Illustration of a man and a woman standing behind podiums at a debate.

Top Left Corner #157 — NTRVW: Jane Patton candidate for Williamstown Selectboard

Enjoy our interviews with the other Williamstown Select Board candidates,
Bilal Ansari and Randal Fippinger.

Editor’s Note: At this time, we are able to provide a rough transcript of interviews. By choice, we edit the text of our conversations to remove verbal pauses (um, ah, uh, you know, etc.) and fragmented phrases not to make the speakers look smarter, but to make it easier for audiences who are unable to listen to the podcast and must rely on the transcript. We attempt to remain as faithful as possible to the speakers’ original meaning, and apologize for any errors of transcription.

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And this is episode 157 of the top left corner here on The Greylock Glass — I’m your host, Jay Velázquez. And as always, I do thank you for tuning in. Whether you’re listening on your commute, whether you’re cleaning the house, taking the dog for a walk, however it is that you put us between your ears, I thank you. It means a lot to us that you’re here with us seven-plus years later. This episode is special because — well, they’re all special, but this one is especially special because — it is the third and final part of a three-part series that interviews each of the candidates for the Williamstown Select Board’s two seats that are up for grabs. So get that. You get two seats. You get three candidates when the music stops, whoever doesn’t have a seat. Well, that’s musical chairs for you.

So we’ve heard from first Randall F and then we heard from Bilal Ansari. Today, we’re going to be hearing from Jane Patton, who has been. This will be her. If she wins, this would be her fourth term, three year term on the select board. And she says, win or lose, this is the last time she’s running. So we might have given her a couple of extra minutes because let’s face it, she’s been there for nine years now. And and it’s kind of hard not to not to explore certain issues with people who have, like, you know, been right there at the hub of that wheel.

We have to have an apology to make because the audio on my end just sucked. And frankly, I don’t I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but I think it has to do with my microphone, which is I’ve had it since the very beginning. I’ve had it for seven years now and it’s, you know, recorded hundreds and hundreds of hours. It’s been just a workhorse and it’s probably dying as as various equipment does die. You knew that my computer died last year. This is no different. If you want to help us keep from falling apart like some. Like the black pearl, you know, the Pirates of the Caribbean, the sort of ragtag falling apart ship. This is kind of like that. This is kind of like a pirate ship, this little ragtag news organization. And, you know, I wouldn’t say that the boat’s leaking, but, you know, it could use it could use some some pitch and polish here and there. Please consider helping us out. This is your local news. You know, this is I do this for you. If you’re listening, it’s because you care about local issues, events. And if you care about local issues and events and you you want to hear about it in long form, right? We’re not talking 30 seconds, SoundClips. We’re not talking two minute sound clips.

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Jane Patton

Incumbent Williamstown Select Board candidate, Jane Patton (left) with her wife Emily Eakin.

I moved to the area in 2020 to work for an online retailer founded by Williams College Professor and some of his students. I met my wife Emily Eakin later that year, and together, we moved to New York City to follow my high-school dream of living and working in Manhattan someday. My career was focused on catalog direct to consumer businesses, working for several well-known catalog and retail companies – among them J. Peterman, Sundance, Bloomingdales and Victoria’s Secret.

We moved back in 2008, and in 2009 our twin girls were born. I shifted gears on my career to focus on them for a bit which was a real luxury because I was not able to do that when my son, now 29, was born. We absolutely love living in Williamstown — there is no better place to raise children, and it makes me very happy to call Williamstown home.

When the girls started going to Williamstown Community Preschool. I began joining boards and doing freelance work for some local businesses, my favorite being The Williamstown Theater Festival. In 2017, I began working for the Taconic Golf Club, which is amazing, given that I love golf so it really doesn’t feel like work!

I first ran for the Select Board in 2013. Win or lose on May 10, I will not run again. On the whole I have enjoyed my time on the SB — even when it was a challenge. I am better for the experience, and am grateful to the residents of Williamstown for the opportunity to serve.


Top Left Corner: And with me on the line is Jane Patton, who is running for a fourth term as a select board member here at Williamstown. Thank you so much for coming on the Top Left Corner.

Jane Patton: Thank you so much for having me.

Top Left Corner: Well, it’s exciting. I really have neglected Williamstown. To be honest, I’ve focused a lot on North Adams in the last couple of years because they had their issues as as well as any town, I suppose. But I often wonder if I’ve just been shy because I live here and I don’t want to muddy the waters to too much where I live. But I guess you have to eventually just dove right in and get into the thick of it. And we have had a pretty thick couple of years here in Williamstown, have we not?

Jane Patton: I think that’s a gracious way of putting it. Sure.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. Well, before we get to that, I know that most of our listeners know who you are. They know. I believe you’re the general manager at the Taconic Country Club Golf Club.

Jane Patton: Yes, I am.

