Sharyn Brush talks about her 19 years on the Select Board
BENNINGTON — One of the longest-serving members of the Select Board won't be seeking reelection this year, after 19 years of service.
Sharyn Brush first ran in 1997 to fill out the remaining year on the term of a member who had resigned.
"It's a long time," she said. "I would have to be one of the record holders, I would think."
Brush came to Bennington in 1976 and worked as a medical assistant in various places before later transitioning to the banking industry. Originally from Chittenden, she had moved out west and wanted to be closer to where she grew up.
Her first foray into public service was taking a position as Bennington Town Health Officer. She was encouraged to do so by the late Town Clerk Tim Corcoran.
She did that for about three years and served on the Zoning Board for about 10. She eventually became chairwoman of the Zoning Board before making the leap to Select Board.
"I think there was six of us that ran," she said. "That was when they voted at the church, in the church hall. It had to be 20 below zero on the day of the election. We all stood there, hunkered down, you couldn't even see us in our coats."
Voting used to be done at the parish hall of the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales church.
Brush, who retired recently, said she plans to do more traveling with her husband.
"It's been long enough, I think somebody else needs a turn," she said.
The deadline for those wanting to be on the ballot is Jan. 25. Brush's seat will be vacant, along with one currently held by John McFadden. Chairman Thomas Jacobs is expected to run again.
"I've always enjoyed it," Brush said. "At times there's a lot of homework to do, but I've met a lot of great people, and people have supported me for a long time, so I must have been doing something right."
Brush said she has always tried to do what is best for the town and bring board members together on issues.
"You don't accomplish anything if you have your own agenda, because you can't do anything by yourself, you have to do it as a board," she said. "You learn to work together."
The current board, while there are disagreements, tends to reach a consensus on most things. This has not always been so, she said.
One of the most contentious issues the town has faced over the years has been the zoning of the Johnson Controls site. Last year, the board voted to change the zoning from industrial to commercial. This came after years of contentious debates both on the board and in public hearings.
"Those public hearings, they were not fun," she said.
Lighting the Bennington Battle Monument at night was another contentious issue she remembers, as was the state building the Route 279 connectors.
"I was chair of the board when they opened 279, that's been an on-going thing since before I got on the board," she said. "I've always been a big supporter of that and I hope they finish the third leg."
Route 279, the east and west portions, were designed to route truck traffic around the downtown. Their impact on the local economy has been a subject of debate.
Her advice to anyone coming on the board is to, "Listen, keep an open mind, and you've got to go with your gut sometimes."
She feels the board is on the right track now with its efforts to be more proactive with marketing the town.
Brush said she plans to remain on the Board of Trustees for Applegate Housing Inc., the corporate entity that oversees the Applegate housing complex, and the Board of Trustees for the Green Mountain Community Network, which manages the Green Mountain Express, a local bus system.
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