PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MAY 2, 2013) — THE PLANET first met Kevin Sherman a decade ago when he ran against William “Smitty” Pignatelli for 3rd Berkshire District state rep in a Democratic primary race. He came to the WBRK studios freshly scrubbed to debate Pignatelli on “The Dan Valenti Show.” Sherman was all of 25. The young man made an impression that day.

We last met Kevin Sherman three weeks ago, when we had lunch with him at Mad Jack’s rib joint in downtown Pittsfield. He had something on his mind. As he has done in the past on other matters, he took us into his confidence, the sign of a man who is comfortable with who he is and what he’s about.


In the intervening 10+ years, we have seen Sherman grow into a public servant old beyond his years in the good sense of that expression. He was born “old,” as George Bailey’s dad said of his son in the motion picture, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This trait becomes apparent when you see Sherman gaveling and legislating with an interesting blend of cautiousness and inching forward into an issue, using discretion as sandpaper to round off the edges of contention.

Sherman went on from his narrow loss to Pignatelli to later win a seat on the Pittsfield city council, eventually becoming its president. Having encountered him at the beginning of his political career, which we have done with many city pols, THE PLANET felt invested in him, and we followed his ascent with an almost parental pride.

He Picked the Right Option

At the lunch, Sherman shared with THE PLANET four options for his political and personal future:

1. Run for mayor

2. Run for council again but not for the presidency.

3. Run for council and again for the presidency.

4. Not seek re-election and devote more time to his personal, professional, and family life.

Not Re-upping

He invited our thoughts. As we listened to him speak, we had no doubt it would be option #4, and sure enough, earlier this week, Sherman made his decision to go with Curtain #4. True to his word, he gave us the heads-up and the exclusive, but we embargoed the news so that our good friend Bill Sturgeon could break it on his radio show, which happened late this morning.

Sherman made the right decision. He’s young enough at 36 to take a good number of years off, and then, perhaps when his children get older, he can get back into Pittsfield politics — or not, if he so chooses.

The city will be losing Sherman’s talents, and a loss it shall be. True, he made his share of mistakes but not as often as he made the right call. We admired his package of attributes: Trustworthy, decent, straightforward, responsive to constituents, and (to a fault) taking the job home with him.

At Times We Rode Him Hard, and He Listened and Absorbed

THE PLANET has, over the years, taken Sherman into the boards when we thought he goofed. He got no special treatment. In fact, because we spotted his potential early, we probably set the bar higher for him that we otherwise would have done, the way we do with a student who shows promise that the professor does not want to see wasted or one-drop dissipated.

What sets Sherman apart from the typical Pittsfield public servant is his ability not only to take criticism but to actually be open to it and learn from it. That reveals the maturity of leadership, again, beyond his years.

PETER MARCHETTI: How we tried to take you under our wing.

In that sense, he was the anti-Peter Marchetti. As with Sherman, we first met Marchetti during a debate in a losing campaign. As with Sherman, it was Marchetti’s first venture into the public round-sqaure.  THE PLANET, as with Sherman, spotted his ability early, and we tried to encourage him in his budding stage of his political career. Marchetti, like Sherman, bounced back from defeat to win a council seat. Unlike Sherman, however, Marchetti never conveyed a comfort residing in his own skin. When we criticized, always with a well-intended corrective goal and with a belief in his ability, Pete took it personally, a habit he fatally took with him into his failed campaign against Dan Bianchi in 2011. It cost him the election.

Unlike so many Pittsfield politicians, Kevin Sherman developed a thicker skin over the years. He maintained good relations with the media in general and THE PLANET in particular, always returning our inquiries and, at that, not afraid to tell us when he thought we were in the wrong. With Sherman, we knew we could invariably count on an intelligent, unemotional exchange of issues and not an exchange of ignorance. Sadly, such is not invariably the case with other city public servants, who too often present to us a rhetorical immaturity and a defensive un-enlightenment when we give them acumen, wit, sense, judgment, and calm reasoning.

Kevin Sherman is a man who has earned respect, the political equivalent of grace, which, incidentally, we never give away.

Here is the text of his announcement:

Dear Friends,

“…. it’s okay to dream.”

I saw this phrase in a recent trip to the JFK Museum in Hyannis with a picture of President Kennedy with his arm around young Caroline. It made me realize how lucky I have been over the past six years to have been able to live my dream of being involved in Pittsfield politics.

The thing about dreams is that they evolve over time as we grow and I have decided to let go of this dream at this time. Therefore, I will not seek re-election in 2013.


Looking for “betterment.”

This has not been an easy decision as my love for Pittsfield is stronger than ever and I know I have much to offer. But I also have responsibilities and priorities that have matured along with me over the past decade. My number one priority is, and always will be, my family. They have sacrificed quite a bit for me to follow my dreams and now it’s time for me to return the favor and enjoy every second that I can in the great years ahead. I want to publicly thank my wife Tammi for all that she has done to provide me with support, confidence, and strength over these past several years. I literally could not have done it without her.

Nor could I have been successful without my mom, Maryann, brother Bryon, father Tom, and Uncle Remo as well as those who have been by our side from the get-go. There are so many others I’d like to thank personally but I don’t want to risk missing anyone so I’ll just say “Thank You” to you all for your years of support, guidance, and encouragement during this extraordinary period in my life.

It has been a pleasure and honor to serve as Councilor at Large for six years and as the City Council President during this term, and I will continue to serve full speed ahead until January 2014.

