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Tricia Farley-Bouvier Reflects on Decade as Representative
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
02:57AM / Monday, November 15, 2021
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State Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier was elected to represent the 3rd Berkshire in a special election and was sworn in 10 years ago last week.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier has represented the 3rd Berkshire District, which encompasses most of Pittsfield, for a decade now.

She was first voted into office in October 2011 during a special election that was called to fill Christopher Speranzo's seat when he resigned to become the clerk magistrate of Central Berkshire District Court.

Locally, she sees great potential in her hometown and says she brainstorms daily about how it can be fully realized. Statewide, she has been a strong advocate for early education and child welfare while taking progressive approaches to government.

Farley-Bouvier prioritizes being accessible to the people she serves and being present in the community.

"A real, I think, hallmark of my tenure has been that I make it a point to be accessible to people and I think that people should have access to their state rep, it shouldn't be something, somebody hard to get to," she said.

"Up until COVID, I made sure I had a downtown office, I'm very accessible through social media, it feels like most people have my cell number, and I try to be out in the community as much as I possibly can."

One theme of Farley-Bouvier's leadership is bringing state government to the community. She says the best work happens when local, state, and federal officials collaborate.

"I want people to know that, I say it, it's sort of my theme, state government isn't something that happens under Golden Dome on a hill in a faraway city," she said.

"State government happens right here in our community, and everybody should have access to that."

Farley-Bouvier reflected on her tenure last week, dividing the highlights of her work into two categories: Pittsfield and statewide.

A supporter of the venture from day one, Farley-Bouvier is proud of the work she did with the $120.8 million Taconic High School build that was completed in 2018.

She was a new city councilor in 2005 when an accreditation report cited the school as having deficiencies and went on to serve on the reformed School Building Needs Commission.

For a decade, the commission petitioned the Massachusetts School Building Authority for funding and in 2015, MSBA agreed to pay $72 million for the project, making it 80 percent state-funded.

The City Council then unanimously voted to pay the rest.

Because the School Building Needs Commission kept running into roadblocks with state funding, Farley-Bouvier advocated for the project when she entered office in 2011.

"We just kept getting stuck with the state funding, and so, one of the first things I did was to really try to work that once I got to the statehouse, and so we were able to make progress, there were still some frustrations with that, but we were able to make progress on that," she said.

"Of course, there was a lot of work done at the local level, but getting through to ensuring a unanimous vote of the City Council, that was as part of it, was this going to go to the ballot, or was it going to be at the City Council. It prevailed that it would be a City Council vote, and then we got had a unanimous vote from the City Council."

She added that it was important partnership work because of her local ties and familiarity with the school department.

Farley-Bouvier reflected on her contributions to the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) passed in 2019, which aims to ensure that every student in the Commonwealth has high-quality learning opportunities that foster success in school and postsecondary.

Through her involvement in the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus and the House Progressive Caucus, which she co-chairs, Farley-Bouvier said she worked closely on the SOA for many years.

With the act, Pittsfield Public Schools are projected to receive about $72 million in funding from the state. In comparison, the district received about $37 million in 2011.

"The Student Opportunity Act ... is bringing millions more a year, specifically with Pittsfield Public Schools, in cities across the state, particularly gateway cities," Farley-Bouvier said.

"This is really transformative for schools and we're starting to see the results of that with bringing the kind of services to our schools that are so necessary."

Two examples of the SOA that can be seen in the community today are districtwide preschools and family engagement officers who evaluate what kind of outside services a family might need.

Within the fiscal 2022 school budget was a $720,000 appropriation for additional staffing to provide prekindergarten at every elementary school with each having at least one integrated pre-K classroom with special education and typical peer students.

The SOA also addresses mental health in schools.

Farley-Bouvier is also pleased to see her support for the revitalization of the Tyler Street corridor come to fruition.

The street has received a $3 million MassWorks Infrastructure Grant for the addition of a roundabout that is currently in progress as well as road, sidewalk, and crosswalk improvements.

The street has also seen a number of new apartment complex developments in the last few years by entities such as Mill Town Capital and CT Management.

Earlier this year, the city received $880,000 in Site Readiness Program funding from the state's Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the redevelopment of Site 9 at the William Stanley Business Park located on Tyler Street Extension.

For a virtual announcement of the funding that included Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Farley-Bouvier tuned in from the Tyler Street intersection to show right where the dollars would be put.

"I was an early supporter of having Tyler Street being designated as a Transformative Development Initiative, TDI, zone and worked with the administration to help make that happen," she said.

"Of course, all those things that I do are as part of a team, a Pittsfield team," she said. "And so by bringing the public investment in, the private investment follows, and that's the idea, and so when you take federal, state, and local resources and put them together, that's when we do our best work."

On the State House side, Farley-Bouvier has specialized in the area of child welfare. She was put on the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities shortly after being elected.

The committee did oversight hearings on the tragic case of Jeremiah Oliver, a homicide that revealed gaps in the state's child welfare services after missed check-ins from the Department of Children and Families allowed him to disappear without being reported as missing for two months.

"It was a terrible thing that happened to that young boy and that really opened my eyes to the fact that there was so much wrong in the child welfare system," Farley-Bouvier said. "And I dug deep into that issue."

She has put presented a number of child welfare-related bills such as one that calls for a Massachusetts foster care review office and a bill of rights for foster parents.

Farley-Bouvier also advocates for early education statewide.

"I really believe that early ed is the secret sauce, if we can concentrate on really high quality, affordable, early education, then that makes a big difference for children in their families," she said. "We certainly learned in the pandemic, that without a robust and affordable system of care, then everything else falls apart."

She also spoke to the issue of not properly paying early education professionals, as well as all care professionals.

As chair of the Progressive Caucus, she is proud of its strong membership — 60 out of the 116 members of the Legislature — and says the progressives have made a mark on the last few budgets.

"The work we're doing now around [American Rescue Plan Act,] that's very progressive," Farley-Bouvier said. "How we're distributing that money."

Just this past week, the Senate approved a $3.82 billion package which included $500 million allocated for one-time bonuses to income-qualifying essential workers who worked through the pandemic.  

Throughout her work, Farley-Bouvier says she aims to both advocate for and educate others about the Western part of the state. Just last week the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development visited Pittsfield and the Gateway Cities Caucus has in the past.

"Whenever I can, I try to have people learn about what's going on here so that people have that better understanding that you can't just keep investing in Boston, we need to invest in the whole state," she added.

When asked why she first ran for representative, Farley-Bouvier said she enjoyed her time on the City Council from 2004 to 2008 so much that she wanted to do it full time.

"Being on the City Council, I really like that work of bringing people together to solve problems," She explained. "Working on policy, advocating, which I think is sort of the hallmarks of being a representative."

In the future, she is excited to continue working on a bill referred to as the Work and Family Mobility Act that would require all drivers in Massachusetts to be licensed, trained, licensed, and insured.  This has been in the works for a long time and reportedly is close to fruition.

"I would say the best part of this job is I'm constantly learning and constantly getting to meet cool people," Farley-Bouvier said about her tenure.\

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