As the “retiring” member of Bennington’s Select Board, I want to take this opportunity to thank the citizens of Bennington for their support and encouragement during my time on the board. I appreciate your questions, willingness to share your thoughts and opinions, and, in general, your respect when we differed on a particular issue. That is what is necessary in a democracy. The position is not quite the “thankless” one that it is sometimes made out to be. I would also thank the candidates for the Select Board for choosing to run. I am thankful that the six of you chose to put yourself forward and to offer your insight, your time and your expertise.
Congratulations to Sarah Perrin and Ed Woods in your victory, and I wish you all the best in the three years that lie ahead. But also, to the other four, please know that your participation confirmed my belief that there is ample talent within this town, and your gifts are needed even if you didn’t win this particular election. One of the reasons I chose not to run again for this position was to demonstrate that there are many good people in Bennington who can and should try to be on this very important town body. New perspectives should always be welcome and will only help to grow a stronger Bennington.
But a couple of observations are in order as someone who is still on the Board of Civil Authority. I was deeply disappointed in the few numbers of people who chose to run for school boards serving our town. These are important positions that affect all the people of Bennington in many ways. Not only are school budgets critical decisions for all townspeople, but the operation of and success of public education depends on committed people making the policy decisions that help operate our public schools: elementary, secondary and technical. I do not wish to see this shortage again. The current boards can act to help prevent this from happening, but so can all of us.
Finally, and sadly, it appears that only about 20 percent of the nearly 9,500 registered voters voted in this election. I knew that it would be a small percentage while working the latter half of the day at the polls. I hope that the more than 7,000 of you who chose not to vote will both understand how important that decision was but will also re-examine your commitment to participatory democracy. Voting can bring change, and there are many opportunities in Vermont to register and to exercise this governmental “muscle." This will be a concern that I will continue to work on in the months and years ahead.
I will also be happy to share some of what I have learned in the last four years if you wish to stop me on the street and ask. Local town government should never become a mystery to any of us. I’ll see you around town.