Goodnow wants to 'make life here viable'
BRATTLEBORO — Select Board candidate Ian Goodnow offers the perspective of a young person wanting to start a career and a family in Vermont.
"I want to make life here viable," he said. "How engaged Brattleboro is in its local politics and government is incredible. I've never lived anywhere like that before and yeah, I really want to be part of it. And I think that I can do a great job."
He is running against incumbent Daniel Quipp, Kurt Daims, Oscar Heller and Rikki Risatti for one of the two one-year Select Board terms in the March 3 election.
Goodnow, 28, grew up in Essex and attended the University of Vermont. Watching his father have to find work out of state when IBM Corp. laid off a large number of its employees, he decided to intern at the Vermont Department of Labor in labor market information.
"It made me think a lot about what it means to have a career and life in Vermont," said Goodnow, who later got a job in a labor department program to retrain former IBM staff so they could find positions within the Green Mountain State.
He spent time teaching abroad with his girlfriend, now fiancee, then the couple hiked the Appalachian Trail about three years ago. He decided he wanted to become a lawyer, took the Law School Admission Test but was then introduced to Brattleboro attorney Tom Costello of Costello, Valente & Gentry, who told him about an alternative method to studying law in Vermont called the law office study program.
Goodnow said the idea is that, instead of going to law school, a participant is sponsored by an attorney, who mentors and provides experience in a law office. Instead of taking three years to get the degree, he expects it will take four to complete the program and become a lawyer. He enjoys having no structure or curriculum.
"It puts me in a very specific mindset of being really open and really critical in thinking and learning all the time," he said, having started the program about two years ago.
So far, Goodnow has worked on a lot of civil litigation. He said he is starting to become "really interested" in criminal law.
"The idea of providing representation for an individual against the state with all of its resources is something that really interests me," he said. "It's a romantic notion and I get that, and maybe the reality is not that."
Prior to moving here, Goodnow had been visiting the community for about nine years while dating Ruth Shafer of Williamsville. They are getting married in the fall.
Recalling trips on Amtrak, Goodnow said he has "always been struck by just how geographically unique Brattleboro is and how vibrant the downtown is. When I had the opportunity to move to Brattleboro for my clerkship, we were really excited."
Within the last two years, Goodnow became a justice of the peace — a job he said he absolutely loves. He enjoys performing acts of marriage and helping run elections. He plans to recuse himself from this year's election.
Goodnow also serves as an alternate member on the Development Review Board, a position he credited with getting him to think about running for Select Board.
"That's been great work," he said. "I've learned a lot."
Goodnow is happy with the town's Select Board and town manager structure. With different year terms for board members to serve, he sees an opportunity for new or less experienced board members to gain experience and for the community to invest in younger people.
"So there is some fluidity of mobility of people on the Select Board, but then you have the town manager who is so anchored and steady and consistent," he said. "And the marriage of those two sides is a great way to run a town."
He does not support a question on the March 3 ballot asking voters if the Select Board should be advised to amend the town charter to move to a mayoral system. He said he wants to know more about how the system would be implemented.
Goodnow described the opioid epidemic as "an all-encompassing problem" that won't be solved by one particular board or group.
"It's going to require the full collaborative force of all of the different agencies and social programs that are already in place," he said. "And I think that they're doing incredible work."
He said he is "really excited" about a pilot jobs program set to be rolled out by Youth Services in the spring. He looks at it as another example of "smart people" making "smart, spendthrift" and "well-thought-out" decisions.
Goodnow also supports installing a permanent public toilet or toilets.
"I don't know the number," he said. "That's a good question. And location, too. I think more thought needs to go into it. Because once you put it in, they're in."
As someone who walks to work every day, Goodnow wants to take a look at more ways to improve sidewalk and crosswalk safety. He would like to see more rectangular rapid flash beacons in places.
As a runner, Goodnow said he spends a lot of time on the West River Trail. He sees an opportunity in projects such as the replacement of the Hinsdale bridge to highlight the community's waterfronts more.
"I really think one of the ways to make Brattleboro stand out is by just taking full advantage of these incredible, natural beauties that we have in town, things that I can brag about to my friends who don't live here," he said.
On updating the town website, Goodnow said, "It's got to happen. And I know that has been on the back burner, that it's been talked about but it's got to be pushed to the front of the priority list. It's incredible how engaged people are here but the website is one of the places where people can get the information to stay informed, that keeps people engaged. And it needs to be at a higher standard than it is now, of quality and accessibility."
His hope also is to find more ways to support young people in Vermont and encourage young people to move here.
Given how divisive political discourse can be now, Goodnow said, "We need people in town government and national government who are empathetic, who have open hearts and open minds to really hearing all of the sides of an issue, and then be willing to be wrong when they are and to be graceful when they are right. And I think that I try to live up to those things, those tenets, those beliefs. And I think I can make a great Select Board member."
Goodnow said he went for the one-year term so he can get some experience.
"I want to make sure that I'm good for the town and the town is good for me, and it's such a great opportunity to learn from all of the people who have been on it longer," he said. "I want the accountability of having to run again next year. I want people to look at how I have done."
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at email@example.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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