BENNINGTON —While Jeanne Conner is hesitant to describe her tenure on the Bennington Select Board as "fun," she says the job is "always interesting and fulfilling."
Out of the past three years, she has only missed one meeting and genuinely enjoys participating, she said. Now she is seeking re-election for her seat and hopes to continue her work on the board for another three years if re-elected on March 5.
Incumbent Conner is one of four candidates running for open three seats on the board. If re-elected, one of her goals is to continue her work on the board and complete current ongoing projects.
"We're in the middle of things," she said. "I feel like, at this juncture, there's so many things I want to see through."
A few of those projects include the collaboration between the Berkshire YMCA and Bennington's Rec Center as well as the Putnam Block redevelopment.
She is also interested to see development in the town's response to the opioid crisis, especially after seeing presentations at board meetings addressing a local multi-organizational opioid response plan. Finding a solution to the epidemic is a massive task that impacts not only people's lives but the Bennington community as a whole, she said.
"I don't know what's going to be going on in [another] three years," she said. "There's always going to be things you have to walk away from. And now is not the time to walk away."
In addition to finding a solution to the opioid epidemic and seeing major projects through, Conner says economic development is extremely important.
"There are jobs in Bennington, but people don't seem to be filling them," she said.
Town vitality is another important issue to Conner.
"People need to be able to see themselves living in Bennington," she said. "I think we need to dig our heels in and market ourselves better."
She suggests revitalizing the town so that people considering moving to the area are aware of all of the aspects Bennington has to offer, like restaurants, arts, and recreational activities both indoors and outdoors.
"[Bennington] is never going to be New York City," she said. "But we need to attract people who don't necessarily want to hike the Long Trail but want great places to shop."
In addition to her time serving on the Select Board, Conner believes her extensive involvement with the community in other capacities gives her an advantage as a candidate.
"I know the community well, not necessarily because I've lived here for a long time but because I've gotten involved," she said.
She has served on the Bennington Project Independence board, the Shires Housing board, and served a six-year term on the school district board before taking a break and then serving another two years when asked to complete another member's term.
She currently works in Williamstown, Massachusetts, at the Buxton School's development office. Previously, she has worked for the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and the Bennington Museum.
And while Conner doesn't believe her gender makes her any more qualified to be re-elected to the board, she stressed the importance of females being fairly represented on what has historically been a male-dominated Select Board.
"There have been exactly four women on the board," she said.
Conner believes her authenticity and inquisitiveness is one of the aspects that makes her a standout candidate to serve on the board.
"I'm not the type of person that's going to try to sell myself; I'm authentic," she said. "What you see is what you get. It's not an act. I am who I am. I'm not shy, I'm willing to ask questions...I'm willing to say 'I don't know.'"
Conner also considers herself to be an ethical public figure.
"I feel like the truth is so, so, so important," she said. "You can't spin facts. When I'm trying to make a decision, I think about what the experts say...and the truth. If I don't know, I'll lean on what the experts say."
Christie Wisniewski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.