Top Left Corner: And they know that you have been on the on the select board for three terms. Now, why don’t you for just those people who don’t know you just give us a sense of your your Baxter, your origin, your superhero origin story. And as we were talking about in the green room, why are you running for a fourth term?

Jane Patton: Well, let’s see my superhero back story. I grew up in a town outside of Saint Louis, Missouri. Most of my family is still there. I credit my dad and my three brothers for pretty much everything I am today. They made me tough and resilient, so I have mad love for them. My entire work background prior to here was in direct to consumer catalog. I was early adopter in that in the late eighties. And over time left Saint Louis and worked for some fairly big name companies. Jay Peterman Sundance Catalog out in Utah, Bloomingdales and Victoria’s Secret also worked for the Vermont Country Store up in Manchester. When we first came back, I moved to Williamstown in 2000 to work for a company called Ziba, founded by William’s professor and some of his students, among others. And later that year, I met my now wife, Emily Akin. We spent about six or seven years in New York City working. We kept our house up here originally in Adams. When I was 16 years old, I went on a school trip to New York and on top of the World Trade Center deck, told my history teacher that I would live and work in New York one day. And he looked at me and his very droll way and said, Miss Patton. Young ladies from Saint Charles, Missouri, do not live and work in Manhattan.

Top Left Corner: All it took to set your course. Yeah. Hey, that happens more often than not. The people who say, no, you can’t do that. They don’t always know who they’re talking to. Do they.

Jane Patton: Know? Especially not in this particular case. So I came back in 2008 and moved into Williamstown. In 2000, nine or twin girls were born. I had the opportunity to to stay home with them for a bit. Well, I’m focused on her career, which is just a luxury for me, because I was not able to do that with my son, who is now 29. The girls go to Mount Greylock. This is their first year. There seems to be the assimilation has been has been good. And then starting at about 2013 and was ready for me to stop living that life of leisure. Although twin four year old girls are not exactly, exactly leisurely and I started looking around for things to do. There was an opening on the Selectboard, so I ran. I also started working with the Williamstown Theater Festival because I have a huge love for theater and other consulting jobs around town. And then in 2000 and late 2016, I started here at Taconic, which just melded it as something I love to do with all of my skill background. And it’s been it’s been wonderful. This is the sixth season that I’ve been here, so.

Top Left Corner: Oh, good. Well, very good. I appreciate your work. If only because I don’t go off and I probably never will. But I sure like fireworks, so I appreciate your work putting that together.

Jane Patton: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I should. I should keep that in every bio. That’s going to be, I think, my legacy more than any other thing.

Top Left Corner: Hey, I know I do. It’s a it is a crowd pleaser. It is anybody who can make a couple of thousand people say, ooh, and at the same time, you know, that’s there’s there’s a power to that. Can you. Here’s a question. I know this is maybe using the power of my my microphone a little bit too much. Can you get us a discount on the Vermont crackers? Do you still have any any connections there?

Jane Patton: I do not. I’m so sorry.

Top Left Corner: Because, you know, because I don’t mind driving up there to get them. I probably wouldn’t think to order them because it’s, you know, half the fun is going there. But if somebody were to just like have I have a couple of cases in there in the garage at all times, I would probably sneak around and put a a fiver in your in your palm. So I asked, you know, just Vermont crackers, they’re really addictive. If anybody doesn’t know that these huge like soup crackers, they’re like oyster crackers, but like on steroids, I love them. So the question that I did not ask Randall, but I should probably ask you but I did ask Bilal is if Williamstown were a person, who would it be?

Jane Patton: Yeah, I saw that in Bilal’s transcript and I was thinking about that. I don’t I don’t think I could make it one person, I think. I think Williamstown, especially right now in that there’s a I don’t know the whole story, but there’s something about every time you step into a river, the river is different. Even if you step into it at the same spot every time one of these towns is constantly. Evolving, especially right now. And with the work that college is doing. And we get a new we get a new 500 kids who start every freshman year, their freshman year, that are here for four years and make their impact and and colleges interest in diversity and equity in terms of the student population has an impact. And so, you know, I liked Bill’s analogy but a person. I don’t know many people who who change that much and evolve and grow and get bigger and smaller and run faster and slower depending on the environment around them.

