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Berkshire Elections 2024: Letters to the editor

Readers of The Berkshire Edge write in on local Berkshire County elections.

Click here to read The Berkshire Edge’s policy for submitting Letters to the Editor.

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Cries of the challenger “politicizing” the Stockbridge town moderator position ring hollow

May 15, 2024

To the editor:

Having lived in Stockbridge for 18 years, serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals, and being involved in town activities for that time, I find this year’s contest for town moderator quite perplexing. Cries of the challenger “politicizing” the town moderator position ring hollow in light of the letters doing exactly that. Support of the candidate of one’s choice is the democratic way. To question the intentions and motivations of a candidate vying for a position is not. Debate and the posing of questions and alternative ideas are all healthy pursuits when running for an office in government. To attempt to diminish a candidate by questioning, even distorting, any candidate’s motivation for running are disappointing responses to an advocacy for thoughtful change.

I ask my friends and neighbors in Stockbridge to take the high road. Listen to what the candidates themselves are saying. Please make the effort to research the platforms of both candidates, carefully consider what is being offered, and vote your conscience. Now that is “The Stockbridge Way.”

Bob Jones
Lee

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bob Jones is the chair of the Lee Select Board.


April showers bring May flowers—and political lawn signs: Please vote for Carole Owens for Stockbridge town moderator

May 15, 2024

To the editor:

The appearance of political signs on lawns is a sure sign that it is springtime in the Berkshires. April showers bring May flowers, as well as the annual Town Meeting and Town Election in Stockbridge and surrounding towns. Lawn signs appear that alert passersby that there is an upcoming election. They increase name recognition for candidates and awareness of issues that are on the ballot or warrant. Lawn signs, political buttons, letters to the editor, post cards, T-shirts, hats are all part of protected political speech which is still permitted in our democracy under our First Amendment rights. The First Amendment grants freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Everyone has the right to display a political sign prior to an election. To call political signs pollution or suggest we should keep our opinions to ourselves denigrates our form of government and minimizes our rights. No one should be taking down other voters’ lawn signs. Signs come down after the election. Election Day is the finale when candidates and their supporters stand out in front of Town Hall with signs for their candidate and get to enjoy chatting with voters and other candidates.

In contested races, the candidates may have different views and political beliefs, which is why it is important for voters to be informed before voting. Stockbridge Democrats held a caucus in April to hear from candidates and voted on which ones to endorse. Stockbridge Democrats endorsed Carole Owens for moderator. The words Democratic Caucus Nominee appear on the ballot after the candidate’s name.

Vote for Carole Owens for town moderator!

In her own words, Carole has published Stockbridge Updates to “inform without opinion or pressure and give the people of Stockbridge the facts they need to make informed decisions.” Along those lines, Carole publishes statements from the candidates for town offices including from herself and her opponent. Stockbridge Updates also publishes opinions from readers—clearly marked—even if Carole does not agree.

Contrasting Carole’s statements with Gary’s will shine a light on some of their differences and support Carole’s endorsement.

Carole’s response to “Why am I running?”:

I love where I live, I love what we stand for, and I love our history. I have served on the Community Preservation Committee for many years because it funds open space, affordable housing, and historic preservation — the basic values that makes Stockbridge what it is. Moderator is an apolitical, historic position — I honor Town Meeting — the People’s Meeting — and the historic role of moderator.

On the other hand, Gary’s statement in Stockbridge Updates raises some very important concerns. Voters may know who he is but may not be aware of his political beliefs and motivation. Gary states:

I have turned away from lawn signs because I believe they diminish the beauty of our wonderful town and: after 46 years as moderator, the vast majority of voters know who I am and what I am running for. Additionally, one of the greatest aids to recently come about is the use of voting clickers that turn every vote into a secret ballot, protecting the privacy of every voter. Lawn signs are counterproductive to this effort.

Wow! As chair of the Stockbridge Democratic Town Committee, I take protection of our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, including political speech, very seriously. No one should feel intimidated or have to worry about publicly supporting a candidate or issue, whether it be by displaying a lawn sign; writing a letter to the editor; wearing a political button, T-shirt, or hat; or holding up a card to vote at Town Meeting. Let’s shed some light on the issues.

