Community Spotlight Features

Mayor Linda Tyer Embarks on First Term in Pittsfield

Mayor Linda Tyer

Mayor Linda Tyer says her administration is focused more on helping and growing existing busineses, not luring someone “out there.”

BusinessWest spoke with Pittsfield’s Mayor Linda Tyer on day 11 of her administration.

Only 1,450 days to go.

That’s notable because Tyer is serving Pittsfield’s first-ever four-year term, and, as such, she’s in the beginning stages of laying out a map for the long haul that pinpoints high roads, trouble spots, destinations for the future, and plenty of pit stops in between.

The journey began for Tyer last year, while she was still serving as city clerk. She’d served as a member of the City Council for five years prior to taking the clerk’s position, and watching the inner workings of Pittsfield’s government had her mulling a run for its top office.

“I saw the city’s potential being lost to old ways of thinking, governing, and leading,” she said. “It was time for a new generation of leadership, and I wanted the residents of Pittsfield to really think about what they imagined for themselves. I offered an alternative in every way: from gender to voice to style.”

Tyer announced her candidacy for mayor on the City Hall steps in March, and defeated two-term incumbent Mayor Daniel Bianchi in November. Since then, she’s pledged more communication and relationship building between the mayor’s office and all its stakeholders, from elected officials to Pittsfield’s residents and business owners.

“The plan is to have constant, regular communication, both incoming and outgoing,” she said, noting that this will include regularly scheduled public updates on some key issues — among them public safety, workforce development and retention, and ongoing work to create a hip, walkable urban center in the heart of Berkshire County. “We need to invest in public safety and, as part of that, address the underlying issues that are the source of crime, including poverty and feeling disenfranchised.”

Tyer added that there are strategies at play in these arenas, starting with youth initiatives such as a city-wide mentoring program for high-risk young adults. That program has recently been expanded through grant funding to include job training and workforce-development opportunities for men ages 17 to 24, which is one way Pittsfield is also addressing the dual issue of workforce training to fill the area’s job vacancies.

“The business community cares that its investments are being protected, but it also cares about filling the gap that exists between marketing their jobs and finding candidates with the right skills,” she said.

Abandoned sites scattered across the city and outdated technologies are other barriers to recruiting and retaining great talent in Pittsfield, Tyer noted.

“Neighborhood blight and business blight make it very difficult to market our city; it affects community pride, and potential investors aren’t going to announce their arrival so we can show them our best sites … they’re going to be stealth,” she said. “And we need access to broadband in our commercial centers. We have the infrastructure, but we’re not yet plugged in. A modern-day creative economy has to be global.”

Ultimately, that creative economy is what Tyer hopes to nurture through all of these initiatives: a diverse business landscape powered by human capital.

“Our transportation system is not conducive to big manufacturing — that’s not our strength,” she said. “What we can do is ensure that we’re providing young professionals with the tools they need to succeed so we can continue to cultivate the vibrant community we have here.”

To that end, Tyer’s plans for the first leg of her four-year tour of duty include targeting resources to Berkshire-based small businesses; ‘Blight to Bright’ initiatives, such as requiring that vacant buildings are maintained for aesthetics and safety; street-improvement plans; and strategies for expansion of early-childhood education.

It’s a packed itinerary, but Tyer said she has the drive.

“I am motivated by a belief that the city has great potential,” she said.

— Jaclyn C. Stevenson

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