BENNINGTON — Jeannie Jenkins hails from a background of workforce development and education, and if elected to the Selectboard would bring a hands-on and proactive approach.
Jenkins has worked at the Community College of Vermont for the past 25 years where she currently serves as a coordinator of academic services. There, she advises students, sets schedules, hires and supervises faculty. She is also chairwoman of the Workforce and Education Committee which is part of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation. Jenkins is also involved with Bennington Economic Development Partners.
She is currently the president of the Better Bennington Corporation, a non-profit geared towards improving the downtown district, and in the past has served on the Bennington School District board and the Southshire Community School board.
Jenkins said she has worked with others to create Career Week, the Sophomore Career Summit, and the Southshire Challenge.
"Education and workforce development are things I'm intimately involved in, and I've lived here for a long time," she said. She said she came to Bennington some 27 years ago when her husband was hired at Bennington College. Both her daughters were Mount Anthony Union High School graduates
She said she is pleased at the actions the current board has taken in the past year.
"I think it has been moving in a much more proactive way, and I think that's a real strength. The focus on economic development and really recognizing the transition period we're in," she said.
That transition, she said, is from a town reliant on a number of large employers to one made up of smaller businesses with a handful of employees. She said this trend is something that appears to be happening statewide and in the nation as a whole.
Jenkins said she feels the board has done well to create measuring tools for itself and the town's business climate.
"I like that they had the business survey that went out, I think that was a very good step to start getting a sense of what works for business in this community and how the town can do a better job of meeting business needs," she said. "I like the selectboard scorecard as well, I think it helps focus the board's efforts and gives us a way of seeing how we're doing."
As a board member, Jenkins said she would work to keep the board focused on economic development.
"I would definitely want us to continue in the direction of looking at economic development and keeping that as a high priority," she said.
There are other places the board could be putting more effort, however.
"An area where I don't see a lot of attention, where I think we have to put more focus on, is on that 15 to 35 year-old-range," she said. "I think we have opportunities to build on what we have at the rec center. There are opportunities to collaborate with Northern Berkshire YMCA, for instance. I think we can bring in more opportunities for youth which gives positive, engaging focus for middle school and high schoolers."
These efforts would make Bennington a more positive place for youth, and encourage them to stay, especially those who have come to town for college.
She said while the town has many challenges, it's important for it to keep its focus on key areas lest its energy and resources become too diluted.
"I want to be on boards where I know what's going on, so it's very important for me to be on boards that are transparent and I can be involved in the process, it's not someone just coming to me and saying, 'here's what we're doing,'" she said. "I am a pretty roll-up-your-sleeves kind of person."
With solar array projects being proposed in town, and likely more to come, Jenkins said she is in favor of them, generally, but sitting is important.
She said the Bennington County Regional Commission has done a great deal of work in identifying locations where solar facilities could be placed with the least amount of impact.
"The Selectboard should absolutely be asking the regional commission to work with it to determine where good sites are," she said.
At some point in the near future, the town may be faced with the state having legalized marijuana use and sale.
"I think we should be keeping ourselves informed, we should be watching the legislation as its moving through," Jenkins said. "We're not the first people on the planet to be faced with this. We should be looking at what other communities have learned."
Jenkins is running her campaign alongside Jeanne Conner. She has been mulling a run for many years and decided to take the plunge for many reasons.
"Jeanne and I have known each other over the years, I really respect her, she has a lot of integrity, she's very honest," Jenkins said. "Transparency is very important to her, I feel our approach to public service is very similar."
Besides Jenkins and Conner, the other candidates are Mike Bethel, Michael McDonough, Thomas Jacobs, Don Miller, and Jason Bushee. The Banner will print interviews with each candidate before Town Meeting Day on March 1, except Bushee who has not returned calls or emails.
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115