Please Vote for Carole Owens for Stockbridge town moderator!

Anita Schwerner
Stockbridge

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anita Shwerner is the chair of the Stockbridge Democratic Committee.


Gary Johnston demonstrates the two most important qualities to be Stockbridge town moderator

May 13, 2024

To the editor:

Two of the most important characteristics of a successful town moderator are a judicious temperament and non-partisanship. Gary Johnston has consistently demonstrated these qualities over many years in Stockbridge. I urge residents to support his reelection.

David F. McCarthy
Stockbridge


Stick with what is reliable, tried, and true: Vote to reelect Gary Johnston as Stockbridge town moderator

May 11, 2024

To the editor:

In the early 1980s, after moving from New York City to a family-owned cottage in Stockbridge, next door to my grandparent’s old home that I had often visited growing up, there was an early winter storm that I was not prepared for. As I pondered who to call, I looked out and saw a truck plowing my long driveway. Although I did not get out in time to thank whomever it was, I soon learned that the previous tenants had used Gary Johnston. He did not know that there was a new occupant, and we had not yet met, but I had the sense that he was reliable.

As I got to know Gary, he asked if I would be interested in volunteering with the Stockbridge Fire Department. I was. Thus, my introduction to 40 years of civic engagement in Stockbridge. I have since had many occasions to interact with Gary at Town Meetings and elsewhere, and I have always respected the way he conducts his town and professional business.

As with so many things, in town governance, there is a time for change and a time to stick with the reliable, tried, and true. I believe that, in these challenging times, Gary’s steadfast understanding of the role of town moderator together with his good judgement, his equanimity, and his respect for all parties and their needs to be heard are all mandates for his reelection on Tuesday, May 21.

Gary also has a comprehensive understanding of the role and the importance of the town’s Finance Committee. The fact that Stockbridge has remained on solid fiscal footing over the years is largely due to the many solid appointments that Gary has made to that committee.

Tom Stokes
Stockbridge

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Stokes has served on the Stockbridge Select Board, the Board of Assessors, and on various town committees and initiatives.


Join me in voting to keep Gary Johnston as the Stockbridge town moderator

May 11, 2024

To the editor:

An important responsibility of the town moderator is appointing voters to serve on the Finance Committee. Presently, Stockbridge has a seasoned group of volunteers with diverse business experience who devote hours each year to reviewing our municipal budget, focusing on how a town’s limited resources will be allocated to meet service demands by using spreadsheets to review spending plans, analyzing their consequences, and presenting recommendations to Town Meeting.

Overall, most residents appear to be satisfied with the actions of the present committee members as they are skilled at working together with Mike Canales and the selectmen to ensure services are delivered, and real estate tax increases, while necessary, appear to be reasonable given the present economic climate.

During the fiscal year 2024 budget debate, there was a proposal to create a residential property tax exemption that the Finance Committee decided not to support; this led to an effort to have the voters elect the Finance Committee, which was also defeated. This year, the debate focuses on who should become the town moderator and appoint the Finance Committee members.

I am asking Stockbridge voters to join me in voting for Gary Johnson for moderator. He has, through the years, done a good job of identifying people to steer the town finances into an enviable position, and he will continue to keep the town’s best interests at heart.

Erik Rasmussen
Stockbridge


Inaccurate and concerning statements by candidate Wayne Cooper need further examination

May 11, 2024

To the editor:

On behalf of our fellow West Stockbridge residents, I feel compelled to shed some light on the inaccurate and concerning statements made by candidate for Select Board Wayne Cooper in the recent articles in the Berkshire Eagle and the Berkshire Edge.

One of Mr. Cooper’s claims is that “the town wastes money by plowing a parking lot that belongs to two different restaurants in town adding that the practice constitutes “taxpayer money going to private entities [and] that’s illegal.”  The lot in question is, in fact, a West Stockbridge municipal parking lot which was established in a zero-cost agreement between the town and two businesses in 2021.  (A copy of the signed agreement is available in the West Stockbridge Town Administrator’s office.)  Our Public Works maintains that lot as per the terms of this agreement and far from being “illegal,” the fact that the town was able to acquire so many convenient parking spots for its residents for only the cost of maintenance is a feather in the town’s cap.  As a Public Works employee, Mr. Cooper should be well aware of this agreement.

