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'Surely the greatest job I'll ever have': Northampton Mayor Narkewicz moves on

Mayor David Narkewicz of Northampton, Massachusetts.
Colin A. Young
State House News Service
Mayor David Narkewicz of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Three western Massachusetts mayors will leave office early in the new year. Northampton's David Narkewicz and Tom Bernard of North Adams decided not to run for reelection, and Don Humason in Westfield was defeated in November.

As for Narkewicz, he said after two decades of public service — including his time on boards and as a city councilor — it's time to step aside.

David Narkewicz, Northampton mayor: When I first ran, I ran as, like, a new generation of leadership for the city. And so here we are 10 years later, and I really felt it was important for me to step back and let others lead the city forward. That was really it.

You know, it's obviously a grueling job and it's a demanding job. And I've tried to do the job at a very high level and really represent the community in all the ways that a mayor does that, and had an ambitious agenda. I leave with my head held high because I feel like I am leaving the city in a better place than where I found it.

Adam Frenier, NEPM: One of the biggest demands on your time, I'm sure, over the last nearly two years has been COVID-19. What is the strain of having to deal with the pandemic been like for you, personally?

Yeah, it certainly was something that I don't think any leader, at any level of government has experienced before. But I think it's mostly just been the the pressure of just really wanting to keep everyone in the community safe — wanting to keep residents safe, wanting to keep city employees safe, schoolchildren, teachers safe. And then obviously trying to keep your immediate family safe. Definitely probably the most high-pressured situation that I've ever been in ... as mayor, where we're just literally trying to protect people and keep them from dying from this deadly disease.

Legalized recreational marijuana came to Massachusetts in 2018, and Northampton has gone all in on this new industry, with eight shops selling adult-use cannabis in the city right now. Has this new industry provided the benefits to Northampton you were hoping for?

I think it has. The voters of Northampton voted overwhelmingly well above the state average for both medical and for recreational, or adult-use. And so I really felt like it was my job to implement the big mandate that the city had given. We haven't seen the negative impacts that many opponents of legalization feared. On the whole, it's been positive. These have all been positive members of our business community. They've created jobs.

Obviously, the revenue over $4 million in a new source of revenue that's not part of property tax. We're so heavily dependent on property tax. So to be able to create a new source of revenue that's not from property tax is big. And also, you know, these are folks that are investing and reusing former retail spaces and former manufacturing spaces that in many cases were empty. So I really feel like it has fit in well with the larger business community in Northampton, which already, I think, was a draw in terms of retail and shopping and arts and culture. And so, I feel like this in many ways has just complemented what's already here.

Have you decided what's going to be next for you once your term ends in early January?

I haven't. I've mostly been focused on the transition, making sure that I we have a really solid transition with Mayor-elect [Gina-Louise] Sciarra. I've been involved in public service and public policy for most of my adult life. So I'm going to try to find an opportunity where I can use the skills and experience and education that I've developed over time and and certainly the experience that I've had being mayor.

I'll certainly carry all that experience with me, which is, you know, been wonderful and great and really, you know, surely the greatest job I'll ever have.