish relationships with his colleagues on Beacon Hill.

"I just want to make sure that Northern Berkshire, and all of Berkshire County working with the [local] delegation, is represented at the table," Barrett said.

At one point, he was the longest-tenured mayor in Massachusetts. Now, Barrett is the junior-most member of the House.

"It is strange, but going down there, I know a lot of them that have been there quite a while and some of the new ones," Barrett said of the House's members. "It's a respectful body, and I think a lot of them followed this race."

Despite his mayoral experience, Barrett said he fully understands his place as one member in a body of 160 representatives.

"I understand the process and I understand what my role is, but I think I have access to a lot of people that could be helpful to this area."

As the House's legislative work winds down, Barrett expects to spend the rest of the year largely in the district — where he plans to be spending most of his time as representative.

"It's better to stay up here and directly work with the communities and also be a resource to them," Barrett said.

He is not yet sure what committees he will serve on, but he plans to meet with the speaker of the House in the coming weeks.

Barrett said throughout the campaign that one of his top priorities would be addressing the state's Chapter 70 education funding formula to make the system more equitable for poorer communities. But he acknowledges that's not something he'll singlehandedly be able to change right away.

"The money is there, but what are the priorities of the administration?" Barrett asked. "In order to have a strong economy, you have to have a strong school system."

Among Barrett's top priorities is working to have state funding released for the Greylock Glen project, which, he argues, would have a positive impact on Adams and the surrounding communities.

He's also hoping to continue Cariddi's work to curtail robocalls and hopes to address rising cable bills.

Barrett expects to be sworn in Wednesday, but that can depend on when local officials certify the election results before passing them to the Governor's Council, which meets weekly, according to Debra O'Malley, a spokesperson for the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office.

"There are a couple of things that contribute to the timing," she said.

Barrett said that, as of now, he expects the Governor's Council to certify the results and to be sworn in Wednesday.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter and 413-496-6376


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