Top Left Corner: So you’re going you’re going to go. Your answer is a river. Maybe this is a river goddess that whose name you know, but a river. No, we can do that. And I think that’s a really well, it’s an apt description because you can drive through this town and people you know, people tell me this all the time they have, you know, they vacationed here ten years ago or they had their honeymoon here or whatever. And they’ll talk about how they were gone just for a few years. And they’re back to visit and it’s changed. And I’m like, Really? I don’t see it. But that’s in part because we’re here. We don’t always see those changes. We don’t always feel that. And that’s probably a good thing for the most part, because we have discovered that change is controversial. It can be you can have growing pains associated with change and and it can be uncomfortable for people who do not appreciate change. And that has been one of the subjects of conversation, these last lo these last couple of years in particular. And we spent some time on this with both both other candidates. So we kind of have to touch on it here. The DIRE Committee was a force that that really drove some conversation, and many people will probably attribute it some of the change that occurs to the DIRE Committee and other people in the community who who were part of this, the Movement for Diversity, Equity and inclusion. What are your thoughts on the last couple of years? What are your thoughts on the DIRE Committee? Do you think it’s set out? It achieved what it set out to do? Yeah. Anything that you care to comment on, given that you were you worked with them pretty closely as the Slate board.

Jane Patton: Yes. So I think depending on where you were at in the process and at what level you were engaged or one was engaged, the impressions are going to be vastly different in terms of what was accomplished, what was an accomplished work didn’t work, etc.. The things about DIRE that I am very pleased about with a caveat is I think our first conversations in town about the racial equity issues certainly raised at the select board were early June the first or second, maybe the first meeting after the horrific murder of George Floyd. And we I’ll speak for myself, although I’m confident the whole board felt this way. We’re overwhelmed. By the comments, and I personally was shocked to hear the things that people had experienced. I found it very disturbing, disheartening. I was not in a place of denial. I was really more in a place of, oh, my gosh, how could we have not known about this? And we had subsequent meetings off cycle to allow more conversations. And I was the I had cycled on to chair that May. So I was the chair of the select board at the time. And in talking with the vice chair and the manager at the time, I said we need to form a committee, an advisory committee to hear about these things and find out what’s going on and and have it pull together a group.

Jane Patton: And we did that. And we did it with with really, I think, unprecedented swiftness in terms of town government moving on things like this. I believe by the July 13th meeting. So really a month, we had interviewed and spoke with folks who either put their name forward or their names were put forward and named the committee and were ready to roll up our sleeves and and get started on it. So in that regard, I view that as a as a significant success. The caveat is, I don’t know if taking a little bit more time would have been more prudent in terms of fully identifying exactly what we hoped would come of the committee, formulating our thoughts more. I think it was our maybe our second meeting or third when we heard about the lawsuit, which was. Devastating. And by devastating, I mean just utter shock that this was going on and had been going on for some time and having absolutely no idea about it. Again, I don’t know. I can’t say exactly what might have been done differently in forming DIRE. Had we known that information. But it certainly did not put any of us on any kind of solid, comfortable footing. The hope that we had in the first meeting was pretty quickly.

Top Left Corner: Tempered.

Jane Patton: Tarnished, well tempered, tarnished by now there’s questions of. Okay. We’ve got issues of transparency or lack of transparency in the police department. What about the Selectboard? And the SELECTBOARD is just kind of like what? What what is going on? None of us had been through anything approaching anything like this. We are getting. Tons of questions and criticisms from from residents. We’re getting hit on the other side from town council who are like, there’s a way to do this and, you know, just scaring you to death for fear of, you know, doing or saying the wrong thing, which is their job. But, you know, didn’t make it didn’t make the situation any easier. And so I think from the jump, as soon as that piece happened, it made the. The dire climb that the path to to what we had hoped we might eventually get to. It really knocked the wind out of everybody, I think, and knocked us off course a little bit.

Top Left Corner: Do you feel like the work of the Dire Committee did made any any headway in the hearts and minds department?

Jane Patton: I do. You know, it’s I don’t know. I don’t know how many it did. It certainly did with me. I told somebody a story not that long ago about sitting with some long time Williamstown residents who were like, How, how can this be? And I don’t get it. And I was really starting to research more into just systemic bias. Unintentional bias. Not not realizing that that that things we had grown up with are phrases that we had grown up with that were inherently racial, especially racially biased. And those moments where you just kind of hit yourself on the side of the head and you’re like, Oh, my gosh. That’s crazy. I have used this phrase forever. I had no idea. It never occurred to me what the origin of the phrase was, because it was so commonplace. And then when you kind of take take a minute and say, okay, let me try to let me try to hear and feel and see a different perspective on this on this thing. Even as I’m telling you this, I kind of get shivery on my arms because that’s how I felt at that moment where I went, Oh, my gosh. And so I have been trying in my own ways, I’m not really a soap box person. I’m always floored that anyone ever really cares about what I have to say. But I have tried in my way, on an individual basis to try to show people how my journey has progressed and and invite them to consider doing doing the same. You know, there’s there’s an opportunity here for people who know when you’re frustrated that there were times when. There was an opportunity for to be to educate. And instead maybe you were belittled or ridiculed because you were uneducated. And I’m trying to make it a point not to do that to anybody else. All right. I want to invite people to to be open to the idea rather than be like, what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you know this? It’s more, hey, let me talk to you how I got here?

