On Nov. 7, Tom Bernard ’92 was elected mayor of North Adams. He is the first non-incumbent to win in eight years. Previously, Mayor Richard Alcombright had served since 2010.
This also marks the second time in the past 40 years that the mayor of North Adams has been an alum of the College, Bernard explained when I spoke to him over the phone. Bernard’s daughter Alexandra Bernard ’21 is also currently attending the College. In fact, Alex was the one to announce the results of the race to her father.
“The results of the election were posted on the window and everyone’s campaign had someone there to see the results,” Bernard said. “My daughter was the conduit between the campaign team and our family.” When asked about how he felt upon hearing the news, Bernard said, “It was our first campaign, so there was nothing to compare it to, besides the preliminary in the fall.” He described the adrenaline rush after a day of nerves and ballot counting. “It was the culmination of months of work – that’s the first thing you think about.”
The campaign was a long one, but Bernard spoke often about the support he received from his colleagues, team and family. Bernard has worked at Smith in Northampton, Mass., as the director of special projects. He received support from Smith’s president, Kathleen McCartney, after it was clear that Alcombright would not pursue another term. Bernard had been eager to take hold of the opportunity to run and recalled McCartney’s enthusiasm. “The support [from colleagues] has been fantastic,” he said.
Bernard’s campaign team provided another source of support. “I was glad we ran an issue-oriented and positive campaign,” Bernard said. The team “did a lot with social media to get substantive releases on policy and platform.” One team member in particular provided valuable social media advice: his daughter Alex. “I would read his Facebook posts and every time I saw a typo I’d text him,” she said.
Besides helping out with the social media side of her father’s campaign, Alex has been excited to participate in the election process in other ways. She recalled talking to her friends, all of whom had recently turned 18. “Someone realized, ‘Your dad is the first person I’m going to vote for,’” Alex said.
That interest in civic engagement is just what Bernard aims to foster in his new role. He considers civic engagement one of the pillars of “healthy community,” equal to his platform’s other issues such as healthcare access. With the closure of the North Adams Regional Hospital a few years ago, Bernard is eager to work with Berkshire Medical Center, which purchased the facility in 2014, to figure out “how to make use of the right mix of services to best serve the community.” He plans to tackle the area’s substance abuse issues as a public health emergency. “We want to treat it as addiction first, while working with local law enforcement,” Bernard said.
Other parts of his platform include commitments to improving education and infrastructure. “Everything from roads to water systems to IT and facility investments help contribute to economic development,” Bernard said.
For now, Bernard is working on transitioning to his new mayoral position. His upcoming plans include wrapping up his projects at Smith and “sitting down with the mayor [Alcombright] to have a deep, focused conversation” about the job. Meanwhile, with Alex attending her father’s alma mater, she’s eager for him to come to shows and school events to get to know the College again. “It’ll be really exciting that he’s nearby in Berkshire County again,” she said.