North Adams City Council: Profiles of five of the candidates

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This is the third 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 — Pete Oleskiewicz, Bryan Sapienza, Ronald Sheldon, Jessica Sweeney and Wayne J. Wilkinson — based on responses to a questionnaire from The Berkshire Eagle.

Pete Oleskiewicz

Pete Oleskiewicz is running for a first term to help keep North Adams "on the map."

Oleskiewicz, 51, is a native of North Adams. He is not registered with any political party.

He worked in the trucking industry for 25 years before buying Desperados restaurant on Eagle Street.

"I try to stay active in my community as much as possible," he said.

He said he opted to run "because four incumbents decided to not seek reelection, but since then, the number changed to three."

Oleskiewicz said he has never held political office, but feels called to serve at a time when North Adams faces growth.

"North Adams is finally back on the map," he said. "I am not beholden to any special interests and have no pet projects to put forth. My main factor in my decision is to be an extension of the voices of our residents. And I would also like an appointment to our Public Safety Committee; we really need to step it up on getting our police and fire departments in a safe working environment."

Bryan Sapienza

Bryan Sapienza is running for his first term to "be a part of what is happening."

Like his parents before him, Sapienza, 57, is a native of North Adams. His father owned and operated two businesses over the past 40 years.

He has worked at K-M Motor Sales as a parts manager since 2006. Previously he was in the technical or electronics field, having been a technician at the former Yankee Atomic Electric Co. in Rowe.

Sapienza says he considers himself politically bipartisan.

He is running for office because he cares deeply for the city, he said.

"I also have a desire to become involved in local affairs," Sapienza said. "I am not one to sit back and just let it happen."

He has been serving as a commissioner on the North Adams Public Arts Commission.

On the council, Sapienza said he would work to help the city grow.

"My goal is to promote policies that maintain a suitable balance between the people who have recently made the city their home and those of us that have lived and worked here most of our lives," he said. "I think the city needs to grow, while preserving the qualities that make North Adams the place that it is. I think that our preservation efforts should be balanced with the need to allow new growth in our city."

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Ronald Sheldon

Ronald Sheldon is running for his first term after living in the city his whole life.

Sheldon, 64, works at Goodwill, as a tutor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and is an active volunteer in the community. He serves on the finance board of the food pantry.

Sheldon is running for office "to help with improvements and show my support of my community," he said.

He has not had previous experience in political office.

"My vision for North Adams is for it to be a safe and comfortable community for everyone to live in, and to provide better accessibility for the handicapped and elderly," Sheldon said.

Jessica Sweeney

Jessica Sweeney is seeking her first term, feeling a call to rally support among the city's younger residents.

Sweeney moved to North Adams in 2007 to attend MCLA "and quickly fell in love with North Adams and the surrounding Berkshire communities."

Sweeney's list of activities in North Adams includes serving as an associate for UNITY/Northern Berkshire Neighbors at Northern Berkshire Community Coalition; founder and former executive director of the ROOTS Teen Center; owner/director of the Common Folk Artist Collective; serving ale at Bright Ideas Brewing; painting instructor at Progressive Palette; director of O Positive Festival North Adams.

She has also volunteered for The Namazing Initiative, the board of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the Common Folk Artist Collective.

Sweeney, 30, said she is an Independent.

"I feel a sense of obligation and duty to run for local office," she said. "I feel very connected to a younger voice in this community who I hope to inspire to be more engaged in local government."

"I feel that their voice deserves to have a larger platform in North Adams," she said. "I collaborate with the city on some projects I'm involved with. And I'm deeply passionate about supporting North Adams as it moves forward and grows."

Sweeney said the city's trajectory should be sustained. "I also hope that we maintain diverse opportunities for all walks of life in North Adams to engage in. I feel that in so many aspects, North Adams is already achieving this vision. However, I also see that there are folks who struggle here."

Wayne J. Wilkinson

Wayne J. Wilkinson is seeking reelection at at time of "major transformation" for the city.

Wilkinson, 68, said he is running again because he finds the service rewarding. "I get real pleasure out of being a city councilor," he said. "North Adams has been very good to me. I believe in giving back to the community and have always tried to do so."

Wilkinson has lived in North Adams for 44 years and has been married for 35 years. He has two children who work for him at his 32-year-old business, Wilkinson Appraisal Associates. "I am a commercial real estate appraiser and consultant with a staff of four North Adams residents."

He has served on the North Adams Planning Board for 10 years; the North Adams Mobile Home Rent Control Board for 24 years; the North Adams Redevelopment Authority for five years; and on the council for three terms.

"The city of North Adams is presently going through a major positive transformation," Wilkinson said. "I certainly have seen that in my tenure as a councilor and want another council term to help keep that transformation going."

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 Nov. 4 at noon.


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