Probation officer seeks spot on Northampton City Council

  • John Thorpe, who announced his candidacy for Northampton's Ward 4 City Council seat, speaks to the Gazette on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • John Thorpe, who announced his candidacy for Northampton's Ward 4 City Council seat, speaks to the Gazette on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • John Thorpe speaks to the Gazette, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • John Thorpe, who announced his candidacy for Northampton's Ward 4 City Council seat, speaks to the Gazette on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • John Thorpe, who announced his candidacy for Northampton's Ward 4 City Council seat, speaks to the Gazette on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 3/27/2019 2:35:32 PM

NORTHAMPTON — John Thorpe, a city resident for more than 20 years, has launched a campaign for the Ward 4 City Council seat.

“I think this is the next step that I want to take,” Thorpe said.

A probation officer in Northampton District Court, Thorpe, 47, grew up in western Massachusetts and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Cambridge College. Known by many as JT, he was also a longtime bartender, working for 17 years at Rafters Sports Bar in Amherst.

Thorpe said his time as a bartender gave him an “ability to listen” that will come in handy as he seeks to enter local politics.

Thorpe is the first candidate to announce intentions to seek the Ward 4 seat currently held by Gina-Louise Sciarra, who is running for at-large city councilor.

“Advancing social justice at the individual level has long been a focus of mine,” said Thorpe, in announcing his candidacy. “I humbly ask my Ward 4 neighbors to help me bring my experiences and perspectives to the City Council.”

This is Thorpe’s first time running for elected office, although he’s been involved in politics and volunteer work previously. He currently serves as the second vice chair of the Democratic City Committee and as a steering committee member for The Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership.

“This is my first step into the arena,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe said that he has a lot of supporters who have informed him about what the job of a councilor entails.

“I feel I’m ready to do this,” he said. “I rarely sleep as it is.”

Thorpe has been in the probation field since 2001 and in his current job since 2013. Thorpe described his job as enforcing court orders, as well as helping to rehabilitate individuals. Thorpe said that he often has up to 100 clients at any one time, and he noted the importance of meeting them where they are at and giving them the tools to reintegrate into society.

“I enjoy helping people,” he said.

Thorpe, whose parents live in western Massachusetts, spoke about the importance of listening to seniors. Additionally, he said that he is supportive of the public school system, including Sciarra’s recent resolutions in favor of the PROMISE and CHERISH acts, green initiatives and, as a renter who does not own a home in the city, affordable housing.

Thorpe also said he wants to see more individuals from marginalized communities, which he defines as any group outside of the main power structure, be more active in local government, including voting, attending council meetings, and serving on city committees. He plans to talk to many voters about what their vision is for Ward 4 and the city.

The council will have a new look next year given that three incumbents — At-Large City Councilor Ryan O’Donnell, Ward 2 City Councilor Dennis Bidwell and Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa Klein — have announced they will not seek re-election.

O’Donnell and Klein have been notable forces in introducing progressive legislation to the council, and Thorpe characterized them stepping down as a “huge loss” for the council.

Bidwell has emphasized the importance of civil dialogue, something Thorpe also believes in.

“No matter if your viewpoint differs from mine, I will always listen and come up with a common solution,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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