Top Left Corner: No, I think that that’s an approach that’s going to work really well with some people. And I think that while, you know, the the the nation as a whole is is way behind the eight ball when it comes to, you know, fixing this. I think that the fact of the matter is you have to you have to figure out each person just about what is it going to take? I mean, what I and the reason I ask this question is because you can have policy, right? You can create programs. You can bring in consultants. You can do all kinds of things. And each of them will be good for what they’re worth. But it is the individual. For example, we have ample evidence that financial institutions from large ones to local banks, they do not approve loans, nor do they do business with same businesses of color. And even when you account for everything, all the variables, the same loan that would have been applied for by a white business, white owned business is rejected for no other consideration. And therefore you have to say, well, they each had a degree from a college, a respectable college, that each had a good business plan. They each had a presentation that was well done. End of the day, why did this person get it and why did this person not get it? And it’s staggering. I mean, the results are staggering and it’s costing by some estimates, it’s costing the country. And Massachusetts is a lot, millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars because of the business.

Top Left Corner: That’s not happening. The commerce. The commerce. So even if you just cared about commerce, you should want equity because equity creates GDP. So that’s my soapbox right there. You mentioned the police department and I want to get to that because that’s tied up in all this, obviously. But my main concern is the point of transparency that you you brought up. There are some who have criticized the Selectboard for not leaning on. I guess it would be the town manager and having the town manager lean on the police department for greater transparency. Some still criticize the decision not to be more forthcoming about how the whole let’s make a list of of troublemakers in Williamstown, how that occurred. They feel like that there really could be more coming out of that. And there is a big question mark about what happened to the conversations that were supposed to be geared toward what kind of police department do we want to have, what this is one of the reasons why you say you want this fourth term, because this is a mess you inherited, a mess you were dealing with. And this is a mess that you don’t want to pass on without trying to take a crack at it and seeing what you can do to resolve some of these issues. In your mind, where are we with the police department examining its past behavior, its present makeup and its future, I guess, sort of priorities?

Jane Patton: There’s a lot to unpack there.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, I know. Sorry about that.

Jane Patton: You know, it’s all good. So I think one of the things that became pretty clear, so we had the committee that met last year and the search committee and there was a falling out of sorts and folks were very upset with the town manager and some committee members quit in protest or advisory search committee members. And I think what we got to. Then was the town manager. The permanent town manager really has to be part of the process of hiring the permanent police chief. At the same time, the Selectboard in about October got to two candidates for the new town manager, both of them having lots of positives about them, but neither kind of being the full package. And so we did not go with either of those two. So the police chief’s search has been delayed further. I will make this extraordinarily clear in every. Interview I had in both sessions back in the fall and the one we just completed. Every candidate was asked by me. If they understood that while they are the hiring authority of the police department and they they, the town manager, has the sole responsibility of firing a police chief, that the events of the past, the lack of transparency of the past would no longer be acceptable. Certainly not by me. And given the situation, I’m pretty confident. Not by any member of the select board for hopefully ever. The the communication. Regarding police performance, regarding any issues. I mean, that stuff, honestly. Never came up. And that was one of the aha moments for me, which was.

Jane Patton: You have got to ask more questions. You have got to probe and probe and peel away at that onion and make sure that people understand that some kind of pro forma report is no longer what this board wants. And I believe that that’s where we’re at. The new guy. And I’m happy to report last night we approved his contract. He’s starting on July 1st. His name is Bob. I’m going to mess it up, but I’ll take a stab at it like maricon. He has a lot of experience in community relations and DUI and so forth. That made him a really compelling candidate for this job. He understands that he owes the select board this kind of transparency that we’re looking for and having him be part of the hiring process now and taking ownership, if you will. Never mind that feeling. He’s got skin in the game in terms of getting the right chief in here, other than this is the chief, you know, and that’s not. I also don’t need anyone to hold Chief Ziemba in high regard. I think he has handled himself with extraordinary grace throughout all of this. I do think we have to have a search. We cannot do this without a search. I have never been in favor of not having a search because it’s too critical. And so that’s where I think we’re going to be starting at a at a whole different place with this new town manager and ultimately the the permanent police chief. That they understand that transparency at a bare minimum is absolutely critical.

Top Left Corner: The the search for a new police chief. When would you like to see a final name?

Jane Patton: Oh, my gosh. Well, I’m going to say as soon as possible, which is way too big.

Top Left Corner: I mean, six months a year.

