By Ally Lanasa
(Sept. 10, 2020) Shaneka Nichols, a Flower Street resident, filed for the District 3 Berlin Town Council seat last Wednesday and will face Dan Packey in the nonpartisan election.
“Public office wasn’t something I ever saw myself doing, However, when it was brought to my attention that my predecessor, Mr. Brittingham, was considering retirement and that representation for our district was questionable at that point as to who was going to follow … a couple people had said, ‘Well, we thought you might be a great person to [succeed] him,’” Nichols said. “And to think that your neighbors, the people within your community, see you as someone that they would have faith in representing them and standing up and speaking on their behalf — being that voice for the community — was something that made me feel that you’d have to set yourself aside and look at what your community is asking for.”
After 32 years as a town council member, Elroy Brittingham will not seek another four-year term.
“I feel that Mr. Brittingham has done a phenomenal job representing this district during his time in office,” Nichols said. “I have a great deal of respect for him, and I applaud everything he has done for us, for the district.”
Nichols added that if elected for the council seat, she hopes she can represent the district as well as Brittingham did.
Nichols works at Berlin Intermediate School as an educational assistant for in-school suspension.
“Because I do work in the education system, I do strongly believe that for any community to grow, you have to invest in your future,” Nichols said. “We need to as a town, as a whole, need to invest in our children … allow them to be stakeholders in the Town of Berlin. Give them something that they can take pride in, say a community center.”
Nichols believes the multi-purpose building on Flower Street would be an ideal location for a community center for the children.
“Worcester County Public Schools is doing great things for our children right now, and to be able to foster that outside of school with the community center would only [decrease] the divide between our lower income children and families and those that aren’t in the same economic standing,” Nichols said. “That’s where my passion truly is — in bridging the gap.”
Nichols, 45, is a mother to six children, ranging from 8 years old to 24 years old. She is also a grandmother to a 10-month-old boy.
As a relative of the Briddel lineage, Nichols has deep roots in the community, and she grew up on Flower Street.
“Berlin has been a part of me for centuries even before I came to be,” she said. “I might be the 10th generation in my family.”
With a focus on family, Nichols hopes the community center would encourage foster grandparents to assist families in need and draw the cooperation of educators and business owners.
“My other thought is … bridging that gap, literally bridging the connection between the east side of Berlin and Main Street Berlin, or the west side of Berlin,” Nichols said. “It really and truly is that highway that divides us.”
Nichols added that her goal is to make the highway only a physical divide and not a socioeconomic barrier between the different communities in Berlin.
“Berlin doesn’t stop on the west side of [Route] 113,” she said. “There’s a rich culture and heritage, and even a new culture that is sprouting up in the last decade right here in Berlin, which is our Latino community.
“I’d like for there to be a ‘we’ as far as Berlin goes. All of us, we are Berlin, all of us,” she continued.
One of Nichols’ objectives is to host more cultural events on the east side of Berlin in the future to help foster empathy among the town’s residents.
In addition, Nichols said taxes are a major concern for the entire town.
“I’d like to get a better understanding of how we got where we are with finances and be able to explain in plain English to the people in our district how we got here and work together with the mayor and council, so in the future we’re not hit with such a drastic increase [in taxes] further coming,” she said.