Campbell to lead Bennington board
BENNINGTON — Donald Campbell is the new chairman of the Bennington Select Board after his unanimous election Monday by fellow board members.
Replacing Campbell as vice chairman was Jeannie Jenkins, who also was elected unanimously.
Former Chairman Thomas Jacobs did not seek another term in the March elections. He was replaced on the board by Bill Scully, of North Bennington, a restaurant owner and hydropower developer, who attended his first meeting.
In accepting the post, Campbell stressed that "although I'm chairman, the chair is really a leader among equals on this board."
Despite a town charter change that makes the chairman the official Bennington representative for all ceremonial occasions, "together the full select board is the head of this town," Campbell said.
The charter amendment and others were approved by voters in June, and the revisions now are under review by the Legislature and expected to receive final approval this session.
"The strength of any select board is having multiple contacts throughout the community," Campbell said, "and I encourage you [the public] to contact them."
He noted the wide range of professions, education and interests among the seven board members, encouraging residents to take advantage of that knowledge.
"I encourage you to talk to them about any issue," he added. "While no board member can speak for the board, they'll communicate your concerns to me and the town staff."
In speaking of the year ahead, Campbell said goals include greater transparency about the work and decision schedules of the board and concerning work by the town staff.
He also read an excerpt from the Town Plan that provides a vision statement and lists overriding goals for Bennington, adding, "In my opinion, the current town plan somewhat understates this community's shared commitment to being a fair and inclusive society, one in which we actively resist discrimination against people for their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or financial circumstances."
Soon, he said, the town will be sponsoring implicit bias training for all staff members, and the board will be evaluating with outside help best practices for the Bennington Police Department.
The town also is exploring a year-long partnership with the Center for Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, Campbell said, "to design a meaningful inquiring into how we can be the most welcoming, inclusive possible."
Also on Monday, the board was urged by members of Climate Advocates of Bennington and others to move ahead with adoption of an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags, as well as support a statewide ban proposed in the bill S.113.
Group member Elizabeth Schumacher asked board members and residents to write local legislators to advocate for passage of the bill, which addresses single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and polystyrene foam packaging in an effort to reduce the negative effects of plastics waste on the environment.
Bruce Lee-Clark urged support for the bill and also for the board to adopt a local ordinance with similar or identical goals to those in S.113. Not only can't the town be certain the bill will pass and obtain the governor's signature, Lee-Clark said, but an ordinance could be implemented as soon as possible, rather than as proposed statewide, in July 2020.
"We have to apply pressure from below" for such legislation, he said.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate and now is in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife.
While Campbell said board members seem in agreement with the goals of a plastic bag ban, town officials and staff members have favored a regional — perhaps countywide — approach in the absence of a statewide ban.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said he believes the most efficient course for the board might be to send a statement to the Legislature supporting a ban.
Board member Jim Carroll, also a member of the House from Bennington District 2-2, said he would be happy to deliver that message.
Board members indicated a draft of the statement would be prepared for review at the next board meeting.
And the board honored Post 13 in Bennington and the American Legion on the 100th anniversary of the service organization, which formed just after World War I in 1919.
Members of the post accepted a proclamation from the board marking American Legion Centennial Day. About a dozen legionnaires attended and led to board and audience members in the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
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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