|Kavey Looks to Provide New Perspective in Pittsfield's Ward 5 Bid|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
04:32PM / Saturday, July 20, 2019
|Patrick Kavey seeks a seat on the City Council.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When Patrick Kavey returned to his hometown he had trouble finding work.
"I started applying to professional jobs. I had an interesting time finding either a job that would compensate me based on what you would see for an area of this size in the region or just finding specific jobs in general," Kavey said.
His background is in business management, with a degree from Westfield State University and a former store manager of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and then assistant manager of two restaurants, but every job he found would be filled internally. He turned his eyes to New York City and other large metropolitan areas.
But then he paused. It is the same situation he's found many young professionals from the area face -- they are forced to move away for quality jobs. He's decided to run for City Council in hopes to do his part to change things.
"I decided why not try to fix the problem before I leave the area," Kavey said.
He is running for the Ward 5 seat, which is being vacated by Donna Todd Rivers who opted not to seek re-election. Kavey's top priority is workforce development and supporting advanced manufacturing to provide better jobs. He said he's been reaching out to teachers at Taconic High School and local businesses such as Interprint, Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, and General Dynamics to get an understanding of the skills the companies need and how to best provide teach them.
"I would try to solve that problem by basically giving students and teachers the proper tools they need," Kavey said.
He said the schools should be a top spending priority for the city and he sees marijuana tax revenue as a source to bolster programming. He said one of the biggest industries in the city, and in the state, is advanced manufacturing and that has a generation aging out of those jobs. He sees the opportunity for more growth in that section, especially with the pending opening of the Berkshire Innovation Center.
"If we continue to lead with them into the future we can give the people here the tools they need to have a livable wage, a livable income," Kavey said. "If you look at certain neighborhoods in the city, there is such a disparity of wealth. I would like to see students and adults who don't have technical training the ability to take courses at Taconic, BCC, MCLA, and find a space in our economy here."
The 26-year-old is a newcomer to the political scene but it's been on his mind for some time. He grew up in the city and worked for Ben &Jerry's on South Street through college. After graduation, he was the store manager for four years and was recognized as the manager of the year by the corporation in 2015.
"We had the lowest turnover almost company-wide. We had some of the highest sales growth percentages," Kavey said.
Part of that success he credits to an effort he made to raise the wages of those working there. He said he was told it couldn't happen unless he found a way to get the income to cover the raises. He crunched the numbers and found out that if he raised prices by 3 cents, he could up his employees' wages to $15 an hour at a time when the minimum wage was $10. It was that fresh perspective on the numbers and management that he said led to the change.
"When you have a new perspective and look at something, you can figure out what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, and try to adjust," Kavey said.
He then left to work for another store in Colorado but quickly found out it wasn't the right fit.
"I just felt my skills could be used better somewhere else. I ended up becoming an assistant general manager of a restaurant there and then I started working with food trucks," Kavey said.
Eventually, he decided he wanted to get a master's degree and thought Massachusetts would be the place to do so. He returned to his hometown. Now he's working with the Berkshire International Film Festival and tends bar a few nights a week at Methuselah. He said he plans to go back to college for a master's degree in a year or so and he is also tinkering with an idea of opening a business.
"I think with my schooling and how much I had to management between the different jobs that I've done, that a management degree brings a lot to the table," Kavey said.
He also has an interest in zoning and wants to be able to help the city's land-use requirements become both business-friendly for mixed-use development downtown as young professionals tend to be moving to urban cores while at the same time protect residential neighborhoods.
"Underneath the surface, you can tell there is momentum building. We are headed in the right direction. But there are things we need to work on to get from where we are right now to where our vision is," Kavey said.
He would like to support efforts to reduce truck traffic overall through working with the state to move high-speed rail along and with the extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail to make it easier for people to bike to work.
He would like to work with the Police chief to dig into the issue of crime. He said property crime is what is increasing while violent crimes are decreasing. He'd like to work with the chief to develop new programs to help curb those numbers.
"I have a lot of big ideas for the future of Pittsfield, the state of Massachusetts, the future of the country," Kavey said. "I have been thinking to myself how do I bring these goals to fruition? I could go in the corporate direction and grow a company and really try to instill some positive change, some social activism, that way. I dipped my toes in there and realized how long it takes to climb the corporate ladder. I started to look into politics and the arts. I feel that right now politics is the next direction I want to head in."
While he has big issues on his mind to tackle, he said he will still be available for constituents to handle the smaller issues as well, such as drainage issues he says many of the streets in his ward are dealing with. He said different people communicate differently so he'll have e-mails for some and host ward meetings with others to keep in touch.
"A lot of my constituents think they aren't being listened to or are being listened to but the city's dragging their feet on issues. They want somebody to be more proactive," Kavey said.
Eventually, he sees the city growing its younger, educated population -- a demographic the county has been losing -- to stabilize the tax base and drive the economy. And for him, that starts with a seat on the council.
"I think it is time for Pittsfield to have a new voice. I don't think we should be taking steps backward. I think we need new perspectives. And I really do think it is our responsibility of citizens in this community to come together as a collective conscience and try to be the positive change we wish to see," Kavey said. "If we have the right people in the office we can create so much good."
Kavey is in the race against Jonathan Lothrop, who is seeking a return to the council, and Eugene Maselli.