BENNINGTON >> Select Board candidate Don Miller said the town needs to craft a vision for itself and task personnel to go out and market that vision in order to bring businesses here.
Miller moved to Bennington in 2002. A Connecticut native, he graduated from law school there and worked in the insurance industry for many years. He came to this area to retire, but ended up doing some work for the owner of the Nationwide Insurance on North Street, ultimately buying it in 2005.
He ran for the board last year.
"I'm a year older, a little smarter, a little sharper," he said. "I want to be proactive. I believe in Bennington's past, present, and future, I think we have a great future. I think we've got huge challenges right now. If we build on who we are, what we are, what we have, and move forward together I think that we'll be doing well."
A number of things are needed for Bennington to move forward, he said. One is the town needs a coherent vision, a goal it can articulate and work towards. "That's the beginning of a marketing plan, is to articulate a vision; where we want to be, what we have, how to get there," he said.
He is in favor of some of the steps the board has already taken towards that goal, namely the town scorecard, a tool the board is designing that hopefully will measure the town's various goals.
"I applaud (Board Chairman) Tom Jacobs for bringing about some changes in terms of the management of the Select Board. I believe they started to do things that should have been done for a long time; performance evaluations, the scorecard, I think (former board member) John McFadden had a lot to do to get that off the ground, I would also give credit to (board member) Michael Keane for picking it up and providing some leadership on that," Miller said.
Miller said he feels the scorecard should have far more goals and measurements than it does, but starting small is probably best.
"I think the idea of setting goals is extremely important," he said. "I don't know of any organization that succeeds that doesn't set goals then manage to the objectives. Not everything is uniquely measurable, but at least have an idea of what the goals are, then come back later and measure, 'Well how'd we do?'"
He would also like to see a more coordinated and proactive approach to the town's marketing plans.
"The (Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce), the (Better Bennington Corporation), the other economic people need to work together to define who we are, what we have to offer, and try to figure out who might fit, and where might we find them, and then somebody go after them, approach them," he said.
The town's approach in the past has been to wait for businesses to find Bennington, then work with them. He said this does not give the town much control in what sorts of entities come here. Miller said the town has talented people who could do this.
His approach to working with others is to take ideas from everyone involved and try to get everyone working on something to take ownership of the end result. Ideas that people had a say in, they tend to work harder on and see through.
As for the Legislature mulling over a marijuana legalization bill, Miller said that, like anything, it's best to think and plan ahead.
"If legalization is inevitable, as many people tell us, then we need to be as ready as we can when it comes," he said.
The current bill working its way through the state Senate is specific and detailed enough to give towns a sense of what they will be in for if it passes
"We should definitely be planning now for that day when it gets passed and that would involve looking at what kind of zoning regulations we need, if you're going to have retail outlets, and there should be rules for people to open up shop, to conduct business, there ought to be rules about misuse of a drug, not unlike alcohol," he said.
He said that while prohibition has not worked, he worries about the long-term effects marijuana can have on young people, so there are precautions to be taken and to consider.
The past few years have seen several solar arrays proposed to be built in or around Bennington, some more controversial than others.
"Solar is a good way to go in the future, the problem is what everybody worries about, the visual effect," Miller said. He said the visual impacts of such projects should be mitigated, but the process of permitting them also needs to be more public-friendly and the financial benefits more understandable.
Aside from Miller, running for the board is Mike Bethel, Michael McDonough, Jacobs, Jeanne Conner, Jeanie Jenkins, and Jason Bushee. The Banner has run interviews with each, except Bushee who did not return calls. Town Meeting Day is March 1.
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115