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District says ‘farewell’ to Kulik

  • Rep. Stephen Kulik's retirement gift from the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Friday was an "emergency ceremony kit" with a token red ribbon, extra large scissors, tiny shovel and a faux large blank check in case he feels the urge to dedicate something. Kulik poses with a "take your photo with Steve" cardboard double at the event. —Richie Davis photo



Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 2018

For his 25 years as a state legislator and a strong advocate for agriculture and other rural issues affecting the 1st Franklin House District, retiring Rep. Stephen Kulik was toasted and roasted Friday by about 100 Franklin County Chamber of Commerce members.

The 68-year-old Worthington Democrat, who represents nine Franklin County towns, and as many in Hampshire County, was reminded of his “great disco moves from the ’70s” and his 12 times seeing the Rolling Stones in concert. And, recalling his 25 years at groundbreaking, ribbon-cutting and check presentation ceremonies, he was presented by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments with an “emergency ceremony kit,” a plastic tubby containing a roll of red ribbon, giant scissors, a tiny shovel and a giant facsimile check, in case he finds himself driving on a new stretch of road or a big pile dirt somewhere that suggests a project that could require celebration. 

But he was also recognized for his commitment to serve the region he began representing after leaving his role as Worthington selectman and Massachusetts Municipal Association president.

“We should all really appreciate the fact that when Steve went to the Statehouse, for all his 25 years, he never forgot about us,” said Northestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who was among several people who praised Kulik’s responsiveness and dedication

“We all have the ability to use the word ‘honorable’ next to our names,” said former state Rep. William Benson of Greenfield, who served three terms in the state House beginning in 1979. “Once you get sworn in, your title is ‘the Honorable’ forever. Few people I’ve met in the Legislature deserve that title, but you certainly do, Steve.”

Benson added that at the time he served, “I didnt have any great role models. If I could have only gone in after you, I could have had a mentor and a role model. You could have shared your wisdom and all your abilities. I would have made a much better legislator. I regret not having that.”

Kulik has been “a champion for bringing broadband to all parts of Massachusetts since 1999, when we realized 78 communities didn’t have full broadband coverage,” said Linda Dunlavy, the Franklin COG’s executive director, who has also been on the front lines of that effort – “one of the hardest problems I’ve worked on.” 

“We haven’t fully solved the problem, but you all need to know we wouldn’t be as far as we are now without Steve,” Dunlavy said, pointing to the $55 million that Kulik helped secure from the state, which in turn leveraged $50 million in federal funding. 

Through Kulik’s efforts to convince private telecommunication and cable companies to expand their infrastructure in underserved towns, as well as “pushing the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to fully and finally solve the problem, and being one of the few legislators who took part in the weekly calls with MBI, forcing progress, there’s been enough progress that only two communities remain would a clear path forward. 

“None of that could have happened without Steve’s leadership and dedication,” said Dunlavy, who is also a member of the MBI board. “I really thank him for that, because it’s so important for our economy, for our kids and for our future.” 

Kulik won praise also from Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farm.

 “On behalf of all the farms and farmers, we really appreciate all the work you’ve done in keeping the rural character true to the area,” Clark said. He also said Kulik “really led the charge in the state getting the Kinder Morgan pipeline defeated. It would have been a huge detriment to area, to our farm and other farms. He’s got a great legacy.”

Former chamber president Ann Hamilton praised Kulik as “as among the best” elected officials she worked with to get local tourism funding from the state.

“Apparently the governor doesn’t think tourism is as important as many of us do,” she said, and after he would cut tourism from the state budget the chamber would work with Kulik to get it restored.

“Franklin County is 725 square miles, but we don’t have 2,000 hotel rooms that pay taxes, so we’re really at a disadvantage,” she said. “We really needed that promotion and marketing money, and Steve was always there to understand why people come here. It’s a unique place. We all know that, and nobody understood that better than Steve.”   

That uniqueness was the focus of Kulik’s closing comments to the gathering as he spoke of “how much being a legislator depends on other people, working with other people, creating partnerships and collaborations. 

“That’s been the most fun part of this job for 25 years,” he said. “It’s all about building coalitions. … The thing that I think is really special about Franklin County is that the spirit of community and collaboration just permeates the entire region. It’s in all 26 communities, and it helps to identify and  define Franklin County as a place. 

“There aren’t many places, if any place, that’s like this,” said Kulik. “This is really unique the way social services agencies come together, town governments come together, the regional council of governments is completely unique. That just doesn’t happen anywhere else the way it happens here. People come together to solve common problems. Working with the legislative delegation has been such a pleasure, because we have your support out there to be your voices, to take the issues that are important to you back to Boston to work on, and to help solve problems in your own communities, in your own organizations. I can’t thank you enough for that opportunity.”