Longtime City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo launches bid to unseat mayor

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PITTSFIELD — Melissa Mazzeo has spent a decade on the City Council, and now she's setting her sights on City Hall's corner office.

Mazzeo, flanked by family and friends, announced her mayoral candidacy Thursday at City Hall. She promised to start going door to door the same night. 

The councilor at large got her start on the council in 2009, when she ran in a special election for the Ward 3 seat formerly occupied by now-Mayor Linda Tyer, who had resigned from the council to assume the role of city clerk.

Mazzeo was the top vote-getter in her at-large race in 2014, and was elected to a two-year run as council president. 

Last month, Tyer announced her intention to run for reelection; retired Pittsfield Police officer Karen Kalinowsky, Craig Gaetani and Scott Graves also are running for mayor.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. July 19 to return signed nomination papers to City Hall. If three or more candidates do so, a preliminary election Sept. 17 would narrow the field. The top two vote-getters would move on to the city election Nov. 5.

Under Tyer's administration, Mazzeo has been a strong dissenting voice on the council. That trend came to a head Tuesday, when a heated debate between the two gave way to a no vote on spending for Tyer's housing loan program. 

Mazzeo, 54, a former dental hygienist, said she has learned a lot about city government since she first took office, and now she's ready to do things her own way.

"I need to switch seats," she said, smiling.

She cited crime, issues with roads, and the need to drive the job market as her priorities heading into campaign season. Joan DiMartino will serve as her campaign manager. 

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"I would like to pull my papers for mayor, please," Mazzeo told clerks in the city's office of the registrar of voters Thursday morning.

In an adjacent office, Mazzeo asked City Clerk Michele Benjamin questions about requirements and deadlines associated with a thick stack of papers in her hand.

Mazzeo held the front door open as her family members filed onto City Hall's front steps.

 "The first thing I'm going to do is change these doors," Mazzeo said, laughing. "They're so heavy!" 

When asked why she's running, she pointed to a letter to the editor she penned in 2015, when Tyer ran for her first term. The letter was titled, "Pittsfield can't afford Tyer as its mayor." 

"While Tyer has a lot to say about what she will build, implement and create once she becomes mayor, she hasn't said a word about jobs," Mazzeo wrote. "Which is what this city needs way more than another community center, riverwalk, or hiking tour with her recruitment team."

Reached Thursday, Tyer said her "track record of accomplishments since taking office speaks to our ability to stabilize the economy."

She said she lowered taxes, brought in $17 million in grants and developed a strategy that has created 113 new jobs among existing city businesses and has helped draw 300 new jobs to the city with the incoming Wayfair call center.

"I am the first mayor in decades to bring a major employer to the city of Pittsfield," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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