NORTH ADAMS -- Mayor Richard J. Alcombright isn't a fan of politics.
"I loathe politics. When it gets ugly, it gets ugly. But I love this job. I love the challenges," he said during an editorial board meeting at The Transcript. "There are two things I know -- community banking and community service. This is community service."
Alcombright, who is seeking his third term as mayor at Tuesday's election, said he wants another two years to continue the momentum his administration has created.
"Our master plan is going to be unveiled in the first quarter of next year. The Conte School project is really going to get underway in March. I've been working on the privatization of Heritage State Park for three years now," he said. "I never want to be the guy who continuously says that I need another term to see things through, but we have several projects that I want to be here to see through. I want to see a balanced budget and few bucks in reserves. Not being able to balanced the books has really frustrated me. We've been able to do good things, but that one really frustrates me."
Fiscal constraints have been at the crux of his administration's problems. Despite his opponent's claims that he came into office with $3 million in reserves, Alcombright is quick to point out that he also inherited a $2.6 million structural deficit and a dispute with the city's union for some $800,000 in health insurance trust funds.
Then there's the infamous Proposition 2 1/2 override vote that failed to pass.
"That was my defining moment. I was very determined the city move forward financially," he said. "I wouldn't do anything differently."
While his critics point out that he never made the drastic cuts he touted during numerous public forums, Alcombright says his initial moves after the failed vote spread out the cuts out over a longer period of time.
"Maybe my biggest mistake was not to cut the $900,000 from the budget then," he said. "Before we even went to the vote, we had reduced the need from $1.2 million to $900,000. When the vote failed, we found ways to pay for things -- the school choice funds went to pay teacher salaries. That reduced our need by another $300,000."
But even those reserve funds are running dry, he said.
"We've come full circle," he said. "We consolidated many city services. There are 16 positions we haven't filled. What's happening now is everything I talked about then is coming true. If the vote had passed, we wouldn't have needed to increase the water rate or put in a sewer fee."
Fiscal responsibility is just one of several priorities, including economic growth and crime.
"My opponent says his No. 1 priority is crime. Crime is a priority. It's one of many priorities," Alcombright said.
"When we really look at the escalation of crime in the city -- property crime is up 25 percent. Violent crimes are actually down," he said. "We are an urban community, with all the problems of a New Bedford or a Lowell. We struggle with drug addiction, generational poverty and disconnected families. With all of these comes desperation and crime."
An increased police presence, done with the help of other local law enforcement agencies, combined with preventative and rehabilitative programs and neighborhood crime watch groups are the key to reducing crime, he said.