The Stockbridge Democratic Town Committee meeting was Saturday morning, May 16, via Zoom. After a brief business meeting, Anita Schwerner, chair of the Democratic Town Committee, moderated the segment devoted to “Meet the 2020 Candidates.”
There will be candidate statements posted online at www.stockbridgedemocrats.org. It is a good time to brush up on the choices available. Although town Election Day isn’t until Tuesday, June 9, ballots for mail-in are available now at the transfer and police stations.
After listening carefully, it was clear who the winner will be. The winner will be Stockbridge. All five candidates present were knowledgeable, committed and ready to serve. Berkshire is a collection of villages and small towns run largely by volunteers. Even when there is a paid town manager, residents willing to give their time and energy sit on the boards and commissions. For little or no pay, and often little thanks, those who step up deserve appreciation.
There were two write-in candidates. If a would-be candidate does not submit required papers before the official deadline, then his name is not on the ballot and has to be written in. The two are Dr. John Loiodice running for water and sewer commission; and Barney Edmonds, running for the housing authority.
There will be a number of candidates on the ballet running unopposed. It may seem unnecessary to vote when only one name appears, but vote as you would if there was more than one candidate. That is, if you support the person, vote for the candidate even if unopposed.
There will be two “races” in the traditional sense. That is, two head-to-head competitions: incumbent Nancy Socha versus Carl Sprague running for planning board; and incumbent Terry Flynn versus Patrick White running for selectboard. All five candidates present were men. It was disappointing that the single female in a contested race did not attend.
Each candidate has a unique challenge. For the two write-in candidates, the challenge is getting any votes at all. If there is no candidate listed, but you think Loiodice and Edmonds will do a good job, write in their names. Don’t worry too much about spelling; make the attempt.
In uncontested races, some voters automatically check the sole name appearing; others, thinking they will win anyway, automatically don’t. Remember these are elected positions, which means whoever assumes the job has to receive votes. So please, don’t forget to show your support.
The challenge in contested races is to beat the other guy, but it was very refreshing and welcome to see the respectful and noncombative approach all the candidates adopted. Until very recently, that was characteristic of Stockbridge politics, and it was one reason Stockbridge ran so smoothly and economically. The turn toward constant conflict serves no one and it was wonderful to have it nowhere in view.
Dr. John Loiodice, an otolaryngologist, is running for water and sewer commission. (Full disclosure: He is my doctor.) As a doctor, he is very nice, easy-going and conscientious. As a candidate, he showed a ready smile, a willingness to engage, and a sincere interest in and knowledge about water in all forms. Demonstrably there were no others interested in the post, so we are very lucky Loiodice stepped up.
Bernard (Barney) Edmonds appeared very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about serving on the housing authority. He has long experience and had at his fingertips relevant information about subsidized and senior housing and its availability — important subjects in a village with an aging population and one with disparate incomes.
Carl Sprague introduced himself and shared his long and distinguished career of volunteering on Stockbridge boards and commissions. He has also volunteered on Berkshire private nonprofits such as the Stockbridge Land Trust, Berkshire Natural Resources Council and the Laurel Hill Association.
His decades of volunteer work made him aware of the issues confronting the planning board and the history of past decisions. He was open to questions and encouraged voters to be in touch if they have any questions or ideas to share.
It was disappointing that attendees were prevented from learning more about Nancy Socha and perhaps putting questions to her.
In the world of unique challenges, being the incumbent has its own. Having served one term, Terry Flynn has the distinct advantage of on-the-job training. He has the advantage of popular decisions, and the disadvantage of any decisions he made that were unpopular. In short, having a record to run on is an advantage and having to defend it is a unique challenge. Flynn stepped up to the plate. He explained his decision as selectboard chair for changing the Monday night meeting day to Thursday and holding public comment to the end. We are never going to like everything an elected official does, but his demonstrated willingness to hear and discuss disagreements is priceless.
Patrick White has the unique advantage of being the fresh face, the new kid on the block, and the disadvantage of having no record to tout or defend. However, he has a solid record of volunteering on the Stockbridge Bowl Association and Laurel Hill boards as well as working with the Waldorf school. He is familiar with “old” Stockbridge and the new pressures it faces. His energy, easy verbal skills and enthusiasm for working to better Stockbridge without killing the goose that laid the golden egg were on display.
The Q and A was interesting, and all candidates seemed well-prepared and answered readily. There was the one obligatory gloom-and-doom question. It ended with the prediction that, in 20 years, Stockbridge would be a ghost town. No one seemed unduly threatened.
In cold hard fact, Stockbridge has been thriving for just short of 300 years. The village’s credit rating is good, it has cash in the bank and a healthy income from being what it is: a residential community second to none. The Stockbridge tax rate is the third lowest in the Commonwealth. All in all, whatever Stockbridge has been doing for 300 years seems to be working.
To all who have served, from Konkapot to Flynn, a heart-felt thank-you.
To all who wish to serve, gratitude, Godspeed and thank you in advance for your courage and willingness.
To the naysayers, change-agents, gloom-and-doom predictors, relax and enjoy what residents for almost 300 years have called “heaven on Earth.”