Jane Patton: At the most. You know, it’s probably time to have the conversation about restarting some kind of group. Discussion about what what we’re looking for what what across all. Manner of voices in town. More of this, less of that. We are in the process of the accreditation. We’re in the process of the the work with the SPC, making sure that we are able to quantify what it is that the town of Williamstown needs for their next chief. We are we’re not a Boston or Springfield. We’re not a Pitt Pittsfield in terms of the the different layers of of activity, criminal activity that that those towns have to deal with. We are kind of on a natural corridor, which is why there’s a fair amount of drug issues that go on. But what do we want? I, I think it’s possible that we end up looking at things and maybe we reallocate some funds from one bucket in the budget to another bucket that that focuses more on the, the social work aspect. When you hear the statistics of the number of calls really in every in every town that are more mental health related than criminal activity and someone in distress, and then it escalates because they’re in distress.

Top Left Corner: One out of four.

Jane Patton: Right. It’s crazy.

Top Left Corner: Let’s switch, though, to another issue that is going to affect life in Williamstown for generations. It is our two zoning, the question of how many, how big, how close in what what is your understanding? Of the. The reasoning behind decreasing lot size, increasing number of units. What’s what’s driving this?

Jane Patton: Well, there’s always an ongoing conversation about opportunities for housing that is that is affordable for people. Affordable housing is another one of those phrases that folks immediately jump to a to a conclusion. And a long time ago, to town managers ago, Peter Solon said to me, what we we need affordable housing for sure. But what we really, really need is housing that is that is affordable for the average person. Williamstown has this gloriously bucolic setting. There’s green everywhere we look. We have been extremely prudent and mindful in terms of conservation, whether it’s agricultural or permanent conservation or what have you. I know there is a lot of feeling and emotion around this and fear, right? Because it’s change. I know there are folks who say, why rush this new plan? The comprehensive plan will be will be done sometime next year. I kind of go. Any of these zoning changes. If they happen, can be undone. If it turns out this is a horrible idea. Permanent conservation can’t be undone. Some of these other things that we do to preserve the land can’t be undone. The zoning can be if necessary.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, but you can’t. You’re not going to. But you’re not going to. I’m going to step in here. You’re not going to undo 50 houses that get put up in a development in South. You’re not going to. You’re not going to undo them, if that’s. If that turns out to be a bad idea. You know, you’re not going to undo a hundred years, 100 unit housing complex. I mean, you’re not going to kick people out of their homes and tear down the buildings if it’s a bad idea. So how do you mean you’re going to undo this? If it’s if it’s I mean, you’re basically saying go back to the town and read redo the bylaws again.

Jane Patton: What I’m trying to say very simply, is it’s not permanent. I think the chances of a hundred home developments anywhere in Williams town is extremely unlikely. I think that is I think that is people who are fearful of change or don’t want the landscape around them to be vastly different than it is today. I don’t know if you were here in 2016 when Rebecca was petitioning to be able to be rezoned to perhaps have a conference.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, I was.

Jane Patton: And people went crazy. There were people who were just I mean, that’s the last time I think we’ve been this divided. And and just my luck, I was the chair that year as well. And the way I view it is we’re trying to make zoning changes that are perfect for everybody or perfect for the town or and and the reality is that’s not realistic.

Top Left Corner: Well, to me, it sounds. It sounds. Okay, look, listen, we’re going to perfect for somebody. I think it will be perfect for somebody. I think it will be perfect for developers. I think it’ll be ideal for a developer who wants to put up a property maybe worth $2.53 million. I think it’ll be perfect for that, that clientele. I don’t think it’ll be perfect for, you know, housing that’s affordable for people. I, I don’t see given how much land stock is available. And I used to be a tax assessor. So I know a little bit about this given the amount of available housing stock. I don’t see any houses that are going to be built, that are going to go that are going to list for under a half a million dollars. That’s just not going to happen. And probably the few houses that might get built are going to be probably closer to the million dollar mark. So I don’t actually see affordable housing or a housing that’s affordable as the main driver. Change my mind, I’d like I would love to have you change my mind.

Jane Patton: I don’t I don’t think I can change your mind. My point of view on this is this stems from, again, people being afraid of change. I understand that a house that’s, you know, five, $600,000 is not affordable housing for most people. I am not in favor, however, of putting off change in perpetuity because we’re afraid of what that change might bring. I don’t believe a I don’t know where anybody would would build a development of that kind. I just think it’s a little bit of a people. People are afraid of it. 20, 23. Oh, come. If we wait for the comprehensive plan, maybe they’ll be answers there that make people more comfortable with the idea. Chances are pretty good it won’t. So it just feels like one of those issues.

Top Left Corner: Okay, so why did we do. Why do we have this 15 year plan, this comprehensive plan, and it’s going to be here in 13 months or so. It seems to me, based on what people have told me, that quite a bit of that is going to be invalidated, because if you allow for more houses, more units to be built, smaller class sizes, it is going to change everything from how many students could potentially be enrolled in the school to the water usage to to the landfill. There’s really nothing that’s not going to get touched by a change in the bylaw or potentially touched by a change in the bylaws. And if we don’t wait for the 2024, 2023, then the the comprehensive plan will be invalid. A plan that we’ve paid for will become invalid. Am I am I off the mark there?