When asked about the efforts by the town to remedy complaints from residents about strong odors generated by Wiseacre Farms marijuana cultivation, Mr. Cooper says “Get off his back!” claiming that owner Jon Piasecki is not being treated fairly.  Mr. Cooper’s willingness to dismiss the legitimate concerns raised by many of our fellow citizens while a fair and state-regulated process plays out demonstrates that despite his words to the contrary, he is indeed willing to disregard the concerns of some West Stockbridge residents when it benefits one of his supporters.

The current Select Board, with incumbent Andy Krouss, delivered some wonderful relief this week to the residents of the trailer park in preventing a large rent increase.  They have also recently enacted a program of tax relief for our seniors, and they are making great strides on affordable housing.  The insinuation by some that our current Select Board members are not working in the best interest of ALL West Stockbridge residents is irresponsible and demonstrably untrue.

Please join me on May 13 in voting for Andy Krouss for the West Stockbridge Select Board.

Vicki Bonnington
West Stockbridge


Gary Johnston is better suited for the role of Stockbridge town moderator than Carole Owens

May 9, 2024

To the editor:

I am writing in support of Gary Johnston’s reelection as Stockbridge town moderator. I aim to do this by stating why I believe Gary is ideally suited to the job. I will point out that while his opponent, Carole Owens, has attractive attributes, it is precisely those attributes that convince me that town moderator is not the job for her. Finally, I will address some of the readers’ support for Carole and why I believe their reasoning is flawed.

First, about Gary. Full disclosure: I am an alternate member of the Stockbridge Finance Committee (FC) completing my second budget cycle. Before Gary appointed me, he asked about my background, not about my opinions about how the town should be run financially or otherwise. I believe that when Gary learned about my second career as a professor of finance and economics and a previous small-business owner, he was intrigued, but when he learned about my long primary career as a consulting actuary, knowing as he did about the town’s management of its prefunding of its Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) liabilities, that cemented the deal.

In other words, Gary demonstrated the usefulness of relevant experience while never asking about my political positions. Since serving on the Finance Committee, I see similar and wide-ranging backgrounds and skills of the other members, not to mention deep historical perspectives. I can attest to the fact that not once have I seen any member push a particular agenda. Rather, issues are discussed, and recommendations are made, most often with a unanimous vote. I credit Gary for the make-up of this diverse group. I don’t think anyone can disagree with how well Stockbridge’s finances have been managed over Gary’s long tenure as town moderator selecting members of the Finance Committee. I encourage readers to visit Stockbridge Updates and learn more about Gary here.

Carole Owens’ style is quite different from Gary’s. From all appearances, Carole is interested in promoting her views through her selection of members of the Finance Committee and through her role as town moderator, as she does in her Stockbridge Updates and columns/letters in The Edge and The Eagle.

Her website reflects some of her views. She talks about change being inevitable by referring to the three-year term of Finance Committee members with a strong implication that their turnover will lead to new thinking. But what new thinking is required? Certainly not, I hope, withdrawing funds from the OPEB trust without expert opinion, but that is exactly what she has advocated.

She mentions that the Finance Committee makes choices about how to keep taxes low but neglects to point out that the budget is created by the Select Board and the town administrator. The Finance Committee provides budget oversight through a “review-and-advise” process. Funding initiatives are the purview of the Select Board and the town administrator. For example, Carole talks about the room-occupancy tax. I have no problem with her promoting a point of view, but she should be talking to (or aiming to become a member of) the Select Board if she wants to affect change.

As Carole acknowledges the apolitical nature of the moderator’s position, she nevertheless admits to her advocacy on various issues. Of course, advocacy is admirable, but it is antithetical to the role of moderator.

Now I would like to say a few words about some of the comments received supporting Carole’s candidacy for moderator.

A recent writer challenged the Finance Committee for taking a position on the Residential Tax Exemption and Rest of the River (ROR) financing. Well, duh. Agree or disagree with what the Finance Committee did, isn’t this their responsibility? The point I am making, hopefully obvious, is that the writer conflated the role of the Finance Committee with the role of the moderator. They are distinct. The moderator (Gary) has taken no public position that I am aware of on the issue, nor has he tried to influence the Finance Committee on this issue or any issue.

