Newcomer to Select Board race is longtime resident
BRATTLEBORO — Select Board candidate Ben Coplan sees a lot of needs in town.
"I think that has to do with economy of the town and state," he said. "And we need more young people moving in with families for the sake of business growth and the sharing of our property tax."
Coplan believes the town should address old infrastructure and potholes. He called energy efficiency in town buildings "inadequate."
Hoping to see more control on spending, he questions whether a carport should be installed at the police station as will be proposed at annual Representative Town Meeting on March 23.
Coplan wants more parking spaces close to downtown businesses. Shuttered stores are another concern for him.
"It's a reflection of the economy and the fact that they just don't have enough business in town," he said. "And we have too many folks who are impoverished."
As a volunteer at the Brattleboro Community Justice Center, he has witnessed how difficult it can be for people coming out of prison to find jobs and housing.
Coplan believes he can still make a strong contribution to the community regardless of whether he beats incumbent Tim Wessel.
"If he should win and I should not, I would probably say, 'How can I help you?'" he said. "We want to have good things happen to Brattleboro."
When taking out a petition to run, Coplan was unsure whether to go for one of the two one-year seats or the three-year seat. He said at the time, he was told no one else had taken out a petition to run for the latter. He later learned Wessel filed one later.
"And I like him a lot," Coplan said. "I think what he's been doing on the Select Board has been really good. I don't mean to compete against him actually."
He said he was told he could not change the seat for which he is running.
Coplan supports ways in which the town can bring in additional revenue. That includes the local 1 percent option tax being considered at Representative Town Meeting and a proposed limited self-governance pilot program that could allow the town to come up with creative funding strategies if it is approved by state lawmakers and Brattleboro is selected.
"Whatever we can do to have local people make the decisions about town policies that affect us, I think that's good," Coplan said. "Rather than have Montpelier or Burlington make policy that may just affect us in a very different way."
Having landed in Brattleboro 45 years ago after living in California, Coplan worked in marketing at the Holstein Association for about 17 years. He then helped individuals with disabilities find support and jobs at the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for about 13 years.
Coplan also worked at Morningside Shelter and as a substance abuse counselor for two local groups.
"Most of the time, I had two or three jobs at once," he said.
On the morning of the interview, Coplan had volunteered at Loaves & Fishes, where free meals are offered. He does so once a week.
"I would strongly recommend it," he said.
Coplan said a variety of community members including retired doctors cut veggies and clean dishes alongside him. He called the work "uplifting."
Also, Coplan takes garbage and recyclables from the Guilford Community Church to the Windham Solid Waste Management District. When he retired at the age of 76, he found he didn't have enough to do.
"So I made every effort I could to be as busy as I possibly can be, and I am," he said. "It's very good for my health."
On Fridays, Coplan takes lifelong learning classes at Keene, N.H., State University with his wife. He described a course on the role of United States corporations in immigration as "eye opening."
Coplan is encouraging his grandchildren who recently graduated from Arizona State University to find jobs around here. He is aware of the governor's program to provide $10,000 to people who relocate to Vermont to work.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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