After Local & Regional Stints, for Tautznik, State a Logical Step…
UPDATED 10/6/13 11:07AM: With links and for grammar.
EASTHAMPTON—After a lengthy tenure as the only mayor the town has had since the office was created in the mid 1990’s, Michael Tautznik had planned to enter the private sector. But after Senator Mike Knapik resigned to take a post at Westfield State, public service called again, “My wife was okay with it,” Tautznik said.
The former mill town in Hampshire County is not just a base for Tautznik as he and fellow Democrat David Bartley scramble for votes before the October 8 primary. During Monday’s debate with Bartley, the successes and growth of this relatively small New England town were a selling point, too.
“We have no large employers,” Tautznik said of Easthampton during the debate, “but our buildings are full.”
Tautznik is identified as the more liberal of the two Democrats running, but he only accepts that issue insofar as the social issues are concerned. “Yes I am socially liberal” he said.
But that is not the whole story he says. Instead, during an interview after Monday’s debate, Tautznik described himself as fiscally conservative able to appeal to the conservative southern end of the district. As proof he points to never asking voters to override Proposition 2 ½, which caps annual increases in the property tax.
Tautznik, a born and bred Easthamptonite who still lives in the house in which he grew up, got his start in public service while doing the books for a local sports store. He took a seat on the Conservation Commission in town and from there moved onto elected member of town meeting and then town selectman. By the time he was elected mayor when Easthampton shifted to a city-type government, he had spent 25 years in the private sector, the last few of which were in computers and software support.
In that time in Easthampton government, he ticked off a list of local and regional activities including, zoning revisions, protection of the city’s aquifer, and work for the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts.
Now that his planned exit from the public sector has been put on hold, Tautznik wants to leverage his experience as mayor in the State Senate. However, he says voters should see his background not merely through the parochial lens as a mayor, but as somebody who acts in concert with the needs of his community and those around it.
Noting the district’s diversity, from urban to rural, liberal to conservative, rich to poor, he said his background fit’s the district’s needs. “There are differences we need to recognize when we lead,” he said and the next senator must recognize how sometimes “we focus on one thing and not see how see how it affects something else.”
Tautznik, like virtually everyone in the field, praised Knapik, in this case for successfully balancing those disparate needs in the Second Hampden and Hampshire Senate district.
Tautznik has earned support from Northwest DA David Sullivan and legislators that straddle the Hampden and Hampshire county lines as well as a diverse slate of small to mid-size city mayors in the commonwealth. Among the mayors that lent their support were Northampton’s David Narkewicz and Pittsfield’s Dan Bianchi, boosting his campaign’s efforts to taut his work as a regional leader and not merely small-town Hampshire County mayor.
Tautznik acknowledges that there will be some transition were he to win the seat. He will be one of forty and not a single point of contact like he and his fellow mayor’s are. In turn, he will be one of two points of contact for mayors, select boards and the like to reach out to Boston. Here again, Tautznik says he is the best prepared of all candidates because he is familiar both with mayors, but also the more diffuse town executives, Boards of Selectman.
Whatever, Tautznik has done it has clearly earned him an energetic and strong base in his hometown. The nature of Easthampton’s electorate suggests that his continued political success is not due to voter apathy. Rather, it seems to be that folks in town genuinely like him and what he has done for the town.
Marica Morrison moved to Easthampton nine years and several years after Tautznik was elected. Speaking to WMassP&I in a pub where Tautznik supporters gathered after the debate, she said, “Mike is the first candidate I have actually been excited about,” she explained. As a self-described “centrist” she said her support was driven by neither by partisanship or ideology.
Others at the gathering had similar praise for Tautznik. It provides a useful base of support for Tautznik to counter Bartley’s arguably larger, but less lower turnout base in Holyoke.
Were Tautznik able to channel that kind of energy district-wide, he may become as political impregnable as Knapik was. However, the short election schedule complicates that considerably. “We have not had enough time to be as visible as we should,” Tautznik lamented.
Just as important he noted, “Essentially whoever gets elected will be running again in January.” Indeed, whether or a Democrat or Republican wins the seat in November, most observers believe that person will face a challenge from the party opposite in 2014, but set the music of a competitive governor’s race.
For now, though, Tautznik wants to keep his message about the basics: jobs and the economy. That means setting the conditions to grow jobs by, among other things cutting back arcane tax incentives and instituting new ones. “What is coming to Western Mass is small business,” he said. “There should incentives to bring them here.”