|Williamstown DIRE Committee Member Running for Select Board|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff |
05:42PM / Friday, February 26, 2021
|Jeffrey Johnson participates in a virtual meeting in July.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A member of the town's Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee has announced his intention to run for an open three-year seat on the Select Board this May.
Jeffrey Johnson on Friday issued a news release saying that he hopes to "make a difference in the quality of town governance and in the fabric of the lives of his neighbors."
Johnson, 47, grew up in Williamstown, attending both the local elementary school and Mount Greylock Regional School, and currently works for the commonwealth's Department of Developmental Services in its Pittsfield/North Adams office.
"I love and appreciate this town and, to me, that means I have an obligation to serve to the best of my abilities," Johnson said in the release.
He stated several priorities in his announcement, including a listening to "all voices," continuing to expand affordable housing and "restoring residents' confidence and trust that Williamstown is a safe, attractive place to live."
Repeating a goal he has advocated for in his work on the DIRE Committee, Johnson identified updated human resource policies and procedures as a need for the town.
He also pointed to the need to integrate the social justice articles passed overwhelmingly at the 2020 annual town meeting into "the policies and fabric of our town government."
Johnson said he hopes to help the Police Department establish stronger community connections, and he wants to strengthen the town's partnership with its largest employer, Williams College, "with an emphasis on helping our most vulnerable and marginalized citizens."
Though much of Johnson's two-page announcement focused on issues related to his work on diversity, equity and inclusion, he also identified a goal of expanding "local environmental policies related to recycling, pollution and increased utilization of environmentally-safe energy and materials."
That goal tracks with one of the priorities of the person Johnson is trying to succeed.
Anne O'Connor announced earlier this week that she would not seek a third three-year term on the board.
On Friday, she talked about her service to the town and, in particular, her efforts to champion environmental causes.
"I am proud of my service to the town and the Select Board," O'Connor said in a prepared statement. "When I ran in 2015, I ran expressly on an environmental platform in a year where the town passed bylaws regulating single-use plastic bags and polystyrene packaging, as well as a resolution in solidarity with neighboring towns threatened by a fracked gas pipeline. I had been involved with both initiatives as a town resident."
O'Connor cited her work as a liaison to the town's Carbon Dioxide Lowering (COOL) Committee, advocacy for inclusion of green power sources in the town's electricity aggregation agreement and support of residents concerned about the installation of a synthetic turf field at the middle-high school.
"This year has presented many challenges as our community — in the midst of the pandemic — has grappled with our own history and identity, against the backdrop of the larger national reckoning on racial relationships," O'Connor said. "As a participant in municipal government, I have sought to balance the many variables and voices that have articulated our path forward. I have assisted our municipal government in multiple efforts to set us on a path to become a more welcoming, inclusive, diverse, and compassionate community.
"Our town and townspeople bring tremendous assets and gifts, and I hope we can continue to grow and thrive as a home for all."
The five-person Select Board will have two new faces after the May 11 election. Jeffrey Thomas, who has one year remaining on his term, announced this winter that he would resign after town meeting.
Town Clerk Nicole Pedercini Friday reported that Johnson is one of two residents to take out nomination papers for the Select Board seat being vacated by O'Connor. Anthony Boskovich has returned his completed papers.
No one has pulled papers in the race to serve out Thomas' term.
Elsewhere on the ballot, incumbent Susan Puddester has taken out papers to retain her seat on the Planning Board, and incumbent Charles Bonenti has taken out and returned papers for his position as a trustee of the Milne Public Library.
Pedercini reported no one has taken out seats for a five-year term on the Housing Authority or a three-year term on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional [McCann Tech] School District Committee.
The deadline for returning papers is March 23.
Candidates need to solicit at least 31 signatures -- in ink, no electronic signatures. But Pedercini recommends that prospective candidates obtain more in case a signature cannot be verified.
Pedercini offered some advice about collecting those signatures during a global pandemic.
"Similar to last year, I do recommend taking a couple extra sheets to collect signatures on," she said. "Even though studies have shown COVID-19 isn't transferred by contact, people tend to feel better if not as many people are touching the same paper. Also, have people use their own pen when signing and wear gloves."