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Northampton is a lively, diverse community located in the heart of the Five College Area of the Pioneer Valley. Home to Smith College, Northampton also serves as the county seat of Hampshire County. It is located at the intersection of a major east-west highway which links Amherst and the University of Massachusetts with the hilltowns to the west, and the north-south corridor of Route 91. Calvin Coolidge once served as mayor, while the city's first woman mayor, the Honorable Mary Ford, was elected in 1991; and today, Mary Claire Higgins serves as mayor. Residents see Northampton as both traditional and innovative. Several village centers provide focal points for outlying residential areas while the downtown is alive days and evenings with a wide selection of restaurants, coffee and ice-cream shops, theaters including the only municipally owned theater in the state, clubs featuring an array of music, street musicians and a Center for the Arts. All of this provides a perfect atmosphere for strolling, area. The city also offers strong municipal programs in education, recreation, public safety and public works. It is known for its energy conservation program and its initiative to improve handicap access to downtown establishments. The community has a strong and diverse economic base consisting of a resilient retail and commercial sector, a manufacturing sector which shows a mixture of traditional operations
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