Pittsfield City Council Ward 5 hopefuls present plans ahead of preliminary election
PITTSFIELD — Each of the contenders for the City Council's Ward 5 seat view Pittsfield's future through a different set of lenses.
The candidates are Patrick Kavey, Jonathan Lothrop and Eugene Maselli. They are vying to replace outgoing City Council Donna Todd Rivers, who announced her departure earlier this year.
The three-candidate field heads to a preliminary election Sept. 17. After that, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election Nov. 5.
During visits to The Eagle's offices, each of the candidates laid out his vision.
Kavey, 26, of Spadina Parkway, wants to help the city do more to attract and retain young professionals.
He is a registered Democrat.
Kavey was born and raised in Pittsfield and graduated from Taconic High School's Academy of Business Management. He later got his bachelor's degree in business management from Westfield State University.
He previously worked as store manager of Ben & Jerry's South Street location, where he was awarded the manager of the year award by corporate executives.
He helps each year with the Berkshire International Film Festival and spends his free time studying for his graduate management admission test.
Kavey said he's grappled with the issue many young Berkshire natives face: leave the area to find more job opportunities or stay to play a role in building the county up.
"Do I move to Boston or New York City and find work like the majority of my friends or do I try and fix the problem?" he said. "I chose to fix the problem."
He said solutions lie in workforce development. He'd like to help build more bridges between vocational education and private companies. He'd also like to empower more people to take technical training programs at Taconic, at Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts so that they can find their place in the economy.
This would also help address income disparities in the community, he said.
"If you look at certain neighborhoods in my ward and in the city, there is such a disparity of wealth," he said.
Kavey said transportation infrastructure is important for the area, and so he'd like to work with city and state officials on high-speed rail opportunities and on extending the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail through the city. He also wants there to be rent-a-bike stations in Pittsfield.
"We have less wear and tear and less pollution if we pull cars and trucks off of our main roads," he said.
More transportation opportunities would also help attract more people and businesses to the area, he said. He also wants to encourage mixed-use development downtown, which makes the stretch more attractive to young professionals.
"With an aging population, it is more important now than ever before to educate and retain our youth," he said. "A younger workforce and sustainable growth in population will reduce the growing tax burden on the residents of Ward 5."
Lothrop, 53, of Willow Lane, already served the City Council for more than a decade, and now he aims to draw on past experience and make a difference.
He is a registered Democrat who has worked for the Department of Children and Families for 30 years. His current title is family resource supervisor, through which he trains and supports foster families who take in children.
His work for the department has brought him into thousands of Berkshire homes over the years, he said. The work he does for the department isn't always pleasant.
"It's definitely good training, too, for politics, because you can deal with some unhappy people sometimes," he said.
Lothrop has also served on the city's Conservation Commission for six years. He previously stepped down from the Ward 5 seat in 2015 after a 12-year run.
Of his council tenure, he's perhaps most proud of his service on an ad hoc committee on municipal health insurance. He said that committee was able to negotiate the city's way into a group insurance plan, save money and ward off layoffs.
"I'm ready to go — no learning curve for me," he said.
Lothrop said he stepped down to spend more time with his youngest daughter, who was 16 at the time and preparing for college.
He said Rivers announced she was not seeking reelection on a Friday, "and all of a sudden my phone started going off." Those calls once again stirred his excitement for city politics, he said.
In the city's next chapter, Lothrop said investments must continue. He said it's important that leaders decide to keep building on what the city has to offer rather than tightening up and throwing in the towel.
"Are we a community that's going to want to continue to invest in ourselves?" he asked. "Or are we a community that wants to just pull in the reins, hold on tight and decide we can't afford to continue to reinvest? I'm in the first camp."
Investments made 150 years ago, like in the city's water infrastructure, are why the city now is now a pleasant and affordable place to live, he said. It's crucial that the city continue that legacy of investment.
"It's the future of Ward 5 that's at stake," he said.
Yes, residents pay taxes. But Lothrop said Pittsfield gives people bang for their buck. They get trash pickup, municipal water and sewer and fast-acting public safety services.
"It is, in fact, a bargain," he said. "Press 911, someone's in your house in three to four minutes."
As a Ward 5 hopeful, he said he looks to preserve the quality of life for its residents. He recalled a time when he was able to work with Big Y to turn down its new outdoor lighting system, which was too bright for apartment residents across the way.
"It was like a beacon," he said. "That's a perfect example of accommodating the business, accommodating the development, but also making sure it doesn't have a negative impact on people's lives. That's how you make a difference."
Maselli, 80, of Franklin Street, is a retired foreman who aims to be a frank and reliable force on the City Council.
He is a registered Democrat who served as a captain with the Army National Guard.
He is a carpenter by trade, has his construction supervisor license and worked as a foreman for Petricca Industries for 10 years. He also supervised construction projects for Berkshire Health Systems for 30 years.
Now, he runs a carpentry and sharpening business and volunteers his carpentry skills in the basement workshop of the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center.
For the city, he previously served three terms on the School Committee and on the School Building Needs Commission. In that work, he recalled overseeing renovations at all of the city's elementary schools and negotiating difficult contracts with school employees.
"If I thought something stunk I came out and said it," he said.
He's running because "I don't like what I see" on the City Council.
"I don't like some of them," he said. "They're very long-winded and by the time that they're done they've said what they said before."
He said the city's leadership needs to stop bickering and get things done.
"We must first bring back the partnership between the city and its government," he said.
Maselli would also like to help the city stay on top of its infrastructure.
"We can't fall behind," he said.
As with his construction projects, Maselli said he would be laser-focused on the task at hand.
"You can call me anything you want, but we're going to get this job done and we're going to get that money."
Taxes are a problem for people in Pittsfield, he said, as is deteriorating infrastructure, citing a bridge on Jason Street whose cement is falling off. He said city officials refused to talk to him about the issue, telling him the bridge is not owned by the city.
Still, he said the bridge is a hazard to the people who live here, and so "it's your problem now."
He said the city needs a shake-up.
"I'm going to bring a little spark, a little finesse, say things that might be out of the ordinary and see if I can create a little friction to get it going," he said.
Amanda Drane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.
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