Jane Patton: I don’t think any development or anything will happen in the amount of time from town meeting to when the comprehensive plan would be done.

Top Left Corner: But you could conceivably get permits pulled. In that amount of time.

Jane Patton: You could conceivably. Yes.

Top Left Corner: So if I did have if I had a farmer who was willing to sell me, you know, whatever, 50 acres and and I’m going to turn that 50 acre farm into a development. It could happen, conceivably, if if it is allowed, that could happen. Assuming that it’s not already in agricultural conservation, the idea.

Jane Patton: Sure, we could we could make that argument for just about anything. Another thing that could happen is that Farmer, who’s had a difficult time finding people to help them farm goes back to an old model, which is they have a building on their property. That part of the worker’s payment is room and board, and it may allow for a farmer to stay on that family farm. That is also conceivable.

Top Left Corner: I would like to see that that part of this interests me greatly.

Jane Patton: Me as well. Now, that’s a positive, potentially positive outcome for the farmer that I think helps. You know, create a scenario by which we are supporting local agriculture, etc. But rarely is that the potential conceivable idea that folks come up with. It’s the negative of somebody could suddenly build a 100 home development and not see how it could literally help people who are who are saying it’s a struggle to hang on to their family farms.

Top Left Corner: I hear you. I mean, look, I’m not I’m not about fear mongering, but I did grow up in a town very much like Williamstown, where the hill that I went sledding on as a kid is now just a bunch of boxes, boxes with cars in the garage, in the driveway, and not even very nice ones. So and it destroyed the scenery. It destroyed the character of the neighborhood. And it was it’s an eyesore now. And I’m not against development. I know that this this town needs housing, for sure. It needs housing. People can afford to to either rent or own. But I do think that there are always going to be those who take advantage of such opportunities for personal gain and don’t really so much care about how it affects the town 50 years from now. So that’s kind of where I think some people are at. Even if they get a little bit Henny Penny and the sky is falling. But but let me ask you once more to the to the 15 year to the the the master plan here is if this goes through, doesn’t that mean we need to have the potential? Repercussions of this change to the bylaws factored into this 15 year plan, because otherwise there’s really no point in continuing with the 15 year plan if that potential change, the minimum potential change and the maximum potential change are not factored in.

Jane Patton: And why wouldn’t they be factored in?

Top Left Corner: Because they’re nearly done right. I mean, this plan is it’s been in the works for a long time. There’s been research and has been I assume I mean, unless they’re just sitting around on their hands and there’s going to whip it out of the last minute, I assume that there’s been a lot that has been based on what was expected to be the case in this town. But I don’t know that they can just I don’t I don’t know that they can just shift gears that quickly and say, oh, well, okay, well, we’ll just we’ll do this. And I’m just wondering if if that’s something that has to be maybe tied to this.

Jane Patton: I think it could be tied to it. There could be an addendum to the plan if the plan is literally 80 or 90% complete, I guess I heard 2023 and that to me is still about seven months away, that there might be time to add to it or say the plan is going to be two months later than we thought because we want to factor this in.

Top Left Corner: Right. And I think I think people would be fine with that. Yeah.

Jane Patton: Yeah. People want to factor it in to the plan. I don’t see any reason why we would not factor it into the plan.

Top Left Corner: I brought up school the possibility of an effect on the number of students that we could have if we had more housing. I mean, let’s face it, if the goal is to have more housing, then we can’t say, well, we’re probably not going to have that much more housing. I mean, if the goal of this are to is to create opportunities for housing and in in the the meetings that I’ve listened to or I’ve watched on Zoom, that seems to be what people are saying. So we can’t say, well, you know, we’re going to make it possible, but we don’t really expect there to be housing increases. We just built this new school. Right. I mean, so there is an effect on on the capacity of Mount Greylock. I won’t go there right now, because as as you say, we don’t know what’s going to happen. But schools are a huge part of any city or town’s budget. In many cases. It is the the lion’s share of the budget. And I know that the select board does not have a direct hand on the the switches and the levers of school committee business. But, you know, you do have the power of the purse. And I’m wondering what your experiences, thoughts on hopes for the the public educational system here in Williamstown is in 2022. Where do you think we are and where do you think we need to be?

