Letter: Rep. Neal is dedicated in tradition of Conte
To the editor:
A recent Eagle editorial took Congressman Richard Neal to task for not paying attention to Berkshire County residents. The editorial stated, "His visibility and accessibility should be no less than that of former Congressman John Olver."
As the former mayor of North Adams for 26 years, I worked with Congressmen Neal, Olver, and Conte. Despite the editor not mentioning him in the editorial, Sil Conte was perhaps one of the most effective and powerful congressmen of his time. He set the gold standard for which all elected officials should strive to achieve when it comes to being an effective legislator. Congressmen Olver and Neal knew full well that Conte has set the bar high and both worked diligently in meeting the level of representation that the late Congressman had established.
As one of the few former elected officials left in Western Massachusetts who worked with all three, I can speak with confidence: Congressman Richard Neal has maintained the same level of visibility and commitment as his predecessors. While Berkshire County no longer has the political clout it once did, Congressman Neal has maintained the same commitment to the residents as Congressmen Conte and Olver.
The editorial further states "...with 70 percent of his constituency residing in Springfield and nearby cities, he doesn't have to rely on votes from the Berkshires and other rural areas to get elected." That may be true, but anyone who has been around politics for any length of time knows that any elected official with this mindset will have a short career in politics. From the day the new re-redistricting plan was announced, Congressman Neal has been in Berkshire County meeting with residents and elected officials, and not just at election time. Neal, Conte, and Olver had an important common thread: a commitment to improve the lives of the people they represent. This, and not where the most voters live, is what drove Conte and Olver and now drives Congressman Neal to be an effective representative for the people of the district.
The editorial was not only unfair, but it simply wasn't factual. I have known Richie Neal for over 33 years and he is one of the most knowledgeable and effective elected officials I have known. The First Congressional District is fortunate to have such a well-respected and experienced congressman representing them in Washington.
John Barrett III,
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