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NBCC Honors Congressman Olver With Hero Award
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
05:19PM / Friday, June 15, 2012
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Retiring U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, center, was honored for his efforts on behalf of the Northern Berkshire community on Friday. Presenting him plaques are Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Director Alan Bashevkin and John DeRosa.

Keynote speaker state Sen. Benjamin Downing said everywhere he looks in Pittsfield, he sees something that Olver worked on.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition honored outgoing U.S. Rep. John W. Olver as a "hero" on Friday at its annual luncheon.

The annual Northern Berkshire Hero Award is presented to an individual or group who has made an impact on the quality of life in the area. Olver has been doing that for more than 20 years in Congress.

"John Olver is not looking for the next vote. He is looking for the next solution. We don't see that today on the political horizon,"  North Adams City Solicitor John DeRosa, who presented the award, said. "We all know about all the things the Congressman has done for our area and what's he done in Washington. ... I can't think of another individual that has served public office who has been as open, as caring and so concerned about all of us."

Olver said his first earmark for the Berkshires went to fix Spring Street in Williamstown. His other credits include securing funding to turn the North Adams Armory into a community center and money for the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Adams. State Sen. Benjamin Downing, the keynote speaker, said that when he went for a run in Pittsfield, everything he saw Olver had worked with or on.

Downing talked about teamwork among the NBCC members and local politicians. Comparing teamwork to basketball, he said the Amherst Democrat has always been a great team player when it comes to problem solving in the area.

"The great thing about basketball is that when it is played at its best, you have five players on that court that are moving seamlessly. They seem to know what the other one is going to do before the next one makes the pass or makes the cut. When it is played at its worse there is just one star — Lebron  — and the rest of the team is just standing there watching him and seeing what he's going to do," Downing said.

"When public service is at its best it is about teamwork," he continued. "It is about being a work horse and not a show horse. It is about caring about fixing the problem and not about winning the media cycle. It is about actually improving the lives of the people who are giving you the opportunity and honor to serve them and not winning some award, not winning the next election. That is what John Olver has done."

About 200 people attended the luncheon and were all given signs to hold up. Each sign listed an accomplishment of Olvers.
North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright remembered the night he first won election and  how Olver was the first person to call him. While Olver left a message the first time, later that week he called again and talked for 30 minutes about North Adams' future — asking how he could help the new mayor.

It was that listening and accessibility that made the former chemistry professor an "unlikely" politician, Downing said. Olver is "a work horse and not a show horse," he said.

"Your voice has been there, your ear has been there for us," NBCC Executive Director Alan Bashevkin told Olver.

Olver was grateful of the award but credited NBCC as an impactful organization. Right after his election in 1991, Olver said he got in touch with NBCC because it was "taking the best ideas" and working with the community to implement them.

"You have made a tremendous difference here," Olver said. "This is an organization that has an enormous grassroots work here in the North Berkshire area."

The crowd of about 200 people at the Williams Inn ended the ceremony with a song about Olver. The sung to the melody of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin',"  was an ode to Olver's many efforts. At the end of the song, everyone in the room held up signs, each one with one of Olver's accomplishments.
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