Many writers supporting Carole speak of her experience running meetings. Carole speaks to the “tricks to the trade” of being town moderator and running Town Meeting in Stockbridge Updates. She omits mentioning the handbook “Town Meeting Time, A Handbook of Parliamentary Law” that provides guidelines and guardrails for managing town meetings. There is no space in that handbook for moderators to use “tricks” to manage town meetings and warns about possible legal repercussions if one does so.

Please vote for Gary Johnston for Stockbridge town moderator.

Edward Lane
Stockbridge


Vote for Wayne Cooper for the West Stockbridge Select Board to help heal our divided community

May 9, 2024

To the editor:

West Stockbridge is lucky to have two great candidates for Select Board this year. But there can be only one winner. West Stockbridge has suffered over the last six years from uneven application of our bylaws. The last two Select Board chairs have favored their friends and pet projects and frankly persecuted their perceived enemies. With the disastrously mismanaged situation with The Foundry and the Nguyen family, as well as the persecution of the Daniello family, the Kie family, and really the application of a gentrifying impulse that is both racist and classist at its core, the last three Select Board chairs have, in my opinion, made a terrible mess of our town. What was peaceful is now divided.

I recently spoke to a Buddhist friend about this situation. I have been so angry with the high socioeconomic group in our town and their shortsightedness. I told this friend how I have been fighting against it, and that I have failed.

This friend advised me that I needed to find compassion for the people I see as racists, classists, and gentrifiers. I wondered how I could.

I realized that Norman Rockwell did not make paintings of large fancy retirement homes with elderly residents and fancy cars. He painted the working people who lived here in the Berkshires, some of whom are still alive in West Stockbridge. I feel compassion for the people I oppose because they can’t see the beauty of these local people. The new folks have not felt the local’s generosity of spirit, and they are cut off from the depth of experience that multi-generational families of West Stockbridge of all stripes bring to enrich our existence here in the wonderful town.

I am truly sorry for them.

To make our town better, where a choice between two good candidates is an option, I urge every West Stockbridge voter to please choose Wayne Cooper. His election will begin to infuse the Select Board with some of the local color it is missing, and it will begin the healing process to bring what is now two sides back together. Because West Stockbridge will only survive as something more than a bedroom or retirement community with the local folks empowered and participating and guiding our future.

Jon Piasecki
West Stockbridge


Please vote to reelect Andrew Krouss to the West Stockbridge Select Board

May 6, 2024

To the editor:

We are very pleased Andy Krouss has chosen to run for another term on the West Stockbridge Select Board.

The people of West Stockbridge will have a fair and cohesive Select Board in reelecting Andy Krouss. Over the past several years, he has worked on several community projects; he is truly an asset to our town.

As a Select Board member, his range of priorities include bringing better broadband service to the town, researching affordable-housing plans, and ensuring the town is financially in good shape. We feel he is truly looking out for the common good of West Stockbridge with a positive attitude and can continue to help us all work together towards the mutual flourishing of our lovely community.

As we have seen in the past year, every vote does count! It is important to send a message on the future direction of our town.

Please join us in voting to reelect Andrew Krouss to the West Stockbridge Select Board on May 13, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the gym in the Town Hall.

John and Brenda Elling
West Stockbridge


Andrew Krouss deserves another term on the West Stockbridge Select Board

May 6, 2024

To the editor:

We write in support of the reelection of Andrew Krouss as a member of the West Stockbridge Select Board. The election is on Monday, May 13, and Andy deserves the opportunity to serve his beloved community with another term. The last West Stockbridge Select Board election had to be conducted twice as the first one ended in a tie vote. The Special Election that followed resulted in a resounding victory for incumbent Select Board Chair Kathleen Keresey. That election was a “wake-up call” for many and proved that every vote counts!

This election is another opportunity for the citizens of West Stockbridge to vote in favor of a positive, unifying vision for the town, and for a candidate with the experience, good judgment, and competence to serve effectively. Andy Krouse is that candidate. He represents everyone in West Stockbridge—not any special interest or faction. He brings a measured tone and a cooperative spirit to his Select Board service, as anyone who has attended town meetings will attest. Simply put, Andy is an intelligent, thoughtful, and pleasant public servant with no agenda beyond serving the best interests of West Stockbridge.

