North Adams City Council: Profiles of five of the candidates
This is the first of three sets of profiles of candidates for North Adams City Council.
NORTH ADAMS — Voters in North Adams will fill nine, two-year seats on the City Council in voting Nov. 5. Fourteen candidates are running, six of them incumbents.
The following are profiles of five candidates — Lisa Hall Blackmer, Keith Bona, Robert Cardimino, Roger Eurbin and Marie Harpin — based on responses to a questionnaire from The Berkshire Eagle.
Lisa Hall Blackmer
Lisa Hall Blackmer "jumped in" to public office more than a decade ago. She is running for reelection to the City Council. When Blackmer first ran for the council, in 2007, all of the panel's incumbents were running for reelection, and she still won.
"I decided that I wanted to serve the city by being on the council and jumped in," she said. "I worked hard to get elected and that work paid off, both for me and for the residents of the city when I was elected then and the next four terms."
Blackmer, 55, says she has been heavily involved in a number of local efforts, including being a founding member of the Northern Berkshire Food Festival committee, serving on the Open Studios committee.
She works as the treasurer/collector for the town of Buckland, and has experience as a town administrator and assistant town accountant. Private sector work has included management, human resources, event planning, state and federal compliance duties, accounting, finance, budgeting, tourism and hospitality.
She earned a master's of business administration degree from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Suffolk University in Boston.
Blackmer said she is running for reelection to join with other councilors "to move our city forward."
During 10 years on the council, Blackmer served as president, vice president and chair of the Public Safety, Community Development and Finance committees.
She also was a member of the Massachusetts Municipal Association policy committee on regional and municipal administration.
"I would like to see and be part of a collaborative and cooperative approach between the council, administration, boards, staff, regional and state officials to address the challenges we face in zoning and planning, funding [and] legislation," Blackmer said.
Blacker is married to William Blackmer and has two grown stepchildren, Jennifer and Bill; three granddaughters, Lena, Rosie and Donna; and two cats, Mugsy and Charlie. The Pittsfield native grew up in Williamsburg.
"We moved to North Adams almost 33 years ago and raised our family," she said.
Keith Bona says he brings life experience, not just his current duty as president of the City Council, to his candidacy for reelection.
He has been married for 27 years and has two children, Alexander, 25, and Elizabeth, 20.
Bona, 51, graduated from McCann Technical School in 1986 and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He works as a graphic communication designer, illustrator, instructor and property manager and owns the Berkshire Emporium on Main Street.
Bona is not a member of a political party and has lived in North Adams for 30 years, having been born in Clarksburg.
Bona said he is running for council again because his life experience brings a unique perspective and set of skills to bear.
"What I bring today is different than what I brought 30 years ago," he said. "As I shifted from the young candidate, to a family, to business person, to empty-nester, I can appreciate the needs of these demographics. Having a popular store on Main Street for 15 years is a double-edged sword. I get to meet so many people," he said.
"I also can't hide, so in between customers buying, I get the pothole and tax complaints," he said. "Good and bad. It's part of the job, and I do my best to help those I can with the authority city councilors have, and even with what we don't have."
Bona first was elected to the council at age 23 and served for four terms, or eight years, then took eight years off. He was reelected and has served for five more terms, or 10 years.
On the city's future, he expects to see continued growth in hospitality, arts and culture, along with micro-manufacturing and services businesses.
"As tourism grows, improved traffic and accommodation planning need to be developed," Bona said. "The city needs to better tap into benefiting financially from our visitors. We are good at promoting arts, concerts, athletic field and downtown amenities, but I find many of our locals and visitors equally enjoy our natural attractions and we could do more investing in that area from improvements and marketing."
Bona advocates targeting blight through "restoration or razing" and thinks home improvement incentives have potential for easing the problem.
He also supports working with health programs — local, state and federal — to address the opioid epidemic with more public safety, education and health programs.
Robert Cardimino is on the ballot to ensure that a voice from the public is heard.
Cardimino, 83, says he is running for the council once again because he feels residents of North Adams were disenfranchised when the council limited public input at its meetings to early in the session, rather than during the council's own discourse on issues.
Cardimino is not a member of a political party and has no experience in political office. He points out that he has been attending council meetings since 1970.
He said he is troubled by the direction of the city.
"When I look at what's happening in the city I see businesses closing and young people moving away because of no good jobs," he said. "We must attract companies and help business. Tourism is good and can be expanded."
Cardimino is a high school graduate, U.S. Navy veteran and retired from work at General Electric Co. as a welder and later as an inspector of the company's guided missile systems unit.
Cardimino makes note verbally and in campaign literature that he is a veteran of the Korean conflict. According to newspaper articles form the 1950s, and by his own admission, he started active duty in the U.S. Navy just a few days before the official end of the conflict Jan. 31, 1955.
Roger Eurbin is running for his first term with a wish to help the city continue to revitalize.
He is a native of North Adams, although when he was in the third grade his family moved to Adams. He moved back to North Adams after college.
In 1964, Eurbin,78, received a degree in secondary education with minors in English and history. After graduating, he served in the Navy for eight years, attaining the rank of lieutenant. He served two tours in Vietnam.
He went on to work for a Fortune 500 company for 32 years, where he eventually served as director of professional development, a position in which, he said, he handled budgets of several million dollars.
Eurbin is not registered with any political party.
If elected, Eurbin said, he would like to see the city prosper in ways that benefit its residents.
He said he wants to keep the city on track to become a vibrant and growing community, "and to do everything possible to reduce the burdens on homeowners and businesses."
He also wants to see more connections between the public and the council.
"I feel that the City Council should be as open as possible and create more public interest in the council and its business," Eurbin noted.
He has served on the Cemetery Commission and as the veterans' grave officer. Eurbin organized the Hillside Restoration Group in an effort to restore Hillside Cemetery.
"I want to see the historic sites and relative information preserved, identified to the public and to play a part in the education of our citizens," he said. "I want to encourage more public information on what is happening in the city which will have an impact on their lives."
Eurbin has not held political office, although he is a familiar face at council meetings.
Marie Harpin, a candidate for reelection, believes that her business background can help North Adams secure its future.
She is a North Adams native and homeowner with two adult children.
She worked in finance and operations at KB Toys for 10 years, as a senior staff accountant at a land finance company for eight years, as an energy analyst at Constellation Energy for five years and as an administrator for wind energy plants for six years.
Harpin graduated from McCann Technical School in 1984, North Adams State College with a business degree in 1989 and earned an MBA from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2014.
Harpin, 53, is registered as a member of the Democratic Party.
Harpin started her first council term in 2018. She said she is seeking office again "to give back to my community and be a part of the excitement as the city transforms into a new economy. My strong business experience, education, relationships and love for the city will help move us forward while remembering our history."
During her first term, Harpin has served on the public service and public safety committees and is chairwoman of the finance committee.
If she is reelected, Harpin said, she would like to "continue the energy and spirit of the arts/tourism industry while putting more attention on advanced manufacturing, farming, outdoor recreation, and passenger rail service for job growth."
"From a financial perspective," she added, "the biggest hurdle we need to jump is to find successful paths to increase our population, which in turn will increase our tax base and valuations. To be competitive we need to be adaptable and embrace change without losing our community culture and rich history."
Absentee ballots are available at the City Clerk's Office. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Voters wishing to have a ballot mailed to them must send a written request to the City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams. Deadline for absentee ballots is noon Nov. 4.
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