TOURISM LEADERS FROM ACROSS DISTRICT ENDORSE TICKET
This letter represents the viewpoints of five residents who have been deeply involved in the tourism industry and live in towns across the Bennington-4 Legislative District. We share the belief that this is the right time to support candidates, Kathleen James and Seth Bongartz, for the Vermont House of Representatives during these trying times and beyond.
Their combination of skills and experience are what is needed right now, and when COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror, we will need to rebuild at every level. One of those areas is tourism, one of the state’s largest industries and an important driver of Vermont’s economy, especially in our region.
The Vermont Agency of Commerce reports that, “In a normal year our state welcomes nearly 13 million visitors and they account for close to $2.8 billion in annual spending on lodging, food and drink, and goods and services.” It is clear the tourism sector is not only critical for the state’s and our region’s fiscal well-being, but it provides much needed jobs for thousands of Vermonters as well. James is co-founder of the new Tourism Caucus.
Bongartz, retired Hildene president, prior to taking the helm at the historic site in 2002, served in the House and Senate of the Vermont State Legislature between 1981 and 1989. This team has the experience to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
James has already been at work as co-founder of the Tourism Caucus. During the 2019–2020 biennium, the bipartisan group, met regularly in the statehouse to raise awareness about the vital importance and economic impact of Vermont’s tourism industry — town and to successfully lobby for state marketing dollars to bring visitors to Vermont.
Since the March COVID-19 shutdown, this small group of legislators has been staying in close touch by email and Zoom, sharing concerns about the devastating impact of the pandemic on our tourism, lodging and hospitality industry.
This is just one example of how James has shown her commitment to our local business community in a very hands-on way. She has also worked hard to distribute information about the various Coronavirus Relief Fund emergency grants available and helped businesses to apply. James believes strongly in fairness and equality.
She believes that everyone deserves equal access to jobs, education, affordable healthcare, housing and childcare. She is guided by her strong belief that Vermont’s re-opening must be driven, first and foremost, by public health and safety.
Bongartz has served in numerous leadership roles at the community and state levels for most of his adult life, from town moderator to chair of the local land trust and past Chairman of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Vermont. He has been asked by governors and speakers of the house to serve on statewide commissions dealing with everything from the delivery of affordable housing to education financing.
As chair of the board for Burr and Burton Academy, he is widely recognized for his indefatigable passion for education. In keeping with his commitment to helping others, Bongartz serves on the board of the non-profit National Development Council, whose work focuses on home, jobs, and community.
NDC’s mission is to increase the flow of capital investment into low-come, underserved communities across America. All this aside, what most residents of the district know about Bongartz is his remarkable success at Hildene.
Amid all of his other commitments to community, under Bongartz’ leadership, side by side with his board and staff for nearly 18 years, Hildene was transformed from a house museum to an internationally recognized Lincoln site, open daily year-round and welcoming 40-50,000 domestic and international visitors annually.
During his tenure as president, Hildene provided educational experiences from the natural sciences to social history for more than 3,000 students of all ages annually, and in recent years, led the establishing of an integrated high school program for students to study sustainable agriculture and the natural sciences at Dene Farm.
Bongartz has always believed in the power of the people who live in this special region we all call home. When it comes to talking about getting back into government, he acknowledges that he is proud to once again be running for state representative to represent our district: Arlington, Manchester, Sandgate, and Sunderland but, “even more, proud to be running on a strong ticket with current state rep Kathleen James.”
Kathleen James and Seth Bongartz, proven dedicated public servants, will work with others in the legislature to fund efforts: to promote tourism; fill lodging beds, restaurant seats, and stores; promote visits to Vermont’s amazing attractions from cultural heritage sites to breweries and art museums; and everything in between. —Paula Maynard of Sunderland; Mary Ann Carlson of Arlington; and Meghan Goodwin, Carol Korzelius, and Kerry Comollo Mackinnon of Manchester.