Two candidates for the job of Bennington's mayor say that as far as their race is concerned, voters can't go wrong in the Nov. 6 election.
“I think we both would do a good job for the community,” Al Tanner said of his race with Gordon Mueller. “I might have some ideals that I would promote more than Gordon, and there are things he would do differently than me, but we've both worked hard.”
Said Mueller: “Al's a nice guy. We've worked pretty well together on the council.”
Tanner and Mueller each served two years on the Bennington City Council before deciding to run for mayor. In Bennington, the City Council positions and the job of mayor are not compensated.
Bennington Mayor Mary Johnson is not running for re-election.
Both Mueller and Tanner said getting the city on solid financial footing would be their primary concern.
On a motion by Mueller, seconded by Tanner, the City Council placed a resolution on the November ballot proposing to raise the local sales tax by one-half percent, with the revenue used to reduce Bennington's debt and property taxes.
“Like a lot of towns, Bennington's bond debt ballooned with the fall of the housing market,” Mueller said. “Our revenues haven't kept up with costs, so we had some hard choices to make.”
Tanner applauded the Papio Creek pedestrian bridge project that will connect the Bennington Athletic League complex with the city's soccer fields and allow students living on the west side of town a shorter route to the high school. The project will be paid for with a federal grant, private funds and city money.
Tanner said he favors expanding Bennington's bike trails, which would help increase kids' physical fitness and make it easier for students in newer subdivisions to get to school.
Mueller said he will work hard to garner input from the community for future projects. Two years ago, he began emailing residents about important business being discussed by the City Council.
“Very few people go to City Council meetings — it's a big night if we have a half-dozen people — so I started sending out a newsletter about what's happening to 220 homes in town,” Mueller said. “People can reply with their thoughts or come to the meeting.”
Mueller would promote volunteerism, possibly by using the annual Bennington Days or a community picnic to honor residents for donating their time and talents for local events.
“We have to recognize what the volunteers are doing,” he said. “Bennington has a lot of wonderful volunteers, but I think we can do even more.”
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