Karen Reilly, left, is presented with a declaration from the state House of Representatives by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Former Mayor Edward Reilly was known for his ethical leadership and commitment to the school system as well as to the Berkshire Athenaeum.
On Constitution Day, a civics guide titled "This Is Your City" was launched in dedication to Reilly, who died in 2019.
This helpful booklet explains the ins and outs of Pittsfield's governmental infrastructure to help inform students — and residents — of civic engagement duties in the city. It was created in partnership with the library, the Reilly family, Pittsfield Public Schools, and the city of Pittsfield.
"This is an invitation, it's an invitation to get to know Pittsfield, it's documentation of who we are and what we do, and it's a challenge to get involved," Library Director Alex Reczkowski said at a small, in-house celebration on Friday.
Reilly's family and local officials gathered to mark the launch of the booklet and honor the former mayor, city solicitor, vice president and treasurer of the athenaeum, and friend.
Within the celebration was an exhibit featuring awards, newspaper articles, and personal items that showed his legacy in the community.
Karen Reilly said her husband was first inspired to run for mayor when they attended a recital at a local middle school and saw buckets on the ground to catch water dripping from the ceiling.
Reilly was the city solicitor from 1983 to 1987 and elected as mayor in 1992. During the three terms that he served until 1998, he had a number of accomplishments that still impact the community today.
His wife said he was especially proud of the $47 million, seven-school building needs project and his time as chairman of the School Committee and as president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
In 1993, he cut the ribbon for the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center, which he decided should be located in the old Capitol Theater. He was also seen as an advocate for the senior population.
He was vice president and treasurer of the Berkshire Athenaeum for 15 years and had been trustee and a member of the Friends of the Athenaeum until his death.
"He brought things to Pittsfield, that had been missing," Reilly said. "Perhaps, a positive attitude, confidence, his ambition played into this in a huge way, cooperation, trust, innovation, transparency, but a lot of grit came with that, and he just enjoyed every minute of what he did."
She added that he never needed notes when publicly speaking because of his photographic memory.
Similarly, his daughter Sara referred to him as a "human dictionary" and a "generally chill kind of guy."
"My dad's involvement with this beautiful library over the years was never a surprise to me," she said. "I could always hear the passion in his voice when he talked about this place and the people in it."
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier presented the family with a citation from the House of Representatives and Mayor Linda Tyer presented them with a proclamation from the city, both in celebration of Reilly's life.
State Rep. John Barrett III said Reilly's involvement in the MMA and its affiliate the Massachusetts Mayors Association really gave recognition to Western Massachusetts, which sometimes seemed like a "foreign country," he said, compared to the eastern end of the state.
"What Ed brought to government was so important, he got involved in the MMA, and he eventually became president, which basically means that he was the head of the 351 cities and towns, and became a spokesman, and that's quite an honor from coming from an area like Berkshire County to achieve the success," the former mayor North Adams said.
"He gave voice to this area, and it was a time when, I believe while he was in office, and he got a lot of money back to this area because of him and policies in the organization that he represented."
Reilly was the last MMA president from Berkshire County until North Adams City Councilor Lisa Blackmer 21 years later in 2016.
Barrett said that of all the things Reilly would want to be remembered for, it was the importance of civic responsibility, especially in leaders.
"He was a student of government, he was a student of civics, he was a student of public service in so many ways," he said to the Reilly family.
"I think the best thing to say about someone who comes out in public service in politics is he was a man of integrity, he was a man of honesty, and he always stayed the course during all of the times that he was involved in controversial issues and for that, your family can be very proud of that, and he was one of the finest gentlemen that I met in public service and I've met a lot of them over the years."
Library Trustee William Cameron said Reilly's legacy as mayor and chair of the School Committee is in the generations of students who have benefited from his service.
"The School Committee is a somewhat obscure body, and I think it benefited greatly from Ed's leadership at a time when the Education Reform Act had been enacted in 1992 and took effect I think in 1993, he was a great leader and an avid defender of adequate resources for the public schools in Pittsfield," Cameron said.
"I will always think of Ed, as not only a student but himself as an educator."
Reilly was also the founder and first president of Pittsfield Community Television's board of directors.
He was the city solicitor in 1986 when the contract for PCTV was signed and drawn up and Executive Director Shawn Serre said he was largely responsible for insisting that the cable company provide funds for PCTV as compensation for public rights of way.
Serre said he first met Reilly at a board meeting in the library and soon realized that he had a "tremendous amount of knowledge" on the topic.
Reilly went on to host "That's Our Opinion," and "From The Corner Office" on PCTV. Both of the programs involved him taking unfiltered calls from the public and Serre said he handled them all with grace.
"He'll just always be remembered as someone who made a significant contribution to our organization and of course our city," Serre concluded.
Reczkowski thanked the Reilly family for their contribution in creating the guide and the exhibit of his life.
"Deciding how to celebrate and honor such a warm-hearted, private man was a bit of a challenge, a global pandemic, getting in the way of celebration was certainly a stumbling block," he said.
"But in the end, it almost feels like Ed was guiding this all along. We came together, we talked about what was important to Ed, the community, the future of this community and our schoolchildren, and civic engagement and so it's fitting that we're gathered here today on Constitution Day to honor his memory."
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