NORTH ADAMS -- U.S. Rep. Richard Neal found time to both learn about a local business and conduct some party business during a visit to several cities and towns in the county Tuesday.
Soon to be the county's newest congressman, Neal reserved time over the course of the afternoon for stops at Pittsfield City Hall, Wild Oats Market in Williamstown, North Adams Democratic State Committee headquarters and wrapped things up at a fundraiser held by North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright at the city's Public Eat + Drink on Holden Street.
At the Democratic State Com mittee Headquarters, Neal presented a check for $500 from his campaign to help along the organization's "Get Out the Vote" efforts. Greg Roach, a member of the Democratic City Committee and chef and manager at Wild Oats, said the funds will be used to help pay for rent, utilities and office supplies at the 14 Ashland St. headquarters.
During the stop, Neal expressed gratitude to county voters for their support in the Sept. 6 primary -- where he garnered 65 percent of the vote, defeating challengers Andrea Nuciforo and Bill Shein -- saying he was "looking forward to representing Berkshire County."
"There are no two better words than ‘thank you,' " Neal said. "To have won the Berkshires is very pleasing."
Neal reiterated campaign pledges, vowing to deliver at bringing back money to the county for capital improvement projects, an ability that's garnered the longtime representative of the commonwealth's 2nd District praise from former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Rep. John Olver, among others. He also said he would "preserve and protect" Social Security and Medicare, labeling himself "Congress' strongest supporter" of the programs.
The new 1st District, reshaped according to the 2010 U.S. Census, merges Berkshire County into Neal's area of representation, earning him the two Berkshire-central challengers. Because no Republican is running in the general election this November, Neal clinched the district in the primary.
During his visit to Wild Oats Market, Neal toured the building, taking interests in the business' cooperative model and its offerings of locally-made beer and cheese, which were among his purchases.
Roach shepherded a top-to-bottom look at the 1,200-member, $4.2 million business stocked with local food on nearly every shelf, prompting the Congressman to say he "already felt healthier" for having had a look at the organic and fresh offerings.
Wild Oats marketing manager Robin Riley said the congressman was "impressed by River Valley Cooperative," a Wild Oats sister store located in Northampton, and supported the cooperative business model.
"It was an honor to have [Neal] come out here," Riley said. "We have a very different model than private business, and we're glad he's interested in supporting it."
Neal also supports New Market Tax Credits, a program that helped the Northampton business get off the ground.