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North Adams Council Appoints New City Clerk After Lengthy Debate
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:03AM / Wednesday, July 27, 2022
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Williamstown Town Clerk Nicole Beverly swears in new North Adams City Clerk Joshua Vallieres on Tuesday as City Council President Lisa Blackmer looks on.

Vallieres, of North Adams, graduated from MCLA in the spring and won a seat on the School Committee last fall. He was hired as assistant clerk in May and became acting clerk on the departure of Marcus Lyon in mid-June. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's third city clerk this year and the fifth in four years was sworn in on Tuesday.
Joshua Vallieres, who has been holding down the city clerk's office alone for more than a month, was promoted from assistant for a term to end on Jan. 28, 2025.
But his appointment wasn't unanimous, with two councilors objecting to his hiring and recommending reposting the position and another accusing them of putting up roadblocks in the process.
Councilor Marie T. Harpin said the wage scale should be raised to attract more candidates and pointed out the minimum requirements included five years of office or management experience.
"Our clerk is a vital position of the city and I do believe that in my opinion, I think that we should go ahead and post the position again, and put a note on there that the salaries would be negotiable based on experience," she said, later adding it would be unfair to put an inexperienced person in a situation with two elections on the horizon.
Vallieres, also a School Committee member, graduated from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts this past June and was appointed as assistant clerk on May 11. He's been acting city clerk since Marcus Lyon left in mid-June. Lyon, hired as assistant clerk last year was promoted on the departure of Cathleen King in February after a year on the job.
Councilor Jennifer Barbeau also objected, saying the other applicants for the post should be afforded a new hearing if the qualifications were being lowered. 
Vallieres' supporters said he was already performing the job and that other applicants didn't have the hands-on experience he'd had since assuming the assistant post in May. 
Oleskiewicz said it was time to move forward and hire Vallieres so he could get an assistant clerk in place. 
"While I agree that I would have loved to have had somebody apply who had managed a city clerk's office ... Mr. Vallieres is the only person who had actual experience with elections and the other tasks that have to be done in the office," said council President Lisa Blackmer. 
Blackmer said there were an initial 23 applicants of which a screening committee consisting of herself, Councilors Peter Oleskiewiecz and Wayne Wilkinson, and longtime former City Clerk MaryAnn Abuisi had whittle down to seven for interviews. That was dropped to five when one withdrew and another found a different job, and then one applicant didn't show for the interview. Out of the four still in contention, Vallieres was unanimously chosen. 
Wilkinson said it was a long process and that all the candidates had the same questions during each half-hour interview. 
"Josh without a doubt the only one that had some experience. I've worked with him now for four or five months," he said. "He's always taken care of whatever I need when I go in the office. And that's the type of person we're looking for: eager, young, and will get the job done."
Councilor Keith Bona said he could see both sides in not having years of office experience but added that working in an office per se didn't mean person had the skills to work in this particular job. He said he would support Vallieres' appointment. 
"I also credit that he's been in the office for four months and he hasn't left yet," he said, adding that he wanted to be sure that Vallieres understood the importance and significance of the documents held in the city vault. "I ask the council as a whole to give him a chance, to allow him to do his job, to be patient, just as any other new city clerk would coming in, and do not put a target on his back. ...
"I just hope there's not going to be a target on Mr. Valliers back to try to knock him out like the last two city clerks have been." 
The tension apparent in the council over the last few years has spilled over into the city clerk's office, with the last two clerks intimating that they had felt harassed. Oleskiewicz said it was because of the toxicity on the council. 
"I've seen Josh's willingness to learn. I call him to keep in contact just to see and check on his well-being, see how he's doing," said Oleskiewicz, adding he sees Vallieres' car at City Hall early in the morning. "I mean, it's overwhelming because he's doing the job of two people."
He added, "I have full confidence in Josh's ability." 
Councilors Michael Obasohan and Bryan Sapienza also indicated their support for Vallieres, both saying they believed he had performed well under difficult circumstances to date. Sapienza thought he would make an "excellent city clerk" and Obasohan said he seemed to be a quick learner and expressed his concerns on the number of people moving through the post. (The post had been held by two people over a 40-year period and then four people since 2019.)
Both Blackmer and Obasohan noted the difficulty in finding hires for municipal positions in general and Oleskiewicz said the salary didn't seem to have put off the applicants. 
Vallieres, after the meeting, said he was ready to take on the office after more than a month alone. 
"I think in those six weeks, I've learned quite a bit, you know, it's a lot of on-the-spot learning but it's been very beneficial," he said. "And I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't feel confident in my abilities to so."
Mayor Jennifer Macksey said she would be working with Vallieres on getting extra training for him through the state and that a former clerk would come in and work with him on Fridays in preparation for the primary and general elections. She also asked that the approval of the election workers be postponed to the next meeting, saying she wanted a "more robust list" to ensure Vallieres had the support he needed. 
"I think, over time, he could certainly do this job," said Harpin. "But as of right now this city needs a strong, experienced city clerk, in my opinion, and there's are a lot of other companies, municipalities, and if they hire the first time around they may not get the right applicant and they go and send the posting out again, and sometimes they do it a third time until they get the candidate that fits." 
Wilkinson said if they reposted the position, they would be far beyond the election before they had another candidate while they had an assistant clerk and no city clerk.  
"That to me that is just not logical, councilor. It makes no sense whatsoever ... You've probably just got a bug up your ass, pardon my language," he said, and Blackmer called him out of line. "I apologize, but there's two councilors here that are constantly putting roadblocks into anything this council will do. And I'm sick and tired of it. Let's all work together. We don't need a roadblock every time somebody doesn't turn in meeting minutes or many other things. Somebody sooner or later has to say something and I'm going to say it."
Harpin objected that she was elected to represent the people and that all the councilors had different opinions. "I don't feel I was rude," she said. "But I am entitled to my opinion."
Barbeau objected that Blackmer had said she would not participate in the process over possible conflicts and that Wilkinson had said the screening committee would bring forward at least two candidates. Barbeau also asked if the screening committee knew any of the candidates, other than Vallieres, to which they all responded no. 
Blackmer explained that she had been approached by a couple people she knew well who had expressed interest in the post and that she would have stepped back if they had applied. Wilkonsin said the goal had been to bring two candidates but that has historically not been the case and once Vallieres had been chosen as the lead, they couldn't come to a decision on a second candidate because they felt those left were weaker in relation to his experience. 
At one point, Oleskiewiecz motioned to call the question but it failed with only three in support; after several more minutes of discussion, Blackmer said they had exhausted the issue and called for a roll call vote. 
The vote was 6-2 with Barbeau and Harpin opposed and Councilor Ashley Shade absent. 
Vallieres was sworn in by Williamstown Town Clerk Nicole Beverly. Afterwards, he said he was excited to start as city clerk and was in it for the long term. 
"I wouldn't have dreamed about city clerk job but I really like it," he said. "I was a history major initially in college and the record keeping aspect is just so much fun. I really enjoy it. There's a lot of history there in those vaults."
Abuisi, clerk for 28 years, said she, too, had had two councilors vote against her but she hoped she'd proven her worth during her 28 years in the post. She was confident Vallieres would do the same. 
"I don't think he's ever going to disappoint you," she said. "I wasn't asked to come and help but I'd be happy to come and help and do it for free."
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