We have been fortunate to have Andy on the West Stockbridge Select Board, and we urge our fellow voters to reelect him to another well earned and well deserved term. Let’s not take anything for granted; please make sure you cast your vote for Andy on Monday, May 13.

Vicki Bonnington and David Schecker
West Stockbridge


Please vote in West Stockbridge’s town election on May 13

May 6, 2024

To the editor:

I love living in West Stockbridge. In this unique community of dedicated residents, we enjoy the renovated Public Market under new ownership, shops, restaurants and a cafe, art, music, dance, and history.

While we all agree that we need affordable housing; better broadband; and tax funding for staff, maintenance of town buildings and roads, schools, and insurance; we don’t agree on changes that could be disruptive to the community.

I admire and respect those well intentioned and devoted people in our town who run for public office. The jobs are time consuming, detailed, and require skilled diplomacy.

Wayne Cooper has managed the Transfer Station very well. He is straightforward in his dealings with people. Andy Krouss, the incumbent candidate for the Select Board, is a calm, careful listener with experience on the Select Board and Finance Committee.

Use your voice; support our beloved town. Vote on May 13 at Town Hall, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Carol Kuller
West Stockbridge


Please vote for Jared Weber for the Lenox Select Board on May 6

May 5, 2024

To the editor:

The Lenox voters will do well to elect Jared Weber as a member of our Select Board. Jared has spent the last several months meeting with people in the town of Lenox from all constituencies and all demographics. Jared’s goal in these meetings is to listen and understand the concerns of the citizens of Lenox. Jared’s goal is to foster a culture of participatory governance in town, amplifying the voices of those citizens he has met over the past few months, and finding opportunities for greater participation and transparency in town government. Jared Weber’s interactions with many residents has heightened his concerns that a lack of affordable, long-term rentals has prevented young people and young families from living in Lenox. Because of his own experience as a homeowner and renter in Lenox, Jared understands that short-term rentals play an important role in the economy in Lenox and that we also need affordable options for those who live and work here. This lack of affordable-housing access has an impact on local businesses that are trying to hire a vibrant and talented workforce. Jared’s experience in human resources and talent acquisition will enable him to be a partner with our local businesses who contribute to the success of the vibrant local economy. Please vote Jared Weber for Lenox Select Board on Monday, May 6.

Veronica and Christopher Fenton
Lenox

EDITOR’S NOTE: Veronica Fenton is a member of the Lenox School Committee; however, she submits the above as a private citizen and not on behalf of the Lenox School Committee.


We need Neal Maxymillian’s experience and skill on the Lenox Select Board

May 5, 2024

To the editor:

I am voting for Neal Maxymillian for the Lenox Select Board in Monday’s election.

I have known Neal as a friend and a businessman, and he provides Lenox with a broad background in local government and community service. In discussion of local issues, I have found Neal to listen and be thoughtful in his approaches to local concerns. His experience as an engineer, a leader of a major regional construction company, a community leader, and his proof of leadership in his body of work for the town of Lenox and the Berkshires make Neal the right choice for Lenox right now.

Difficulty in hiring skilled labor in the Berkshires is ongoing as Neal experiences in the construction trade, and I in healthcare. Neal has proposed creative funding to allow students to attend technical schools with local assistance from the town of Lenox. This can help develop skilled tradespeople in our region and provide a direct pipeline to work in our county.

As the town of Lenox embarks on the two largest public-works projects in over 20 years, to the tune of over $60 million in costs for its public-safety building and wastewater-treatment facility, we need leaders with expertise and experience in controlling costs, staying on budget, and staying on schedule. Neal has that expertise. We need his experience and skill.

Neal has been very active in the Lenox community: coaching and leading youth sports, serving as a member of the Lenox School Committee and their Strategic Planning Subcommittee, serving on the town’s Community Planning Committee and Permanent Building Committee, and liaison to the Planning Board. And Neal and his family have donated countless and unseen hours and dollars to help Lenox organizations and families in need.

Neal is deeply engaged and committed to the town of Lenox. Let’s not lose his leadership and expertise. I am voting for Neal Maxymillian on May 6.

