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North Adams Mayor Alcombright Won't Run for Fifth Term
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
03:03PM / Thursday, June 01, 2017
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Mayor Richard Alcombright announced on Thursday that he will not run again.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright announced on Thursday afternoon that he would not run for a fifth term.

In a brief press conference in his office at City Hall, the Alcombright said it was time for new leadership to take over.

He said he made his decision early last winter in large part because of "the new activity, the new vision, the new leadership.  Seeing so many people wanting to become part of the process I think it's been very eye-opening."

The Small Business Revolution was a bit of an epiphany, the mayor said, "People are feeling empowered. The more I see that happening, the more it helped me make this decision."

The former banker had said back in September at his annual picnic for supporters that he was considering another run but indicated that could change. The turning point was apparently the recent Small Business Revolution effort that culminated this past February when a dedicated grassroots effort attempted to win a half-million dollar boost for the city's downtown

Alcombright said he'd come away from that with the firm conviction that the city was awash in new energy and an emerging leadership. It was time, he said, to get out of the way.

"I think we're in a position now where we can have some really good ideas, some new vision from folks who can give that to us," he said. "I'm just going to continue to give the same-old, same-old ... that's who I am. ...

"I think there are people in the community now who do have vision that relates to who we want to be."

The city's had exactly two mayors in the past 34 years, the bulk of those under John Barrett III who served 13 terms.

"If nothing else, this number makes me realize that we have missed an entire generation of leaders," Alcombright read in his prepared statement. "As we approach the third decade of this century, it is very clear to me that it is time for North Adams to move into its exciting future with new leadership and new energy."

The mayor ran in 2009 on issues of financial leadership, government transparency and civic engagement. He entered the corner office at the full effects of the economic global collapse were being felt and spent his first two terms struggling with budget deficits.

The self-described "bank geek" is most proud of the raising the city's credit rating.

"It's the measurement of what we've done financially," he said. "When Standard & Poor's raised our credit rating from the A-negative to the A-stable, I wanted to get a T-shirt."

His second success, he said, was "opening up government and creating this participatory process that I see really has taken hold ... getting people involved in the community ... I think we've really done a great job with that."

The mayor also ticked off a list of projects he's proud of, including the renovation of Colegrove Park Elementary School, the municipal solar array, participating in the state's Green Communities and Complete Streets programs, and "all these things that fall into becoming a greener, cleaner, healthier community."

More difficult have been the tragedies that affected the community and, in some cases, himself personally. The death of Michael R. Demarsico II while serving with the Army in Afghanistan, the murder of Ellen DePaoli, Tropical Storm Irene, and the loss of North Adams Regional Hospital and its 500 jobs in one day.

Alcombright said there are still challenges ahead for whoever is his successor: there's the perennial problem of the Mohawk Theater, getting tenants into the Armory, shepherding the private projects that represent a significant investment in the city, and problems of blight and decay in a community that's outsized its population.

"The schools, I think, in Berkshire County are the next financial crisis and a third thing will be the tax ceiling," he said. "We've seen some good growth ... but we are within three to five years of hitting that ceiling."

Alcombright, a banker and popular three-term city councilor, first ran for office in 2009, successfully seating Barrett who had easily vanquished other challengers in his 26 years in office.

His first candidacy started with three supporters in his living room and ended with a packed crowd at the Eagles Hall. He easily won his next three terms with the closest being the 2015 rematch against Barrett.

Formerly a senior vice president at Hoosac and Williamstown Savings banks, he was also a 16-year representative on the McCann School Committee, with nine years on its Finance Committee, and served two years as chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee. He was a corporator of Northern Berkshire Healthcare and sat on the boards of the Northern Berkshire YMCA, Holy Family Terrace and Berkshire Community Action Council's Individual Development Account Committee.

Alcombright's not sure what the future holds. He'll be 64 in December and will have two grandchildren, and could retire, or work more with the substance abuse policy issues he's been involved with, or find another job. He figures he has six more months to decide.

"We're going to continue to work hard," he said. "I don't want anyone to think for a second that we're going to announce not seeking another term today and all of a sudden start coming in a couple days a week."

But he smiled, "I might dog it in December."

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