Edward Reilly, former Pittsfield mayor, dies at 69

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PITTSFIELD Edward M. Reilly, who served three terms as Pittsfield mayor in the 1990s and was known for his love of politics and dedication to the city, has died at age 69, city officials confirmed Friday.

The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Reilly, the city's 33rd mayor, occupied the corner office from 1992 to 1998. A lawyer, he also served as a city solicitor. Reilly was appointed to that position by then-Mayor Charles M. Smith in 1983, the year after he graduated from the Western New England College School of Law.

During his last term as mayor, Reilly decided to run for state Senate but later dropped out of the race, citing his mother's illness and his own back problems. He ran for mayor again as one of 10 candidates in 2001, but was defeated in the preliminary election.

After leaving politics, Reilly served as town counsel for several Berkshire municipalities as a member of the Boston-based municipal law firm Kopelman & Paige.

"Certainly on behalf of myself and the city of Pittsfield, I extend to Mayor Reilly's family our sincere condolences," said Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer. "While I didn't know him well, I respect and admire all the mayors who came before me."

Pittsfield attorney P. Keyburn Hollister served as city solicitor before Reilly was appointed to the position. Reilly interned under Hollister in the city solicitor's office during his final year in law school.

"He loved politics," Hollister said.

She remembered Reilly as a friendly, outgoing person.

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"He was dedicated to the city," Hollister said.

Reilly, a Pittsfield native, was the son of Dorothy Dow Reilly and William Reilly, who ran a variety store at North and Wahconah streets for 33 years before his father died in 1968. Reilly's father had seven brothers, four of them priests.

Reilly graduated from the former St. Joseph's Central High School, where he was a member of the debate team. He received an associates degree with honors from Berkshire Community College in 1970 and then graduated from the University of Massachusetts two years later with a bachelor's degree in history.

Lacking the money to go directly to law school, he originally enrolled in graduate school at UMass to study sociology, but dropped out after one year.

"Sociology wasn't concrete enough for me," Reilly told The Eagle in 1983. "It was too theoretical."

Reilly then managed a package store for eight years before being appointed contract manager for the city of Pittsfield's Community Development Office in September 1982.

In 1978, he began going to law school three nights a week at Western New England in Springfield. Due to that pace, it took him four years of night school and two summers to earn his law degree cum laude.

According to Eagle archives, during his three terms as mayor, Reilly was known as a micromanager who paid close attention to the minute details of city business. A number of projects began under his administration, including the renovation of the Central Block on North Street, which was completed during the first term of his successor, former Mayor Gerald S. Doyle Jr.

Other highlights during his tenure included the purchase of the former England Brothers building on North Street, which now serves as the headquarters of Berkshire Bank's Pittsfield operations, the construction of the plaza outside City Hall and the construction of the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center.

During his administration, Reilly also formed the first Citizens Advisory Committee, established as a means of easing tension between the police and Pittsfield's black community, according to the NAACP's Berkshire branch.


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