Kevin G. Mitts
Lenox


I urge my fellow Stockbridge voters to support Gary Johnston for another term as town moderator

May 5, 2024

To the editor:

Stockbridge has distinguished itself in the modern age by demonstrating its resistance to modernity. From its historical Widow Binghams Tavern to its complete lack of fast-food chains.

Gary Johnston, whose family has resided and farmed here in Stockbridge for 300 years, is offering himself for yet another term as our highest elected official, town moderator.

It is one thing to write about a town’s history. But it is altogether a more meaningful contribution to be part of the foundation of the town’s history. I have always been impressed by the equanimity and respect with which Gary Johnston has run our town meetings. I continue to be impressed by the sage guidance his selected Finance Committee has guided our Select Board.

I can see no advantages in seeking to remove him from this valuable service he has, and by our votes will continue to care for our town as his own. I rest assured under his guidance, and I urge my fellow Stockbridge voters to support Gary Johnston for town moderator with your votes in our 2024 town election.

Robert Feuer
Stockbridge


Please vote to reelect Gary Johnston as Stockbridge town moderator

April 30, 2024

To the editor:

Two years ago, when Gary Johnston joined the board of the Laurel Hill Association (our town’s historic and renowned civic, preservation, and beautification association), longtime resident Pat Flinn, who served as our secretary for 41 years, described to me her experiences growing up on a property adjacent to Gary Johnston’s family farm and how impressed she was by his work ethic as a youngster out working in the field haying and doing other farm chores.

As the treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee at Laurel Hill, I asked Gary to join the Finance Committee, and I can vouch for his level and fair approach during budget season at Laurel Hill. Budgeting involves the usual setting of priorities and discussions between those who would like to spend more and those who would like to spend less. After one meeting, Gary took me aside and, in the kindest possible manner, advised me on how I, as the chair, might find middle ground. His advice worked, and I was particularly grateful for his diplomatic approach in providing it.

An often overlooked but important responsibility of the Stockbridge town moderator is to appoint the town Finance Committee, which is advisory to the Select Board. As the chair of the town’s Planning Board, I have observed that the Finance Committee works well together, and this is important. It is not surprising that there are differing opinions on who should be appointed to those town committees and boards where members are not elected, but I do believe that the Finance Committee has served the town well, which is something that should not be taken for granted. As town moderator, Gary’s style is lowkey and courteous, qualities that are definitely important in setting the tone at annual and special town meetings!

In conversations with me, Gary has always been respectful and kind, and he indicated to me some time ago that he would like to serve another term. I hope Stockbridge voters will join me in supporting Gary’s reelection as town moderator.

Kate Fletcher
Stockbridge


Join me in voting for continued excellent performance from Gary Johnson as Stockbridge town moderator

April 30, 2024

To the editor:

I am responding to several writers’ claims that my previous letter supporting Gary Johnston for Town Moderator in Stockbridge incorrectly cited sections in the Massachusetts statute governing the duties of the moderator.

Nowhere does the statute convey the right of the moderator to dictate to the Finance Committee that they will become “more active” in managing the economic affairs of a town. The Finance Committee is not the equivalent of a Ways and Means Committee.

The Finance Committee is a recommending body, who can only make official recommendations when financial articles are presented to them by the Selectboard.

One writer claimed that he took liberties when he was town moderator in another town. In over 45 years, Gary Johnston has not once directed the members of the Finance Committee to do anything outside the purview of their responsibilities. Not a single time has he attempted to influence the people he appointed in any manner whatsoever.

The town moderator has the right to change the order for consideration of the various articles to be voted upon, but usually will only do so if the Selectboard OR the voters present request it.

Again, this year, Gary Johnston is running to continue his excellent leadership as Stockbridge moderator, and I hope everyone will join me in voting for continued excellent performance.

Jim Balfanz
Stockbridge

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Balfanz is a member of the Stockbridge Finance Committee; however, he submits the above as a private citizen and not in his role as a Finance Committee member.


I am voting for Carole Owens for Stockbridge town moderator, and I encourage my friends and neighbors to do the same

April 30, 2024

To the editor

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that politics brings out strongly held positions, even in our small town. But I have been surprised that people are characterized for anything other than their positions on the issues and opportunities ahead. Let’s pay tribute and thanks to anyone willing to take their time to look after our civic/municipal needs.

