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Over the next few days those who have not already voted will do so and bring this election cycle to a close. For me and my running mate, Kathleen James, running in our district of Arlington, Manchester, Sandgate and Sunderland, it will be the end of phone calls, honk and waves, letters, mailings and everything in-between. We have done everything we can to make contact and give voters the reasons we think we will do a good job for our district if elected to the legislature.

I have been involved with my community, my county and my state since I joined the rescue squad at age 22. I went on the serve on the zoning board followed by three terms in the legislature while in my late-20s and early-30s. Later, I helped start and was the first chair of the Manchester Community Land Trust. I have served as town moderator and for 19 years on the board of Burr and Burton Academy — as chair for 15 years. I was a founder of The Shires, an effort to foster collaboration and a pooling of effort and resources across Bennington County in order to form a more effective whole. I have been appointed by Governors and Speakers of the House to serve on commissions dealing with affordable housing, education funding and the role of Independent schools. In 2019, I received achievement awards from both the Bennington County Regional Commission and the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce for my work on behalf of the area in which we live and work.

On the one hand, I’ve given a lot of myself. On the other, I’m no different than untold others in our district who contribute hundreds of hours of volunteer time to the fire department, the school board or coaching youth sports.

From the Arlington Area Renewal Project to the Riverwalk project in Manchester to the board of the Communications Union District seeking to expand broadband across Bennington County, I am in awe of the dedication of so many of our friends and neighbors volunteering their time on behalf of others.

Hopefully, we will soon have a vaccine for the COVID virus and we can return to a more normal lifestyle. But, even as we continue to help those whose lives and businesses have been disrupted by the pandemic, we must seek to make that new “normal” better than the old.

Ironically, the COVID virus is showing us the way forward. New families, here for a safer environment, are helping to reverse our demographic decline. They are adding children to our schools and economic vitality to our communities. Some even bring their businesses with them. We must welcome them and create the environment to make it attractive for them to stay after the danger subsides. If we do, others will follow. Success builds success.

We need to support our economic development agencies so they can help our small businesses through this crisis and then help them thrive in the longer term;

We need to support and build on our local food movement;

We must support and advocate for our unique mix of public and independent schools;

We must pool our resources across the Shires to market this unique and most beautiful part of Vermont;

We must support and add to our network of quality childcare so parents can work and children can thrive;

We must support our network of nonprofits and their employees who work so hard at building better communities;

We must expand broadband everywhere; and

We must expand on the creative ways organizations like Shires Housing and Habitat for Humanity successfully build affordable housing.

The title of legislator carries with it a special opportunity to help those working so hard to make things happen, be it our small business owners, our non-profit sector or volunteers contributing their time and energy to help others.

In recent letters to the editor in support of our candidacy, both Ed Campbell and Merrill Bent wrote about the need for those hundreds of people volunteering their time to have their legislators serve as reliable partners carrying their message to Montpelier and, in turn, serving as a conduit from Montpelier back to our communities. As someone who has been deeply involved at the local level and as a former legislator, I understand both ends of that process. I think I can be effective and I want to help.

I close the campaign with the same words Kathleen and I used when we announced our candidacy this past May: “We will work hard to earn the trust and respect of our fellow legislators, and we will work hard to earn that same trust and respect from the people of the towns we represent.”

We ask for your support in the upcoming election.

Seth Bongarts is running for the Bennington-4 seat in the Vermont House of Representatives.


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