Bennington Select Board Vice Chairman to step down in January

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BENNINGTON — The vice chairman of the Select Board will leave his seat in January.

John McFadden, 27, is joining a Boston-based startup company that has developed a chemical mixer designed for use by pharmaceutical companies and college laboratories.

"It was kind of unexpected, I didn't really see it coming, but it's a really good opportunity on many fronts, mostly career. It puts me in a position I wouldn't otherwise be able to grab onto," he said in an interview Tuesday.

He made the announcement at Monday's board meeting.

Board Chairman Thomas Jacobs said the board will most likely not appoint anyone to fill the seat, and wait for someone to be elected to it come March.

McFadden, a program manager at Mack Molding, in Arlington, was elected to a three-year term in 2013 and voted in as vice chairman this year. He was, and is, the youngest member of the board. His age, however, did not define his tenure as much as many expected.

"I think I look at things analytically, I try to look at problems and get down to the core of them I try to eliminate the emotional context of this and say, 'Does this make sense?'" he said.

When it came to big issues the board contemplated, McFadden would often ask many, probing questions of presenters.

"I think things often get passed through a little too quickly, and I think I've stopped to try and make people think a little more, to look at the numbers and think more long-term, not just at what's being presented," he said. "Often you'll have a presenter that's going to give you the sunshine to make you feel warm and fuzzy and pass something, but you need to be digging down a little further, and I think I did that."

He said that during his first year on the board, he often felt frustrated over how decisions were reached. More than a few times he and fellow board member Justin Corcoran were on the losing side of votes.

Things slowly changed, however, and during his time on the board McFadden was able to spur several things into being, namely ways for the town to measure itself.

"There was no goal-setting whatsoever, there was no evaluation of the town manager, and I was frustrated by those things," he said.

He said he found an ally in board member Michael Keane, and they were able to work on a town-wide survey sent out to business owners which came back with results not long ago. The results surprised no one, McFadden said, but having the real data versus subjective anecdotes allows the town to move ahead in an intelligent fashion.

He was also able to move forward an initiative to create an evaluation for the town manager, which began with Jacobs suggesting the town manager job description being updated.

That, McFadden said, was interesting, because there were different ideas on what role the town manager should have, a more driven one, or something more passive. McFadden said feels a town manager should come up with initiatives to put before the board.

"The hardest thing for me was to leave the board, because I wasn't done," he said. "I feel like there's a lot of momentum that's been building, especially over this last year."

McFadden said he will likely keep his home in Bennington, as his job will require him to periodically return, but he will likely sell the other rental properties he owns, one each in Shaftsbury and Manchester.

"John has certainly grown into the position over three years," said Jacobs, who was also elected in 2013. "I'm going to miss him. I grew to have a lot of confidence in his participation and effort."

Board member Jim Carroll said he is sorry to see McFadden go, saying that McFadden proved to be fearless and able to stand up to some fairly intense pressure.

"It has been a pleasure to work with John and he will be greatly missed," said board member Justin Corcoran. "He brought an engineer's thought process to the board and forced us to look at things not just subjectively but analytically as well. John was, and is, an asset to Bennington and one of its greatest supporters. He showed that, day in and day out, with the effort and hard work he put into making Bennington great again. I wish him all of the luck in the world, and hope that someday he will return home. I'm sure he will."

At the meeting, long-time board member Sharyn Brush said she will not seek reelection. Jacobs' term is also up this year. He said Tuesday he plans to run.

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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