Councilors and friends take pictures at HiLo after Tuesday's election.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Thomas Bernard easily swept to a second two-year term on Tuesday night in with more than 80 percent of the vote.
The electorate displayed a preference for incumbents, also re-electing six councilors and returning two former councilors to the fold. The only newcomer to make it onto the nine-member panel was Jess Sweeney.
"Two years ago, I spent the time between election day and swearing in learning everything I could about the job and, like all learning, it began with the realization of how much I didn't know and how much I thought I knew that I needed to re-evaluate," said the mayor at his victory part at HiLo. "The good news is based on that, I'm going to spend this two year in a state of action, getting right back to work on behalf of the city ... I know the steps we take together over the next two years are going to set the course for at least the next decade of the city and we have a lot of work and it's a big job and we're going to do it together."
He also congratulated the new and returning councilors and School Committee members.
"We know that every committee is different by virtue of the different voices and perspectives that make it up," he said. "I look forwrd to working with and learning with them with the new council and the new School Committee when they're seated in January. ...
"I'm grateful to the people who supported me, I'm grateful to the people who challenged me and I'm grateful to the people who share their time energy and talent."
Mayoral candidate Rachel Branch captured only 18 percent of votes against Bernard but said earlier in the evening that she had no regrets on her decision to run.
"I'm very proud of the campaign I've run. I feel wonderful about it," she said. "I'm really proud that I stood up, spoke up, spoke out and there was no slime in this campaign."
Branch had arrived early in the morning and spent most of the day at the polls. Her campaign was very low key, with handmade signs and about 475 flyers that she handed out over the past few weeks.
"All I can tell you is the people that were coming up and wishing me well and telling me that they were glad I ran. That was just incredible," she said. My feeling is whatever happens, I am grateful that I was able to do this and did it. And, of course, the best connections are the people that you meet."
She hasn't ruled out another run in 2021 — she was eliminated in the preliminary in 2015 — but says she's got lots of things she's involved in, including her cable television show.
Bernard thanked Branch — among the numerous thanks, and especially to his family — for stepping up.
"I agree with the premise of her campaign: no one should run unopposed," he said. "It's unhealthy for voters, it's unhealthy for democracy and it's unhealthy for anyone who serves in elected office."
Bernard said they shared many values, including wanting the best for the community and its most vulnerable.
"When it comes to the city of North Adams, I'm an eternal optimist. we're going to move forward while ensuring no one falls too far behind. That North Adams will continue to be a place that everyone can be proud of, that embraces our history, and embraces the potential of our future equally," he said.
The six incumbent councilors returning are Benjamin Lamb (1,587), Marie T. Harpin (1,579), Keith Bona (1,516), Paul Hopkins (1,486), Jason LaForest (1,444) and Wayne Wilkinson (1,102); former councilors returning are Lisa Blackmer (1,149) and Robert R. Moulton (988), and the newcomer is Jess Sweeney (982).
North Adams School Committee members returning are Karen Bond with 1,476 votes and Tara Jacobs with 1,293; joining the committee is Robert R. Moulton Jr. (1,055), who ran for both and scored a double. Emily Daunis earned 971 votes and David Sookey, 431.
The McCann School Committee will welcome back incumbents George Canales (1,463) and William Diamond (1,271) along with newcomer Peter Breen (10,41). Out of the running by 31 votes was Shannon Marie Santelli.
Election worker Ron O'Brien had projected a turnout in the high 20s. He was close with a 25 percent turnout and the 20 percent mark being breached just before 5 p.m. A total of 2,120 votes were cast; Bernard garnered 1,738 and Branch, 387.
"It did go smoothly but only because there's awesome people and they know what they're doing. They've done it many years," said City Clerk Debbie Pedercini, overseeing her first election. "I've worked with them the last four or five elections with [former City Clerk] Marilyn [Gomeau] honestly. I think it went well."
O'Brien said there was line out the door at St. Elizabeth's Parish Hall when the polls opened at 9 a.m. He hadn't heard any complaints but a couple other people had heard some voters had not realized the time change to 9 from 8 a.m. and found the doors closed when they arrived.
Still, the number of votes cast is considerably lower than in 2015, in which a re-match between Richard Alcombright and John Barrett III drew more than 4,500 voters, or 52 percent. Two years later, only 3,400 votes were cast in the election that brought Bernard to the corner office, the first election in more than 30 years in which an incumbent was not running.
Bernard said he was prepared to lead the city into the next two years.
"We're going to draw on the strength and perspectives of lifelong residents and from the hope and vision of those more recently arrived," he said. "We can and will continue to build a city for everyone because North Adams has always been a place of resilience and reinvention. ...
"A small town with global charm and global reach ... tomorrow we get back to work."
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