Jane Patton: Well, so our kids went to West for a couple of years and then we left West at the end of the second grade and they went to Pine Cobble through sixth grade. And now we’re back in the school district at Mount Greylock. So I’m still kind of winding my way through some of of of this and working at times to keep my maternal overly personal viewpoints separate from being able to look at it a little bit more objectively. I, I, I think the building is amazing. I’m mostly pleased with what I see. I know that there are those that believe we could have even more programs and more. You know what the word is. Given that word home of college and have an incredible community of professors and their kids and so on, making sure the caliber of the education is is exceeds really what we need. I think there’s work to be done. I am a fan of the current superintendent. I find him to be personable and accessible and able to hear constructive feedback without immediately getting. Defensive. So I’m almost as concerned. And this is in general, this is not specific to Mount Greylock. I’m concerned about the mental health and the emotional health of school kids right now, school age kids. I’ve seen a little bit of what social media can do even to 12 year old girl. And I’m not going to lie to you. It’s kind of heartbreaking. So I want to make sure that there’s enough resources there to to balance that along with the academic piece. Right. We all we all want our kids to get into the best whatever and do do the best. I grew up in a family where it was not an option not to go to college.

Jane Patton: It was not acceptable. My parents didn’t go to college. It didn’t matter if college was a good fit. It didn’t matter you were going. It’s the only thing that counted. And I’m really pleased to see that a little bit of that path is starting to be like trade. School is good, art school is good. Not everybody’s built for college and that’s okay. So my focus, I think. Right now is while I care deeply about the academics, I want to make sure. After two years of COVID and what social media is doing to the universe that we’re school is a safe place for kids and that they’re able to have their emotional needs met. And mental health really is what I’m trying to say, not emotional. I should make sure their emotional needs are met. But I think you get what I’m saying. That is that is very important to me right now. I don’t know if you’ve seen the just the I think there’s been about 16 or 20. College athlete suicides nationwide in the last year or 18 months. And it’s kids on the outside who seem to be academic stars, athletic stars, socially involved from every angle. They look to be like they’re living their best life. And nobody sees the pain and the stress. So how do we help young people manage that and be able to talk about that and get the help that they need? And I think a lot of that much like we need a little bit of of that. Look, in the police department for mental health issues, I think schools can be a better resource for that.

Top Left Corner: The last thing that I am going to ask and then I’m going to open it up to you is climate mitigation. We are well into a climate catastrophe and it is coming. It is there’s nothing that we’re going to do to stop it. We have we have apparently blown past the 1.5 degrees Celsius that that we that we could not blow blow by, you know, one degree, one and a half degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. I should be specific. It’s going to happen it’s going to happen in the next 15 years, probably to maybe ten years. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it. And there’s going to be real serious consequences, not just in terms of weather and our own particular climate here, but also in terms of things like climate refugees, some of whom are not going to be, you know, poor. They’re going to be very affluent. In fact, they’re already here. I’ve talked to people who’ve moved here and said they moved here because of Hurricane Sandy and then the pandemic. You know, first it was it was Sandy and they said they never want to live through that again. And then the pandemic hit and they said, forget it, we’re out of here.

Top Left Corner: So I would say that for a lot of folks who are looking to relocate to the Berkshires, in fact, there’s an article in Wired this month, Wired magazine, about how there are a number of people from affluent areas in the city who are looking to bail into places like the Berkshires. So obviously now that it’s in Wired, you can be sure it’s going to start happening at at strength. So things are going to change and we might have to face things like drought here in the Berkshires. We might have to face things like, you know, do we have to grow more of our own food? Because the Midwest is now a dust bowl and California is on fire. And and because of world affairs, we can’t count on importing food from South America or China. I mean, these are some some questions that we that they seem abstract until you go to the grocery store and there’s something that’s like 50% more than it was last week. What are your thoughts on Williamstown, what? William Towns? William Shea That’s hard to say in the possessive William’s towns climate readiness and what might we do to increase our mitigation strategies?

Jane Patton: Well, that’s another big one to unpack.

Top Left Corner: Is the only questions I ever, ever bring with me. I’m sorry. It’s, you know.

Jane Patton: No, no, it’s okay. Yeah. You know, I think I think the work certainly that that we’ve done with. Conservation is is pretty critical. The the cool committee and their work. The the the solar powered. I’m still so proud of myself. Four years ago doing solar panels on my house when the first kind of wave of it came through, I keep thinking how proud my dad would be of me for having done that. I mean, I think we have to examine everything and maybe it’s time for a larger look at the the bigger things at hand. I, I really I hadn’t heard a lot about climate refugees. I knew we certainly had an influx post-pandemic. And once everybody figured out that Zoom might really be the answer for a lot of people who no longer wanted to live in a city like New York or Boston. So but hearing you say that, that’s one of those moments where it’s like, well, yeah, that that makes sense. So I think the folks on the cool committee, hopefully this is part of the comprehensive plan. What is what is our natural water supply options? What are we doing to increase that? That doesn’t do other harm in some form or fashion, the tree growth and making sure we are not unnecessarily overharvesting trees. And if if trees have to be harvested, what are what are we doing with those trees to re reuse them? And then every tree we plant plant more. That is that is such a huge issue that even even hearing myself talk about it, I hear overwhelmed in my voice. So I, I think I’m going to be thinking about this for a long time after I hang up the phone and I don’t have a pet. That answer for you. So I’m going to try to make one up on the fly.