As to the position of town moderator, we have an opportunity for healthy assessment of the position and a civil debate on the merits of various positions. The current moderator has been in place for decades, and as in the case of any long-tenured position, fresh perspectives on historic performance and future needs should happen from time to time. Suggestions that anyone is acting out of spurious motives are just plain silly.

I would suggest that Stockbridge residents look at the issues, the facts, the statements, and the records of both candidates rather than leaning on potentially spurious arguments from individuals who might have a “dog in the fight.”

I will be voting for Carole Owens for the moderator’s position. Carole’s well known service to the community, her experience, her love of Stockbridge and its history, and a contagious positivity make this an easy choice. I would strongly encourage my friends and neighbors to do the same. Best wishes and good luck to both candidates.

Bruce Brodie
Stockbridge


I support Carole Owens for Stockbridge town moderator because we need someone who will bring change to the Finance Board

April 30, 2024

To the editor:

It has become apparent that the most important factor in the upcoming election for the position of Stockbridge town moderator is the power of the moderator to appoint the Finance Board. Since 1977, members of that board have been accountable to one person only: Gary Johnston. This is a board in a bubble. In its insularity, the board advised a policy of systematic neglect for town infrastructure and years later awoke to the problems that created and proposed a belated and unnecessarily expensive remediation policy. Unfortunately, policies and budgeting priorities originating in the Finance Board have routinely been adopted by a passive and compliant Select Board.

The Finance Board is supposed to be advisory to the town—advice given when asked for. Its “advice” has become virtually determinative through its self-assertion and the absence of effective resistance, symbolized by its seating—as though it is something more than it is—on the dais at the annual Town Meeting. We can’t currently vote for Finance Board members (we should fix that), but we can vote for moderator. I support Carole Owens for that position. She has said that she intends to bring change to the Finance Board, orderly change, accomplished by replacing board members upon expiration of their staggered terms.

Ms. Owens brings so much more to the table, including a deep knowledge of the history of this town and this state, experience leading numerous organizations, and a passion for preserving the things that have managed to survive that make Stockbridge such a wonderful place to live. That said, the breath of fresh air in the moderatorship she would represent is more than enough to recommend her.

Brent Wiggans
Stockbridge


Carole Owens’ intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Stockbridge makes her fit for town moderator

April 29, 2024

To the editor:

I have known Carole Owens for only three years—a blink of time on the calendar of Stockbridge history. No one has made the values of this town more vivid or meaningful to me in that short sprint of time. Her regular columns in The Eagle and The Edge would have been enough to define what it means to be a thoughtful citizen in a small town, but her work on Stockbridge Updates is a work of civic commitment that few people share. If politics is the art of the possible, then Stockbridge Updates is the most honest and clear-sighted palette for painting a documentary picture in real time. It is a record of how a small town centered on a 285-year-old system of participatory governance actually works. She covers—whether in person or online—virtually every meeting or every aspect of every board or commission or planning event that is held. If intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the town while offering a platform for debate that respects all points of view isn’t the best evidence that she will make an admirable town moderator, it is hard to say what is.

Barry Hoffman
Stockbridge


Carole Owens is the perfect fit for Stockbridge town moderator

April 29, 2024

To the editor:

My husband and I moved to Stockbridge over two years ago, and have been following the local political scene since then. The one person who has kept us most informed has been Carole Owens through her Stockbridge Updates posts. Her summaries are rigorous and impartial, and her values are clear: a commitment to small town participatory democracy where community members from all levels can be heard and considered. To move from scribe of proceedings to participant in them I think would be of great value to Stockbridge: someone who is deeply versed in the proceedings and fully committed to giving all a voice. Carole Owens as town moderator is a perfect fit!

Jane Weiss
Stockbridge


Leigh Davis has the life experiences and government background to be an excellent state representative

April 29, 2024

To the editor:

I have been active in Berkshire County politics for more than 40 years. Here in Dalton and South Berkshire County, we have an open state representative seat, and we have three good Democratic candidates running to replace Smitty Pignatelli who served our area well.

