Small business owner seeks Select Board seat

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Editor's note: This is one of six Banner profiles of candidates seeking a Bennington Select Board seat in the March 3 annual election.

BENNINGTON — A small business owner who wants to focus on creating a more supportive economic climate in Bennington is one of six candidates seeking two open seats on the Select Board.

"My top issues are supporting a strong downtown, building off the Putnam Block [project]," said Sarah Perrin, co-owner of Green Mountain Concessions. "And I am thinking in terms of retaining people in the town, retaining people who are here and bringing in new people — supporting businesses and creating new job opportunities."

Affordable housing also is a component of the local economy Perrin believes should be addressed. "Currently, rentals are too expensive; the apartment rental market is not a healthy rental market," she said.

In addition to operating with her husband the catering and concessions business, which she said brings natural and Vermont-sourced treats to large events and festivals throughout the Northeast, Perrin also owns and manages several rental apartments.

"I think we have a lot of great projects going on right now that are near completion," Perrin said during an interview. "I think that building off them is the next step to revitalizing downtown and helping businesses that are struggling right now succeed. Attracting new people to the area would help them."

Fell in love with town

Perrin said that when she and her husband, Michael Nigro, moved to town a decade ago, "I fell in love with this town. It's so quintessential a New England town, in my opinion. There are always problems but if you look downtown, it's just so pretty and beautiful. I can just see so much opportunity. Even though businesses are struggling, I think they just need a little help in some areas."

After growing up in upstate New York and graduating from high school in Fonda and later from St. Bonaventure University, Perrin said she lived in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, for a time before moving to Bennington.

About five years ago, she and her husband purchased and renovated the former Church of Christian Science building on Hillside Street into a residence.

She said that project was one she enjoyed and was a process she understood — having lived in a converted former schoolhouse in Saugerties, New York, that had been turned into a residence by her father.

Perrin said her interest in running for the Select Board grew from her involvement with several local organizations and community events — including the Bennington Downtown Food Truck Festival, which she co-founded in 2018.

"People have been asking if I wanted to do it," she said of running for office. "I am involved in multiple organizations and volunteer for multiple events as well. I feel that this is another arena that I can contribute to in Bennington and help support the town; hopefully to bring it up a little bit, to help to revitalize it."

The town "is a beautiful asset," she added. "Main Street is a beautiful asset; that's what we have."

In Bennington, she has been active in the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Southern Vermont Garlic Festival, Bennington Young Professionals; the Bennington Elks, Norshaft Lions and the Bennington Rotary.

Speaking of the food truck festival, she said, "We were really pleased with how the event came together. Both years have been incredibly successful, and we received so much incredible feedback from Bennington residents, the town and select board, business owners, and visitors who came to Bennington for the event."

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She added, "It was very exciting and energizing to see how people responded that event, and I realized people really come out to support exciting new events and projects . I really think the positive energy and support I felt after that event inspired me to want to do more for the town."

Transparency a goal

If elected to the board, Perrin said she wants to promote transparency in town government and efforts to involve and inform greater numbers of residents in decisions.

"I think fiscal responsibility and transparency are very important," she said, "and that is what I hope to provide. Although there is a lot right now, I feel there is a lot more [information] we could provide to people."

Concerning ongoing town projects like the Splash Pad off North Street and expansion of the Bennington Recreation Center, Perrin said she would like to see the town rely primarily on grant funding to finish that work.

"Grants are good for the community," she said, adding, that if the town doesn't pursue the funds, "the money will go elsewhere."

On the proposed 1 percent local option sales tax, which is a question on the annual town ballot, Perrin said, "Personally, I would want to see where the [tax] money is going to go."

She said that prior to the March 3 annual election, voters should have all of their questions answered about the tax and how the extra revenue — estimated as high as $1.2 million per year — will be allocated.

"I personally want to hear more on that," Perrin said. "Because the way it is right now, I want to see where the money is going to go. I feel I am fairly fiscally conservative in my personal life, and that's why I want to see where everything is going to go before making that decision."

Plans if elected

"A lot of people ask me what my plans are," Perrin said. "A lot of people ask, `are you going to go in and kind of bulldoze a lot of things, or are you going to change this or that right away?'"

She said, "My plan is not to go in and try to shake things up right away. My plan is to go in and try to be a team player. And share a lot my ideas but also listen to the ideas of others; I'm more of a listener and believe in hearing other ideas and working together as a team."

Perrin added that communicating with the community in a positive way is a major component of how she would try to lead as a board member.

Considering the criticism and second-guessing board members often attract, she said, "I talked to many people before I considered running, and I'm aware of what comes with this position. I'm fairly comfortable with that. Of course, I'm hesitant, but I'm optimistic that I can hopefully make some change, make a difference in town in a different arena."

Perrin said that during her campaign she hopes to meet with groups, like firefighters or teachers, and individual residents to learn their opinions and concerns.

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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