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Adam Hinds, executive director of Community Coalition, to run for Downing’s Senate seat

A Wesleyan University grad who studied international law and negotiation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Hinds started Pittsfield Community Connection, a program designed to proactively engage at-risk youth.

Pittsfield — After two state house representatives announced this week they would not run for the seat of outgoing Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield), Pittsfield resident and Democrat Adam Hinds, a former United Nations attorney who worked in the Middle East, and who is now Executive Director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, announced today (February 3) at Hotel on North that he had filed papers for candidacy for a job representing four counties and 52 communities in western Massachusetts.

His parents standing nearby, Hinds, 39, spoke to a lively, excited crowd of his belief in the “extraordinary potential” of the region, its “assets and spirit,” its world-class institutions, cutting-edge technology and access to nature, the things that make us “deeply love the region.” The Buckland (Franklin County) native chose Hotel on North for his announcement, he said, because “it stands as an example” of what is possible in the somewhat downtrodden Pittsfield.

At Hotel on North to support Hinds' run for Massachusetts Senate were members of the Pittsfield Community Connection. From left: Travis Bateman, Scott Murray, Mike Summers, Rob Jefferson, Mike Eller, Jon Schnauber, Eddie Taylor, Mary Jane Dunlop, and Rachel Hanson. Photo: Heather Bellow
At Hotel on North to support Hinds’ run for Massachusetts Senate were members of the Pittsfield Community Connection. From left: Travis Bateman, Scott Murray, Mike Summers, Rob Jefferson, Mike Eller, Jon Schnauber, Eddie Taylor, Mary Jane Dunlop, and Rachel Hanson. Photo: Heather Bellow

Yet it is the “challenges,” he said, that prompted his decision to run, including crime “in some areas,” the opioid epidemic, rural health care issues, economic development concerns and a population decline that is burdening schools and taxpayers.

It is these problems, he said, that “inspired me to try to change the narrative and bring people together to make change.”

“We need to get the word out better,” Hinds said, of what an “attractive place for people of all ages” to live and work, and “burgeoning opportunities for entrepreneurs.” Hinds told the Edge that population decline was an “urgent” issue that hinders economic development. “We need to be proactive in attracting and keeping our young adults.”

“We need to roll up our sleeves” and “work together,” he said in classic political speak.

But it is possible Hinds might really know a thing or two about sleeve rolling. Working for the United Nations, he spent nearly ten years on Middle East issues, according to his bio, with “three-and-a-half years in Iraq, including as team leader of a UN-led negotiation between the Kurdistan Region and Government of Iraq. Hinds was based in Jerusalem for two years as chief regional advisor to the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and worked with Kofi Annan to attempt to broker a ceasefire in Syria and was part of a team that worked to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program.”

“It’s time to bring all that energy into addressing local issues,” he said of his Middle East experience.

The Wesleyan University grad studied international law and negotiation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Hinds started Pittsfield Community Connection, “a program designed to proactively engage at-risk youth before exposure to and engagement in violence and crime,” and worked with Pittsfield City officials to win a grant that “will bring up to $5 million to Pittsfield to move young men engaged in illegal activities towards education, jobs, and counseling.”

Hinds and Pittsfield Community Connection member Rob Jefferson celebrate with a selfie. Photo: Heather Bellow
Hinds and Pittsfield Community Connection member Rob Jefferson celebrate with a selfie. Photo: Heather Bellow

Hinds has a lot going on. He is Chair of the program’s Steering Committee and is an active Board Member of Downtown Pittsfield Inc. He is active with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Compact for Education, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Foundation, and the Access and Benefits Committee of Berkshire Health Systems, the region’s largest employer. Hinds is also on the Board of Directors of the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, he is a Truman National Security Fellow, and he sits on the Steering Committee of the Berkshire Youth Leadership Program.

Hinds worked as campaign manager for Congressman John Olver, and worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign, where he served under Susan Rice, who is now National Security Advisor.

Eddie Taylor, community liaison at Pittsfield Community Connection told The Edge that Hinds has “big shoes to fill” with regard to taking Downing’s place, but thinks Hinds has a similar “youthful energy to step in and continue” what Downing has done to make Boston sit up and listen to the needs of a region that needs more attention and money from Beacon Hill. Taylor says Hinds was “paramount” in creating a mentoring program with money from a Shannon Grant meant to prevent gang violence among young people.

The Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito administration announced today, in fact, that Pittsfield will receive about $95,000 from that grant.

At Northern Berkshire Community Coalition in North Adams, Hinds “works to connect, engage and empower regional residents and actors to respond to local challenges,” says his bio. “This includes issues related to employment, health and addiction.”

He said we are all “impacted in the long run” by poverty issues, particularly those involving “home life” — like a “lack of books” — that “dim opportunities” for children. He said he would make this one of his priorities.

Hinds’ father is a Vietnam veteran and taught school at Mohawk Trail Regional High School, which Hinds attended and where his mother was librarian. His parents appeared pleased with his decision to run.

And there are those big shoes of Downing’s that everyone keeps talking about. Downing, Hinds said, “has really raised the bar very high…has really moved the needle on a lot of things.”

Downing, whose term ends in December, told The Edge last week he wouldn’t be making endorsements, and he did not comment on Hinds’ decision. Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox), who announced yesterday he would stay put in the House, said he hasn’t had a chance to talk to Hinds yet since he made his own decision, but looks forward to talking to the candidate.

Hinds, who in his free time likes to ride his Harley, also skis and has a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

“The politics I believe in,” Hinds said, “is public service through community.”

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