|IN THE NEWS - Sen. Benjamin Downing: Carrying Himself With Integrity|
March 23, 2007
By Susan Bush - March 23, 2007
State Sen. Ben Downing D-Pittsfield has hit the state Senate chambers with sleeves rolled up and his head in the world of legislation.
"It was all I thought it would be and 10 times more," Downing said during a March 22 telephone interview from the Senate chambers in Boston.
"The only thing I would change is adding about six more hours to the day or one day to the week."
Voters of Berkshire, Hampshire, and Franklin District - the largest Senate district in the state, with 48 towns and cities - elected Downing to office in November. He was worn into office in January and has been transitioning from candidate Downing to Senator Downing with apparent ease.
Community Forum Set For April 20
Former state Senate President Robert E. Travaglini was helpful with Downing's transition, Downing said. Just prior to stepping away from that post, Travaglini appointed Downing to the National Conference of State Legislatures Policy Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and Energy.
"I felt that it was a real honor, for him to appoint me to the committee," Downing said. "This offers a great venue to talk about our agriculture, our environment and energy issues."
Travaglini also appointed Downing to the Governor's Advisory Commission on Local Government, which means Downing meets on a monthly basis with Gov. Deval Patrick.
He is committed to contact with the constituency that sent him to Boston, he said. He's participated with two previous community forms held in the Southern Berkshires and plans to attend an April 20 forum at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley D-North Adams.
Issues And Common Ground
His goals are heavily weighted toward serving the people who elected him state Senator, Downing said.
"It's about matching the priorities with the folks at home," he said. "I get e-mails and phone calls from people all the time, and I want that. There are so many things to work on and the important thing is to stick to the priorities. Right now, the number one things are sustainable economic development, public transportation, broadband...there are needs and interests. And you hear people talk about the broadband, the public transportation and it's your job to find the common ground [among other legislators]and work towards these things."
Downing is the chairman of the Committee of Public Service,vice-chairman of the Committee on Bills In The Third Reading, and a member of the Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, Financial Services, Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, Veteran and Federal Affairs, and the Regional Schools Legislative Caucus.
Downing is also the co-chairmen of a Pittsfield-based Leadership Council to End Chronic Homelessness in Berkshire County.
Behind The Scenes No More
After spending almost three years as a senior advisor to U.S. Congressman John W.Olver D-Amherst, and several prior posts working for U.S. Congressmen William Delahunt D-Quincy and Richard E. Neal D-Springfield, Downing is not unfamiliar with the intricacies of politics and legislatures.
But his election shifted his presence from the background to front and center of a district located in the western-most part of the state, a place that often finds its elected leaders fighting harder and longer to be heard.
As the person elected to follow in the footsteps of former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who opted against seeking re-election in 2006 after serving five state Senate terms and is now Register of Deeds for Central Berkshire, Downing may be under a bit more public scrutiny than usual.
Downing said he believes in an honest, forthright approach to his constituents and his fellow legislators.
"If you treat people right, if you work hard, if you carry yourself with integrity, people will want to help you do what you need to do for your district," he said.
Information about state Sen. Benjaimn Downing is available at a www.bendowning.org Internet web site.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.