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Zorn on running for Egremont Select Board: ‘It just falls in line with everything I’ve done’

“I’m a Black man in America, and I have dealt with all of the injustices of being Black in America,” Zorn told The Berkshire Edge. “I’ve navigated this, and I have walked through it, but I am someone who has always been able to talk to all walks of life."

Egremont — Ari Zorn, who moved to Berkshire County in 1992, announced on April 19 that he will be running for the Select Board seat left vacant by the death of Chair George McGurn.

McGurn, who was elected to the Select Board in May 2017, died unexpectedly on Friday, April 5. A special election for the vacant seat has been set for Tuesday, June 18.

Zorn was born in Tacoma, Wash., and lived in Seattle for some time before moving to the Berkshires. “I moved to Berkshire County because I love the nature here and the sense of community,” Zorn told The Berkshire Edge. “I love the sense of community here. Everyone wants to live in a small town with people who care about the environment.”

Zorn said he loves the feeling of having “peace of mind” when it comes to living in Egremont. “I like how we’re located so close to Boston, New York, and Connecticut,” Zorn said. “I just think that Egremont is an ideal space.”

Since he moved to the Berkshires, Zorn has been an entrepreneur, as the owner of Devine Retail Cannabis and Zorn Core Fitness in South Egremont, and has been a part of multiple community organizations. He currently serves as an advisory council member for the state’s Environmental Justice Council, vice chair for the W.E.B. Du Bois Sculpture Project, a land steward for the Egremont Land Trust, a board member for the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, and as the vice president for Blackshires Community Empowerment Foundation.

“I see the good in a lot of these organizations,” Zorn said when asked about the inspiration for his involvement in these organizations. “I see the hard work that a lot of these organizations put in, and it’s—I’m honored when they reach out to me. When people talk about tokenism, I don’t see that [when it comes to these organizations]. I put in my time. I’ve put in my work. They’re reaching out to me for a reason. And I respect that, and I’m honored by that.”

Zorn said that he decided to run for office because “it just falls in line with everything” he has done. “I feel like it’s the next step,” Zorn said. “Along with my wife Heidi, we’ve been business owners, and we’ve run booster clubs [for local schools]. I just love and care intensely about the environment and people as well.”

Zorn said that, of all the issues that the town and Berkshire County are currently facing, affordable housing is at the top of his mind. “Affordable housing seems to be the massive issue always in the forefront in this area,” Zorn said. “We’re watching the patterns of restaurants closing because no one can get good help. Another issue is that we are watching this area gentrify. How do we protect the local base of families that have been here forever, that were established here, and are farmers? There are a lot of names out here that have been here forever, and we need to find a way to help them survive in this area. We have a lot of second-home owners and people in the area with a lot of money. How can we have a community where everybody is happy and where everybody feels like they are being heard?”

Zorn said he has “yet to see somebody come up with a proper solution” when it comes to these problems. “But there are buildings in this area that have been sitting around that could be turned into affordable housing,” Zorn said. “There needs to be some form of common ground where everyone can communicate their needs. There has to be some listening when people come to the table where people can understand one another, walk in each other’s shoes, so they can understand their situation.”

Zorn said that people not listening to others when it comes to their situations is a common problem. “I’m a Black man in America, and I have dealt with all of the injustices of being Black in America,” Zorn said. “I’ve navigated this, and I have walked through it, but I am someone who has always been able to talk to all walks of life. I hear stories from all people. We need to find a way where people understand the needs of local towns. These towns can die when they’re not managed properly, and listening to others is a part of keeping towns alive.”

Zorn said that he is optimistic that he can get residents to work together if he is elected to the Select Board. “If I don’t go into this with a positive attitude, what’s the point of me going into it at all?” Zorn said. “I love the people in my community, and I want it to be better. To me, this is about how we can make Egremont better. I want Egremont to be a place that people don’t just pass through because they’re going to Great Barrington. Everyone has something to offer in Egremont because it’s a beautiful, small, and quaint town.”

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The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.