North Adams City Council unanimously votes in Wayne Wilkinson to fill empty seat

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NORTH ADAMS — A familiar face has returned to the City Council.

Wayne Wilkinson was unanimously voted by the Council on Tuesday to replace Councilor Nancy Bullett, who officially resigned on July 1.

Bullett's resignation came with six months remaining in her term, launching an open, at-large process to fill her seat.

In approving Wilkinson, councilors noted that he came in 10th place in the most recent City Council election in 2015, narrowly missing out on a second term. As a former councilor, they also noted his ability to quickly come up to speed.

"He'll be able to hit the ground running," said Councilor Lisa Blackmer. "He's familiar with the policies and procedures of the boards, how things work."

Four candidates expressed interest in the position: Allyson Holmes, Rebbecca Cohen, Ronald Sheldon, and Wilkinson.

Each of the four candidates were given up to five minutes to make a statement in support of themselves before fielding questions from the Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

"As a recent councilor I would quickly be up to speed on recent council proposals and agenda items," Wilkinson said, adding that in the most recent election he received the support of 2,143 voters.

Wilkinson, who owns a real estate appraisal company, served a term on the council from 2014 to 2016 and has a wealth of experience on other community boards, including 12 years on the planning board.

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He received the support of longtime former City Councilor Alan Marden and a letter of recommendation from Bullett.

Councilor Keith Bona noted that while the tradition of appointing the previous election's 10th place winner has been inconsistent, he highlighted the benefits of Wilkinson's experience on the council and the expertise he brought to the body.

Despite voting for Wilkinson, several councilors lauded the candidates for their qualifications and having the courage to submit their names for the open seat.

"I think it's wonderful to have four candidates to come out for this position. Hats off, I'd like to see you all run again," said Councilor Robert Moulton, Jr.

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In brief remarks to the council, Sheldon, of Liberty Street, said his focuses were getting more jobs into North Adams for younger people and helping improve access for the disabled.

Councilor Keith Bona asked Sheldon how he would handle criticism from the community.

"I think it would be a give and take situation no matter what policy or situation we're dealing with the time," Sheldon said.

City native Rebbecca Cohen advocated for herself as a "new, fresh voice" in the city.

"I would be an advocate for our entire community," she told the council.

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Cohen, who intends to campaign for a seat on the council in the November election, remarked on the importance of health care to the community and adequate transportation services.

She acknowledged she did not have the experience that Wilkinson does, but added that she will do her best and believes in the city.

"I'm ready to do all the work that it will take to revitalize the city economically, environmentally and educationally," Cohen said.

Holmes, a North Adams native, returned to the Berkshires last year after living in Boston and quickly volunteered for a position on the planning board.

"The importance of public service cannot be understated," said Holmes, who worked for three years as a legislative aid in Boston for former State Rep. Daniel Bosley after graduating college.

Holmes then worked in the city of Boston's legal department for five years, working regularly in municipal law.

"While the magnitude of Boston's government is a lot greater than the city of North Adams, there are still a lot of issues that are the same," Holmes said.

Wilkinson's first meeting as a councilor will be on July 25. His term expires on Jan. 1, 2018.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter


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