Top Left Corner: No, that’s that’s fine. And I appreciate I appreciate that there are no and this is the beauty of being in a we’ve never been here as a species before situation. There are no guaranteed solutions. I do know that we have a a an active agricultural commission, and I suspect that they are going to be absolutely essential members of any conversation that we have about climate readiness and and mitigation strategies if the drought in the South, Southwest and the West continued. New England could be tasked again with providing food for the nation. And I don’t know if we’re ready, quite ready to do that. Although Williamstown, as I said, is in better shape than many. So I just want to leave the floor open to you. There are a number of things that you’ve discussed in that I saw in The Eagle and on WMC with Josh Landis. You brought up a few items. Anything there that you want to talk about or anything brand new that you would like people to know that that is on your agenda if you should snag this fourth term.

Jane Patton: Anything brand new? No. Although I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to some things thanks to this conversation. So I appreciate that. And I mean that I am I am just fiercely committed to. The town is only the second place that I have ever called home. This is my home. I want to be part of the conversation and the healing. The last two years, I showed up every day in every meeting. It was not always easy. I It was hard. It’s the hardest thing I think I have ever done over any extended period of time. And I’ve had to do some unnaturally hard things in my life. And I want people to know that I will be here again every single day trying to listen and learn and make a positive impact where I can and remove the negative impacts where I can. And this is absolutely the last time I’m going to run when I lose. But I do think it’s important for people to know that I have a level of tenacity and determination that is is really pretty significant. And I think it’s to the town’s benefit to have somebody like that in that chair for another three years.

Top Left Corner: Well, where can the good people of Williamstown go to find out more about your tenacity and and stay up to date with what you’ve got going on with your campaign. Do you have a website, Facebook page.

Jane Patton: And just been using my personal Facebook page? I don’t I don’t have the bandwidth to try to set up a separate website or anything between work and kids and another family. Things going on here. You can look me up on on Facebook and you’ll see messages. I am planning a two listening sessions in the next few days at the at the log and me being me, I literally need to go double check because I don’t want to mess up what I said or what I’ve set up. So that that should tell you something right there.

Top Left Corner: Well, what you can do is you can always just get that to me. I’ll put it in the show notes when you when you confirm that up and I’ll.

Jane Patton: I’ve got it.

Top Left Corner: Oh, you got it.

Jane Patton: Okay, go ahead. I just really want to when I say something important, I really try to make sure I get it right. So this Thursday, from noon until 130 at the log and Monday May 2nd from 430 to 6 p.m., I’ll be in the front room at the lab just hanging out. If people want to come by and chat or ask questions or what have you.

Top Left Corner: I think you’re going to be at the heart.

Jane Patton: Good. Sorry.

Top Left Corner: There’s you’re going to be a special session meeting with seniors, with other candidates at the Harper Center on Friday morning, isn’t that correct?

Jane Patton: That’s Friday morning. And then there’s an if that’s. Some kind of forum on Friday night. I’m not sure yet if we’ve heard the final. Is it Zoom? Is it live? Is it hybrid? So that’s Friday evening with all three candidates. And tonight is the League of Women Voters candidate forum from 6 to 730.

Top Left Corner: And I think the willing is is covering that. Do you know if that’s so?

Jane Patton: Yeah.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. So I don’t think that this will be ready in time for that unfortunately. But we’ll we’ll certainly put a link to it. You know, this is going to come out tomorrow morning, so we’ll have a link and I’m sure that will Annette will get it up there usually fast. It’ll probably be up by tomorrow morning anyway so people will get a chance to see that. And I’ll put links to your Facebook page and I’ll put the the dates that you have that you’ve offered here, and we’ll find out about Friday night as well. So, hey, Jane.

Jane Patton: Good. You can put my email address if you would like.

Top Left Corner: Which which email address is it?

Jane Patton: That’s the Peyton Patton 721. At

Top Left Corner: Okay. Well, Jane Patton, it has been a real pleasure to have you on the top left corner here. I know that I kind of kept you in the hot seat for a little bit longer, but I figure you’ve got three terms under your belt. You’re used to it, especially with some of the meetings that you’ve had to sit through in the last couple of years. Three our for our meetings, this probably seems like a cakewalk. Definitely. If anything else comes up, if you’re going to do any other meet and greets, let us know and we’ll update the page, the show notes. But until then, have a great week. And as I do with all candidates. Good luck. This this May.

Jane Patton: Thank you very much. And everybody, please, no matter who you vote for, please go vote on May 10th. It matters.

Top Left Corner: What happens. Rock on. All right. Take care, Jane.

Jane Patton: Thank you. You too. Bye. Bye. Bye.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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