Pittsfield election season starts to take shape as Simonelli says he won't run

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PITTSFIELD — Longtime teacher and Ward 7 City Councilor Tony Simonelli is retiring. Again.

After four terms on the City Council, Simonelli, 68, won't seek another this November. His wife is poised to retire, he said, and he has new grandchildren to spend time with.

"I think the timing was right," he said. "It's just the right time for me to step down and let somebody else put their hat in the ring, so to speak."

Simonelli announced his plans to back out of city politics in an email blast to constituents last week. He said he'll serve through the end of this year — the early announcement comes simply to allow time for new leadership to emerge.

Nomination papers become available April 2 and are due back to City Hall by July 19. All council seats, the mayor and city clerk are up for re-election.

Simonelli hopes his successor understands that the job is about a lot more than attending meetings twice a month. He fielded five phone calls Tuesday morning alone, because "it's pothole season."

"I really hope that whoever follows my footsteps keeps harping on the road issues in our ward," he said, noting that his ward has more unaccepted streets than any other in the city. Unaccepted streets are private ways that the city has not agreed to take on for regular maintenance.

As the city inches toward election season, some re-election bids are clear, and others aren't. Mayor Linda Tyer plans to run again, as does City Council President Peter Marchetti. Others who signaled re-election intentions Tuesday include Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon, Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo, Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers and Councilor At Large Pete White.

Longtime councilors John Krol and Melissa Mazzeo, as well as first-term Councilor At Large Earl Persip, said separately that information about their plans is pending. Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi couldn't be reached for comment.

Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell would say only that "I plan to run for political office" in November. He added that he was sorry to see that Simonelli is planning to step down.

"He's been a really great advocate for the ward and the city, and he will surely be missed," he said.

Simonelli said he's referred to as an unpredictable voter and an independent voice, and those are descriptors he's proud of.

"Whatever decision you make, make it for the right reason," he said. "Not the political reason or what you think people wanna hear — what you honestly believe is the right thing. That's what I always tried to do."

Decades of service

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Simonelli worked in education for 38 years, including 33 for the Pittsfield Public Schools, before retiring in 2011. He served as vice principal of Taconic High School for the last 16 years of his tenure.

He ran for his first term on the City Council the same year he retired from the district.

"I wanted to help out our particular ward and the city in general, and I thought I'd give it a shot," he said.

He said he's proud of the work he has done on the council, including his support of a new building for Taconic High School, the Berkshire Innovation Center and the new marquee coming soon to the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center.

"That's a piece of Pittsfield's history I didn't want to see go the way of the wrecking ball," he said.

He's also pleased with progress he has made with the roads in Ward 7. That said, there's more to do, and he hopes his successor will continue to build on that progress.

Simonelli said maintaining personal contact with constituents is important, especially in dealing with frustrating issues like the city's tired roads.

"They may not always like the answer that you give them," he said. "But at least they got an answer."

By not seeking another term, Simonelli said he's buying himself time with his 2-month-old granddaughter and 9-month-old grandson. Plus, maybe he and his wife will "sneak away for a little bit" next winter.

His two children live locally with his new grandchildren, he said, and so "life can't get any better than that." It might sound like a "stock answer," he said, "but it's true."

That said, "I'm not gonna fade out into the sunset," he said, noting his role on the UNICO board and that of the Council on Aging.

He's a fifth-generation city resident, and now with grandkids in the mix, he has future generations' interest in mind.

"I hope for nothing but the best for Pittsfield," he said.

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


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