NORTH ADAMS -- The city will have at least five new City Councilors following the Tuesday, Nov. 5, election, when voters will be asked to pare down a field of 12 candidates to fill nine at-large seats.
All five open seats are being vacated by councilors who have chosen not to seek re-election.
Recently, all 12 candidates were asked a series of three questions by the Transcript, which included each individual's reason for running, what assets each brings to the council and what each believes are the most important issues the city will face in the next two years.
The first four candidates' answers follow:
Lisa Michelle Blackmer
Spouse: William Blackmer
Children: William (Bill) 34, Jennifer 36
Education: She earned her bachelor's in Business Administration, with a dual concentration in economics/finance and management from MCLA and holds a certificate in non-profit management
Employer: She is employed by Wheatleigh in Stockbridge.
Civic or Charitable Affiliations: Blackmer is a board member of the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, the MCLA Alumni Association and North Adams SteepleCats.
She is also Massachusetts Municipal Association's (MMA) board of directors; its municipal and regional government policy committee and the state Councilors' Association executive committee.
Blackmer, who is vice president of the council, first took office in 2008.
She said she is seeking a fourth term to continue her "lifelong commitment to leaving this world a better place than [she] found it."
"When my husband and I moved to North Adams 25 years ago, we planned to move back to the Pioneer Valley, where our families were. Then our life took over -- we worked, took classes, our kids made friends and got involved in sports, music and other activities," she said.
Blackmer says her experience and education in the fields of finance, management, marketing human resources at businesses of varying sizes are among the assets she brings to the council.
"I take the time to listen to ‘experts' and residents about what they think and, more importantly, why they think that way," she said. "I listen to both side of an issue before making a decision. I am not afraid to change my mind if new information presents itself."
She believes the biggest challenges facing the city over the next two years are economic development and the budget.
"We need to retain the jobs and businesses we have.
She believes investment in marketing and promotion of the city on the local, state and regional levels, along with a "pro-business environment" and with the Berkshire Chamber's efforts to coordinate county-wide economic development will also further business retention and growth.
"If we attract new residential property owners who will in turn invest in their properties, we can grow the tax base and help with some of the blight issues facing us," she said.
Keith James Bona
Spouse: Anne Marie
Children: Alexander and Elizabeth
Education: He is a graduate of C. H. McCann Technical School and earned his bachelor's degree in fine arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Occupation: Self-employed computer graphics, print and marketing management consultant, owner of Berkshire Emporium & Antiques and Bona Marketing & Printing, graphics instructor at MCLA from 1992 to 2011.
Civic/Charitable Affiliations: He is a vice president of the North Adams Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Partnership for North Adams executive board member and past Exalted Ruler of the North Adams Elks 487, a Drury Band Parent and a member of the North Street Neighborhood Crime Watch
Bona has served a total of six terms on the council, serving from 1994 to 2001. After a self-imposed absence from the board, he was re-elected in 2009.
He believes he brings a broad range knowledge and experience to the Council based on his community involvement.
"My reasons now are different than when I first ran nearly twenty years ago. Back then I was the new candidate running on fresh ideas and a young voice for the people. There are new candidates today that bring those attributes," he said. "Today I bring experience and knowledge of the community, people, businesses, and local government. The council should have a balance of generations, demographics, and backgrounds to bring to the table when discussing ideas and solutions. I offer a resume different from other candidates that can benefit the community."
Bona believes one of the biggest challenges the city faces in the next two years will be drug addiction.
"Drugs are not a new problem. Today the dealers aren't on Main Street. They are online, on mobile phones, and in our rural neighborhood homes selling a potent mixture of addictive poison," he said. "Their network is strong, and the young dealers are disposable, with new ones lining up to fill those getting arrested. These are issues every city and town are facing no matter their size."
Some of the ways he believes the council can be proactive in finding solutions is to: encourage and support more neighborhood watches; create laws to discourage landlords from renting to known dealers; and push for more health and human service educational and rehabilitation programs.
Jennifer M. Breen
Spouse: Todd Catelotti
Children: She has two stepchildren, Jack, 9, and Lily, 7
Education: She is a graduate of Drury High School and earned her bachelor of science degree at Union College. She earned her juris doctorate from Northeastern University.
Occupation: She is an attorney and the owner of Breen Law Office and Mediation. She is a former assistant district attorney for Middlesex County.
Civic/Charitable Affiliations: She is a member of St. Elizabeth's Church, Neighborhood Crime Watch, and the Berkshire Bar Association.
Breen, who is finishing her first term on the council, said she is seeking re-election because she believes she has "demonstrated leadership and independence in my first term and will continue that strength into 2014."
"I am educated in public safety and criminal justice and have applied that education in my role as a public servant. I was born and raised in North Adams and am the fifth generation of the Breen and Zoito families to settle down here," she said. "My investment in our city is because of my love for North Adams. I want what is best to move us forward in our local economy, but I understand the charm of our city and what makes us, ‘us. ‘ This is a delicate balance, but one I bring forth with civility and integrity."
Breen said she still believes public safety and balancing the budget are still the most significant issues in the city.
"With the endorsement of Attorney General Martha Coakley and Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler, I feel confident that I have the backing of experienced elected officials in that area," she said. "Second, balancing the budget and taking the tax burden off the backs of homeowners. My voting record supports this position."
Spouse: Elena Traister
Children: Solomon, 2
Education: He holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science from Wesleyan University.
Occupation: He is a computer programmer and systems administrator. He is also a musician for dances around New England and New York.
Civic/Charitable Affiliations: Buddington maintains the computers at Northern Berkshire Community Television and is responsible for the community television website and webcasting service. He also organized the St. John's Third Friday Contra Dance for 10 years and is currently a regular musician at the Williamstown dance.
Buddington, who is seeking election to his first term on the council, is running for office because he believes long-term planning of land use, business, education, and infrastructure is important for the city's future.
"We have historically been forced into last-minute solutions that are expensive and not well-planned," he said. "The city's survey of water pipes and 20-year plan for replacement is a recent example of good planning."
He also supports local efforts to get the Berkshire Bike Path running through North Adams, and the Hoosic River Revival's plans to restore public use of the river in and around the city.
"We have a growing number of small farms and gardens, and I would like the city to support these however it can," he said.
Buddington believes the renovation of Conte Middle School is important to the future of the city's educational systems, but that it needs to be kept close to budget. He also is in favor of the redevelopment of Heritage State Park.
"The private redevelopment of Western Gateway Heritage State Park should be managed to give it the best chance of success without incurring liability to the city, and without detracting from downtown businesses," he said.
"The bike path and river revival efforts will make our downtown more attractive as a place to spend time, which will in turn make it more attractive to business."
These are the first four of 12 City Council profiles (in three segements) in alphabethical order.