Last summer, Tom Bernard bought himself a new bike. Bernard is a casual weekend rider, who enjoys pedaling around the City of North Adams as well as down the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. “Biking is a relaxing way to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Berkshires,” he says, “and it’s another way to bring a group of people together who might not otherwise meet.”
Bernard, 48, knows a thing or two about connecting people with shared interests. He’s mayor of North Adams, which he notes with pride is the smallest city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – although he is quick to note that the city’s local, regional, statewide, and national standing belie its modest population. The 13,000 North Adams residents who live along the Hoosac River in the northwest corner of Massachusetts take pride in the city’s history of industry and innovation, as well as in the way that history informs the city’s current identity as a center for tourism and the creative economy, while not overlooking the continued importance of manufacturing as an economic driver.
Raised in North Adams, Bernard graduated from Williams College and earned a Master of Public Administration from Westfield State. Before being elected mayor in 2017—his first time in public office—he was director of special projects at Smith College, and previously he worked at MASS MoCA and MCLA both in North Adams. He’s also held various roles in organizations in and around North Adams.
“Like so many places in the Berkshires,” Bernard says, “North Adams continues to revitalize and reinvent itself.” He sees a bright future for the city. “People who come from larger metro areas for a visit see what the people who have lived here their entire lives have always known: North Adams is a welcoming place with abundant culture, recreation, and natural beauty where anyone can live, work, and build a career.”
With the city’s downtown development and infrastructure as ongoing areas of focus, Bernard says he’s also excited about the growing recognition of outdoor recreation as a competitive advantage for the city. This includes the long-planned bike and pedestrian path that will link North Adams to Williamstown and eventually beyond—providing even more opportunities for this city on the move to connect residents with each other and the region.
Photo: Kara Thornton