New England News
5:35 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

New Council President In Pittsfield

Melissa Mazzeo takes over as the Pittsfield City Council President.
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
Pittsfield City Hall chambers were jam-packed for the inauguration of city government Monday.
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

The inauguration of the Pittsfield city government today involved the election of a new council president.

A standing room-only crowd of residents, family members, as well as current and former political and community leaders saw Melissa Mazzeo elected city council president. Also in attendance was former president Kevin Sherman, who did not seek reelection. But for the first time since 2002, the vote was not unanimous. Councilor John Krol nominated the most senior member of the council, Jonathan Lothrop, to take the seat.

“I know this is a little different than we’ve done in the past, typically there’s an 11 to nothing unanimous vote for council president, but I think this year we are going to have a little more transparency in this discussion,” Krol said during the nomination period. “I think that’s a good thing because we are celebrating democracy here today. At the end of the day, we are going to have a vote and we’re going to have a council president. I think the majority will be respected and also I think the minority of this vote will also be respected. So with that being said, I’d like to nominate the most veteran councilor Jonathan Lothrop who has a great deal of institutional knowledge and that’s my nomination.”

By a seven to four vote Mazzeo got the nod and took the president’s chair. Mazzeo was the top vote getter in November and is entering her third term on the council. She says this time around she was ready to accept a nomination to lead the council.

“I knew that, through talking to a number of the councilors, that I definitely had seven strong votes,” Mazzeo said. “I definitely feel that they wanted to just put it out there that it wasn’t going to be unanimous and that’s their prerogative. I’m hoping moving forward, I plan on being a really fair council president. I think it’s what we owe the citizens, the ones that put us up there to do the job.”

Lothrop says he will continue to bring the knowledge and experience of a veteran councilor. He called himself a “government geek.”

“That’s what democracy is all about,” Lothrop said. “You put yourself out there and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I certainly look forward to a very transparent city government and I think as issues come arise there will be full debate. That’s the way it’s always been. I’m going into my sixth term. I’ve completed ten years on the council so I definitely have a lot of institutional knowledge. I try to bring that wisdom, knowledge and experience to the debate. I’ve often been able I think to bring a perspective that maybe some of the newer councilors don’t always have.”

After being elected president, Mazzeo selected Councilor Christopher Connell to sit beside her as the council’s vice president.

“Councilor Connell and I actually work really well together,” Mazzeo said. “We’ve done a number of petitions together. We’ve been working for about a year and a half now with [Police] Chief [Mike] Wynn in getting the fine systems for parking, jay-walking violations and things like that. We just get along really well so he was a good fit for me.”

The ceremony also included the swearing-in of three new members to the 11-member council. Under a provision of the new city charter, approved by voters in November, the six elected members of the school committee took part in the ceremony for the first time. Capping the event at City Hall, Mayor Dan Bianchi gave his second inaugural address.

“I expect that we are going to be all rolling up our sleeves and doing good work for the people of Pittsfield,” said Bianchi.

Bianchi, a democrat, ran unopposed in November and will serve the final two-year for a Pittsfield mayor. The city charter extends the mayoral term to four years starting with the 2015 city elections.