Conner running for Bennington Selectboard, biggest issue is absentee landlords


BENNINGTON — Jeanne Conner says absentee landlords are a primary concern for her as she runs for a seat on the Selectboard.

Conner came to Bennington in 1989. Her husband, who worked at AT&T, took advantage of a relocation program the company offered. for the past three years she has been director of development at the Bennington Museum.

Conner's background has largely been in development. She raised funds for Williams College, in Williamstown, Mass. for 10 years, and did the same for Southwestern Vermont Health Care for five years before going to work at the museum. She spent about eight years serving on the Bennington School District board and is currently on the boards for Bennington Project Independence, and Shires Housing.

"I think I will bring positive energy, not that the board is negative, but more positive thinking is always better," she said.

Conner said she favors outside-the-box thinking and is not a fan of the phrase, "We've never done that before."

She said the town needs to rethink how it has approached development in the downtown district and look into something new.

"I think in today's economy and in today's world you have to be willing to think differently and possibly take reasonable risks to be successful," she said. "You can't keep doing the same thing, the same way. Our success is going to be doing something different."

While she favors new approaches, it's important to keep the town's character intact. She said there used to be more public gathering places in town, and they could be brought back. Such things would foster a better sense of community between people.

"We hear a lot of negative, and that negative starts to snowball," she said. "There's no reason the positive can't snowball. We've got a lot going on here, a lot of great stuff is happening in town."

She said her biggest issue is the problem of absentee landlords managing dilapidated properties. Conner said it's her understanding that there is some financial benefit to landlords who do not maintain their buildings, and that this state of affairs should be ended or stymied.

Conner said she brings a philosophical style to working on boards, while the candidate she is running with, Jeannie Jenkins, has a more economical approach.

She said she had considered running for the board in the past.

"It's something I had thought about often over the last 10 years, it just never felt right or there was always something more pressing," she said. "Jeannie Jenkins and I were both approached by two separate people to run, and neither one of us jumped at the chance, and I could not let it go, it kept gnawing at me. I couldn't turn my back on it. The thought of Jeannie and I running together was really appealing."

If the legislature decides to legalize marijuana use and sale, Bennington will have some options when it comes to local controls. Conner said she attended a large forum hosted by the Vermont Senate Committee on Judiciary and took away a number of thoughts. Among them, that decisions should be based on science, that marijuana is here now and is not likely to go away, that Bennington would do well to learn from other community's success and problems with legalization, and that the more discussion is had on the topic, the better.

Conner said she feels disagreement on a board is healthy and that better conclusions are ultimately reached because of it.

"I think disagreement is really good," she said. "People think of different things and if they're disagreeing there's a good reason for that. Having a variety of opinions to come to one conclusion is a positive."

Besides Conner and Jenkins, appearing on the ballot for Bennignton Selectboard will be Don Miller, Thomas Jacobs, Mike Bethel, Michael McDonough, and Jason Bushee. The Banner will run interviews with each prior to the March 1 election, except Bushee who did not return calls or emails.

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


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