Jonathan Edwards helped create shared EMS, led initiative to reinvigorate senior center


Staff Writer
Published: 8/22/2018 11:05:36 PM

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Seven Democrats are vying in the Sept. 4 primary for the 1st Franklin District House seat being vacated by 25-year incumbent Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington. There is no Republican candidate. The district includes Ashfield, Buckland, Conway, Deerfield, Leverett, Montague, Shelburne, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Whately.

This is one in a series of profiles on those candidates.)

His 14 years of experience as a Whately selectman and five years as president of the Franklin County Selectboard Association, Jonathan Edwards says, set him apart from the six other Democrats seeking the 1st Franklin District seat in the 19-town district.

Edwards points to his role in the creation of South County Emergency Management Service, which provides Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately with a regional 24-hour, seven-day-a-week paramedic-level ambulance service that he says its creators were told was an impossibility for their small towns. (He serves on its Board of Oversight.)

He also “led the original initiative to reinvigorate a senior center that was neither working as an effective inter-town partnership nor meeting the needs of area seniors,” creating the South County Senior Center, whose oversight board he’s in the ninth year of chairing.

Edwards co-founded the national, nonprofit firm SmartPower to promote clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency and helped lead for a decade until 2012, serving to create the foundation of the solarize campaign to use economies of scale for renewable energy. As a selectman, he helped Whately become a Massachusetts Green Community in 2013 and collaborate with Williamsburg and Chesterfield to create a regional Solarize Massachusetts program there in 2013 and 2014.

Edwards, who worked on the campaigns of Congressman John W. Olver, presidential hopeful Paul Tsongas and state Sen. Stan Rosenberg, ran for lieutenant governor in 2014 but withdrew from the race because of severe back pain.

In the current race, he says, he’s been focused on rural economic development and calling for creation of an assistant economic affairs post for Western Massachusetts. He’s also called for the state to fully fund special education to focus attention on education delivery rather than how they will pay for those services and wants the single-payer debate changed from “if” to “how” it will be implemented. Edwards says he also wants to advance clean energy and energy efficiency policies that move the state toward 100 percent clean energy.

For Edwards, who works for Tech Foundry, a nonprofit workforce training program “for people on the economic sidelines,” providing basic skills identified by over 100 employers it works with, economic development by attracting businesses to the region is essential to reverse the population decline.

“If Western Mass wants to grow its economy — and we have to grow our economy to reverse our population trends — we have to go about fixing our skills gap so manufacturers see Western Mass as a place not to just survive economically, but to build its satellites,” he said.

He believes that the Chapter 70 education funding formula needs to be fixed and the state needs to pay for special education programs and for health care benefits for public schools, both of which he says are vastly underfunded.

“I know how to make a new system work,” Edwards says, pointing to the South County EMS, which he was told repeatedly couldn’t work and demanded a “stick-to-it-ness …. I think we need to be disruptive in Western Mass in order to be noticed by Boston.”

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