I attended a recent meet-the-candidates event in Dalton, and I found a candidate that I will support: Leigh Davis of Great Barrington showed that she had the life experiences and government background to be an excellent state representative. Davis is committed to the issues I care about: protecting affordable housing, supporting local small businesses, and investing in our local families.

On Primary Day, September 3, vote for Leigh Davis in the Democratic primary for state representative.

Joseph H. Engwer
Dalton


We need your vote to reelect Andrew Krouss to the West Stockbridge Select Board

April 19, 2024

To the editor:

For the past 17 years, my husband Dan and I have been proud to call West Stockbridge our home. It is a beautiful and quaint New England town with a varied population: families who have been here for generations, people who have transitioned from summer residents to year-round residents, and those who have just fallen in love with our town and decided to make it their full-time home from the outset.

Both Dan and I have been involved in various local volunteer activities, including the West Stockbridge Finance Committee and the West Stockbridge Historical Society. Through those meetings and organizations, we have been fortunate in meeting many interesting, dedicated, and competent people who share our commitment to this town.

Andy Krouss, candidate for reelection to the Select Board in West Stockbridge, is one of those exceptional people who has been so deeply involved in these organizations and whose contribution to the well-being of West Stockbridge has been immeasureable. Andy seems to always have practical and wise ideas and sees issues clearly and fairly. While he is assertive in expressing his opinions, he is respectful of the opinions of others as well. His dedication to the well-being of West Stockbridge is evident in his participation in town celebrations and gatherings, including the Zucchini Festivals and the upcoming 250th Anniversary Celebration, as well as our town’s governance and attendance at countless meetings.

Your vote for Andy Krouss for Select Board is very important … we need people with Andy’s expertise, qualities, and vision.

Please note the date of the election on your calendar: Monday, May 13. A vote for Andy Krouss will ensure that
West Stockbridge will be a desireable, healthy, and vibrant place to live now and in the future.

The Annual Town Election will be held on Monday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the gymnasium at the Town Hall, 21 State Line Road. If you will be out of state for the election, mail-in ballots are now available from the Town Offices.

Jerri Buehler
West Stockbridge


Please vote Gary Johnston for town moderator in Stockbridge

April 17, 2024

To the editor:

I am writing to provide additional information as to why Mr. Gary Johnston has earned re-election.

Johnston has appointed Finance Committee members regardless of political affiliation and has looked for candidates who have a background in finance, municipal finance, business ownership, accounting, insurance, and prior governmental experience. Johnston understands the need for competence and non-partisan leadership. The Finance Committee members in the last 10 years have provided budget oversight, capital planning, and an emphasis on funding to overcome years of deferred maintenance of plant and equipment.

It was the Finance Committee appointed by Johnston that led the effort to fully fund a $4 million liability for healthcare benefits for Stockbridge town retirees. It was the Finance Committee appointed by him that created a stabilization fund to protect the town from adverse financial effects of the pandemic shutdown.

This is a multi-year record of accomplishment which equals or surpasses every town in Berkshire County. The record includes an increase in the Stockbridge’s bond rating to the highest level attainable by a town virtually dependent on real estate taxes. This increase in rating has saved the town hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest costs. There are only three towns in Berkshire County with this accomplishment.

We have Gary to thank for these achievements.

Please vote to re-elect Gary Johnston as Stockbridge town moderator again this year.

John Morse
Stockbridge

EDITOR’S NOTE: John Morse was a member of the Stockbridge Finance Committee from 2003 to 2011.


Carole Owens will be an effective leader as Stockbridge town moderator

April 11, 2024

To the editor:

I am writing to endorse Carole Owens for Moderator in Stockbridge. I have worked with Carole for several years and can confidently say she possesses the leadership qualities to facilitate moving through the town meeting agenda while maintaining order and civility.

Carole is a proven leader in the community and knows how to run an effective meeting, leaving nothing and nobody short-changed. She does her homework, believes strongly in the town meeting as the people’s meeting, and tries to see both sides of any given issue.

I thank Gary Johnston for serving our town for so many decades, but I believe having a woman in this leadership position will bring diversity of thought and possibly inspire others to serve and participate in town government.

To learn more about why Carole is running and the specific ideas and skills she will bring to the moderator job, please visit her campaign website.

Teresa O’Brient
Stockbridge

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