Bennington Select Board will leave seat vacant until March

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BENNINGTON — The Select Board has decided not to fill a vacancy created by the death of Bill Scully on July 19 and will allow voters to make that choice during the March 2021 annual town meeting.

Appointing one of the losing Select Board candidates from the 2020 town election was considered, as was offering to appoint Scully's widow, Maria Scully, to the board seat.

Conducting a local election during the Nov. 3 state/federal election also has been rejected, because of the additional cost and expected complications already anticipated because of a surge in voting by mail and high voter turnout, said board Chairman Donald Campbell.

"There is no reason we have to fill that vacancy at this point," Campbell said during a board discussion of the vacancy Monday.

Since whoever was appointed would "have a leg up" for election to a full term in March, Campbell said that "doesn't seem particularly fair," and "it seems to me that is not a precedent we necessarily want to follow. It seems to me we should consider a different way forward."

Prior vacancy filled

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Campbell acknowledged that board member Bruce Lee-Clark was appointed to the board in June 2019 after Carson Thurber left to accept a position as headmaster at Stratton Mountain School, but he noted that Lee-Clark had narrowly missed election in a race that required a recount.

In March this year, the situation was different, he said, leaving no obvious choice.

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Lee-Clark was elected to a full term with 1,403 votes; Sarah Perrin finished second with 1,316 votes and also was elected, while Tom Haley received 988 votes, Peter Brady 946, Nancy White 866, and Colleen Harrington 504.

Prior to the board vote Monday to leave the vacancy unfilled, Perrin said she had spoken about the seat with Maria Scully, who said she is not interested at this time but might consider a run in the future.

Contacted on Thursday, Campbell said, "Informally, a couple of [board] members had a mild notion that it might be fitting to offer the seat to Maria as appreciation for Bill's effort; the rest of us felt Maria would be great but that she is so competent she deserves to have the satisfaction of being elected on her own merits, if ever she wants to run."

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He added, "Appointing her because of Bill seems patronizing to me, but they wanted to ask her anyway, which they did on their own, and she reportedly is not interested at this time."

If she does decide to run for the board, he said, "I think Maria would be great and I would support her candidacy."

Finally, Campbell said, if the board were to appoint anyone now, "I feel we should open the process to any applicants and strive for the fairest possible process. Ultimately, the board agreed simply to let the voters decide in March."

He added that "we could revisit this at any time" if there is a perceived need to fill the vacancy earlier.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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