Mayoral deja vu for town?

BENNINGTON — Ardent supporters of a mayor for the town of Bennington apparently aren't taking three strikes for an answer.

Mike Bethel spearheaded the most recent vote on a mayoral format, which was defeated in the March 6 annual election, but he announced Tuesday that he'll try again. He's aiming for the November ballot.

"I think we're building momentum," he said, "and there will be a bigger vote [turnout] in November."

This time, Bethel said, he'll submit a more complete amendment to the Bennington government charter, detailing all aspects of a switch from the town manager/select board format to one with an elected mayor and elimination of the hired manager's position.

The binding referendum he submitted in December through a citizen petition drive called for a "strong mayor" with veto power over "any action of the select board."

The amendment wording contained no provision for a veto override, no language about the length of the mayor's term or other details, which drew widespread criticism as leaving too much to further charter changes and giving too much power to a single official.

"All the fear stuff will be out of it," said Bethel, referring to concerns voiced that such a mayor could prove dictatorial.

A three-year term for the mayor, an override provision and other details will be proposed within another binding referendum, he said, adding that public forums will be scheduled over the summer to gather input on what language should be included.

Like the previous ballot article, the revised proposal will be prepared with help from his attorney, Paul Gillies, a former deputy secretary of state, Bethel said.

On March 6, the mayor question was defeated 1,483 votes to 954. The change was opposed by every member of the current Select Board, and no town official spoke in favor.

The idea of a mayor for Bennington also was defeated at the polls in 1998 and 2003, both in nonbinding referendums.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and Email: @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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