Tuesday January 15, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Select Board will have at least two new members after Town Meeting Day in March as two incumbents depart.

Three-term incumbent Christopher Oldham and two-term incumbent Jason Morrissey have opted against seeking re-election. Sharyn Brush, a five-term incumbent and the current vice-chairwoman of the board, said Monday she will seek another term.

This year's election will continue the trend of board turnover. Last year, Greg van Houten and Jim Carroll were elected as new members, with then-incumbent John Zink ousted.

Only one new candidate has emerged so far. John McFadden, an employee of Mack Molding in Arlington, is making his first run for public office. The 24-year-old said he returned to Bennington about two years ago after earning an engineering degree.

"I like the place where I grew up and want to contribute," he said.

Local activist Michael Bethel has also announced his candidacy. He also sought a seat on the board last year but was defeated.

Several others are said to be considering a run, according to Bennington Town Clerk Timothy Corcoran.

Morrissey cited on Monday a desire to devote more time to his family and law practice as his main reason against seeking re-election.

"I just feel like my daughter is getting older, my business is getting busier. Those are taking up more time," he said. "I don't want to be a select board member who is mailing it in.


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If you see my name on a ballot then you know I'm committed to the job. At this point, I just can't commit to being the select board member I have been, I think, for the last six years, for the next three years."

Morrissey, one of the more vocal members on the board in recent years, said he was proud of his willingness "to put forth ideas" during his tenure.

"I think I've showed up prepared and ready to support an argument," he said. "Right now I can't sit here today and tell you I'm committed to that for another three years."

Boards "can get stale over time," Morrissey said. "Having a little turnover and getting responsible people into that position is probably not a bad thing," he said.

However, Morrissey said he is not ruling out a future run for a seat on the board, or another public office.

"I strongly suspect that's not the last time you're going to see my name on the ballot. But, I have no current plans and no current ambition and nothing in mind as I make that comment," he said.

Oldham, too, said it was time for him to move on.

"After nine years, it's time for me to change course. I don't think it's great for one person to be in position for too long. I believe it needs to be changed up a bit," he said. "Even three years ago I was contemplating not running but decided to do it for another three years."

Oldham said he plans to focus on writing a children's book, and working on housing and homelessness issues in the area. He plans to ask the new Select Board to appoint him to the Bennington Housing Authority board. Oldham said he is likely to seek a seat in the Vermont Legislature in the future.

"It has been an absolute honor to sit on the Select Board for the last nine years," he said.

Articles on each candidate for the board will appear in the Banner after the filing deadline later this month.