I love you all dearly and will continue to be a part of the community through coaching, the Democratic City Committee, and charitable foundations like UNICO. I’m looking forward to living more dreams and spending my time being a better citizen, a better employee, a better father, a better son, a better husband, a better friend, a better golfer, a better neighbor, a better UNICAN, a better brother, a better Uncle, and a better Godfather.

As a parting note to those who will continue to lead Pittsfield into the future, I repeat the phrase above: “….it’s okay to dream.” Our greatest natural resource is our people and we will follow you to new eras of greatness if you just have the courage and vision to show the way.

Thank you for everything, Pittsfield!


—– 00 —–

Kevin, you made the right call. Godspeed. Remember your words: “It is OK to dream.”

One related, final note: This news, coming as it did on the day nomination papers became available at Pittsfield city clerk Linda Tyer‘s office, will surely add zest to the 2013 municipal campaign. His open, at-large seat will be too plump and ripe for the usual suspects, and perhaps, we hope, some new blood, to resist. We welcome them all into the race.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.


“munching a plum on / the street a paper bag / of them in her hand // They taste good to her / They taste good / to her. They taste / good to her. // You an see it by / the way she gives herself / to the one half / sucked out in her hand // Comforted / a solace of ripe plums / seeming to fill the air / They taste good to her.”“To a Poor old Woman” by William Carlos Williams




  1. FPR
    May 2, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    Hey Dan,

    Good column today. When I saw Kevin on the city council as councilor, my impression of him was that he was a bit arrogant.

    Seeing him as President of the council I saw the exact opposite. A humble man. Very respectful and professional.

    Maybe you can use him further in the Valenti administration.

    • danvalenti
      May 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      “The Valenti Administration” — My numerous critics would love to see that.

  2. Mike Ward
    May 2, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Any longtime observer of the city council knows that it can be a crazy train. Kudos to President Sherman for keeping it on the tracks under his watch. Enjoyed a well-earned break, Kevin – in January:-)

  3. tito
    May 2, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    t think i’m going to cry.

    • danvalenti
      May 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

      That’s OK, T. I own the Kleenex concession in the lobby.

  4. Bill Sturgeon
    May 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Dan: The At – Large race will truly be ” LARGE”! It will be a great season for talk show host and journalist.

    • Dave
      May 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      and you too Bill!

    • danvalenti
      May 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

      It will indeed.Keep up the good work.

  5. dusty
    May 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    My money is on Lothrop for President. It is either him or Krol and I don’t see Lothrop taking a back seat to anyone now. The GOB still controls the councils majority vote so they will get who they want.

    So who will run for mayor? Marchetti again? Krol? No way Lothrop gets more than a third of the public vote. He is too sneeringly smug. Any others with star power?

    • Dave
      May 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      Lothrup won by 7 votes last year, he may not even get reelected.

      • danvalenti
        May 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

        That is always a possibility, of course. Seven votes is razor thin, but also keep in mind it will depend on the opposition and whether J-Lo’s heart is in it. Every cycle presents new dynamics.

    • danvalenti
      May 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

      Star power? Man, you raise an excellent point and man, i’m just not seeing it.

  6. GMHeller
    May 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Until any of these bozos is openly willing to reopen the Consent Decree, why bother taking any of them seriously?
    Pittsfield’s chemical pollution is the source of all manner of Cancer in the community and nobody wants to deal with the entity that created the problem and has the resources to remedy it.
    It’s the elephant in the room, but it’s Pittsfield so look away.

    • danvalenti
      May 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      I took a hike in Canoe Meadows on a gorgeous, sky-blue, sun-drenched morning. Temps were in the low 70s. On one side of a small stream, where the beavers had damned up the ridge just under a stone foot bridge, the water had receded to mud level. You could see pockets of oily ooze, most likely from GE.

      • Scott
        May 3, 2013 at 4:39 am #

        If it was in the flood plane yes for sure but the other end of the river down carriage trail (at the dam) has been tested and showed very low traces and the brook trout are thriving. I love Canoe Meadows! Be careful of ticks! I’m fighting lime I think I caught it early as I have no severe symptoms but it’s amazing how they can get in you and you don’t even feel it I found one embedded in my inner thigh a few weeks ago. Not engorged but really in there had to have it surgically removed.

  7. Gene
    May 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Excellent column, DV. We wish Kevin all the best.

  8. Scott
    May 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    “This trait becomes apparent when you see Sherman gaveling and legislating with an interesting blend of cautiousness and inching forward into an issue, using discretion as sandpaper to round off the edges of contention.”

    I don’t know… I like how you phrased that it’s what stuck out to me today. Thanks!

    • danvalenti
      May 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

      Thanks, Scott. I particularly liked how that came out, as well.

  9. Jonathan Melle
    May 2, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    It is ashame that Smitty Pignatelli has been a State Representative for the past decade. He is a top-down political hack of the first order!

  10. larry beckman
    May 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    I heard that Jim Wilsz may run for council possible in ward 4. I would hate to see the current councilor Chris Connell lose his seat. He has been the only one that has tried to get the DPW department in line in recent years. Wilsz left his job in the city because he couldn’t get enough money in his paycheck. Now he may want to represent the city? It doesn’t make sense.

    • dusty
      May 6, 2013 at 1:08 am #

      If you can get the city to pay for you and your families helath insurance that is a huge help. Plus, if you are a councilor you have access to people with power who can pull strings and make your life a tad better.