Lee-Clark offered board appointment

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BENNINGTON — Bruce Lee-Clark, who narrowly lost a bid for the Select Board in March, is poised to replace Carson Thurber when he leaves the board July 1.

The board on Monday resolved to appoint a replacement for Thurber and to offer the position to Lee-Clark, who lost in the annual election by a razor thin margin. Board members rejected the other two options for filling a vacancy — leaving the position open until the next annual election or holding a special election.

Reached Tuesday, Lee-Clark said he would accept the position.

"I've had some informal conversations with board members, and indicated I would be willing," he said. "When asked, I will say yes."

Serving on the Select Board "will be an honor," he said.

In the March election, incumbents Jeannie Jenkins and Jeanne Conner and newcomer Bill Scully were elected in a four-way race for three board seats. Lee-Clark finished 3 votes behind Jenkins for the final spot, with each candidate receiving more than 1,000 votes. A recount certified the margin as 5 votes.

Lee-Clark said he hoped to run again in March but was unsure he would want to challenge any of the incumbents if they decided to run for re-election.

Although he now won't have to make that decision, he said the only negative aspect is that Thurber, who was named the next headmaster of the Stratton Mountain School, will be leaving the board.

"Carson served extremely well," Lee-Clark said, adding, "He is thoughtful, careful and kind. My only regret is that he won't still be on the board."

Board discussion

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During the discussion Monday, board member Jim Carroll said the election in March was close, and "it would be a logical and wise choice" to appoint the runner-up to fill the vacancy.

Jeannie Jenkins, Chad Gordon and Bill Scully all indicated they concurred. Board members also spoke against incurring the expense of a special election to fill a post through March.

"He would bring a skill set we don't currently have on the board," Scully said, referring to legal expertise.

Lee-Clark retired in 2018 after 22 years of teaching law courses at the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center.

Board member Jeanne Connor at first said it would be her preference to leave the seat vacant and allow voters to fill it in March. She added that it might prove difficult for a new member to "get up to speed" coming in at mid-year, and she thought the chances of 3-3 tie votes unlikely.

However, Town Manager Stuart Hurd said issues legally require a majority of the seven-member board to approve, which would mean four votes regardless of the number currently serving.

In addition to teaching at the CDC, Lee-Clark also has served on the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's Policy Drafting Committee. He taught pre-law and forensics courses at the center.

Prior to joining the CDC faculty, he was a practicing attorney working for Legal Services of Central New York as the head of the AIDS Law Project. He received his bachelor's degree and a law degree from Syracuse University and a master of divinity degree from Harvard University

After working as a Methodist minister and attending the Syracuse University College of Law, Lee-Clark was hired at the CDC and moved to Bennington in 1995.

For six years, he served as president of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services board when it became a separate entity from the Interfaith Council. He helped oversee programs like the Free Clinic and the Kitchen Cupboard, which was initiated during his time there.

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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