George Mansfield served seven, 2-year terms on the Beacon City Council.
You closed your restaurant and bar, Dogwood, in September and finished up on the City Council at the end of the year. Are you retiring?
I’ve worked for myself for the last 30 years, so there’s no retirement in my future. This will give me some time to think about what I want to do. I’ll get back into my studio and spend time making art.
For probably the last four election cycles, I swore I wasn’t going to run again, but when we’d get closer to the deadline, I’d decide to run. So no one believed me this time, but I thought it would tie in well with closing Dogwood. It seemed better to wrap up both things at once. I might return to the City Council, or even run for mayor someday, but at this point it’s not part of my plan. I’ve been making art for 35 or 40 years on and off — sometimes dedicated to it, sometimes in between jobs. It’s never been a career but it’s been a passion, and this is an opportunity to focus on something that I am passionate about.
Why is local government important?
It’s an opportunity to actually effect change. You can run for office, you can get up to the microphone and speak your mind or you can write a letter to the City Council. Sometimes we feel things are too big and you don’t think your voice counts. But you can see results in a relatively short amount of time on the local level. You get to meet your elected officials on the street or in the bar, that’s the level of accessibility. You see change happen much faster than on a national scale, or even on a county scale.
You visited Ireland recently. What was the occasion?
Three of my four brothers and I brought our mother’s ashes over there. That’s where our grandparents are all from. She passed away less than a year ago, so it was great to bring her back to a place that she loved dearly, to bond with my brothers and to connect to a huge extended family there. It was profound. It felt like a return to a place I’d never been. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I go there.
I’ve heard people refer to you as “the heart of Beacon.” How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel proud of what I’ve invested in Beacon and whatever I’ve done to help get it there. But there’s no one heart of Beacon; there’s thousands of people — 15,000, really — who are contributing to this unique and ever-changing place. We’re all the little heartbeats. I just might be a more public face to it.
Are you happy with Beacon right now?
It’s not a static thing. As elected officials, we respond to things as they come up, such as the Route 52 corridor. That’s not been on anybody’s radar for a long time, but it’s a huge and important entry into our community. It could be a new economic hub, but it was ignored because we’ve been addressing other things.
There’s a constant re-imagining of what Beacon can be, and new voices are added to the discussion all the time, which is great. Overall, there are some things I would do differently, in retrospect, but you govern for the present while keeping an eye out for the future. We worked not just for the people who voted us in; we were also responsible for the generations to come. I can say that everyone I’ve worked with has done their absolute best to make Beacon a better place, and I’m proud of the work that I put in.
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