SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 29, 2013

Dan Bennett enjoys his work as selectman

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — This is the first of three profiles of the candidates for Danvers selectman. Voters will elect two selectmen to serve three-year terms. The election is May 7.

DANVERS — Selectman Dan Bennett is straightforward about his reason for seeking a third term on the Board of Selectmen.

He enjoys the work, he said.

A couple of weeks ago, he attended a Planning Board hearing on a proposed moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. Bennett had suggested the moratorium to give the town time to figure out how to zone these facilities.

Two days later, he was at a presentation about the proposed casino at Suffolk Downs. It’s an issue that’s attracted more attention recently, in light of a Maryland casino developer’s interest in perhaps opening a slots parlor at the Liberty Tree Mall. Later that day, he planned to tour the ongoing Danvers High School renovation project.

He plans to ask the board to write a letter to state authorities about how a Suffolk Downs resort casino might affect Route 1 traffic and interfere with residents’ ability to get to Logan Airport. He said there are projections that a Suffolk Downs casino might double traffic heading to the area.

“There is still work to do as a selectman,” Bennett said, “between casino gambling, traffic mitigation from a project like that, the moratorium on medical marijuana. We are going to ask for an 18-month moratorium to allow the town to develop some zoning.”

Bennett, 64, has always had an interest in politics and civic affairs.

A former chairman of the Republican Town Committee, he has been active in town since first running for Town Meeting in 1993. He served one term on the School Committee and ran for re-election in 2000 but lost amid controversy over a bid to override Proposition 21/2 to pay for a new middle school and high school.

Bennett, who was chairman of the School Committee at the time, calls this his “thrown under the bus” moment because he had to sell a plan he knew would be unpopular with voters. Many people preferred to refurbish Holten Richmond School on Conant Street as a middle school and keep the high school and middle schools on separate campuses.

Bennett became a trustee of Essex Agricultural and Technical High in 2002, and he has worked with others to advocate for the merger of Essex Aggie, North Shore Tech and Peabody High’s vocational programs in a new, $133 million school now under construction on the Essex Aggie campus. At various times, he’s been a library trustee, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and a Town Meeting member.

It took three attempts to be elected selectman, after two failed attempts in 2002 and 2003. He topped the ticket for his first term in 2007.

In 2010 and 2012, Bennett ran hard-fought but unsuccessful campaigns for state representative against long-term incumbent Ted Speliotis.

Bennett said the board has done a lot in the past six years, including the Danvers Rail Trail, for which the board signed a 99-year lease with the MBTA to allow for its development, and the new parking lot on Hobart Street, with money raised in part by businesses and service organizations.

Then there is the ongoing Danvers High School project, which Bennett has been involved with since his days on the School Committee. And last year, the town bought and preserved the former picnic area of Lebel’s Grove, a sizable piece of open space along the Ipswich River.

When it comes to holding a line on taxes, Bennett said that selectmen are responsible for reviewing the budget and trimming any fat.

“The idea is to maintain quality services for the community and keep the increase in taxes a low as we can,” he said.

The key to the next three years, he said, will be to finish up projects and lower the town’s overall debt.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

DAN BENNETT Age: 64 Occupation: Owner/broker of Dan Bennett Real Estate Education: Danvers High School, 1967; two years at Boston University Family: Wife, Janet; three grown children, Laura Bennett-Riley, Adeline Matton and Jim Bennett; four grandchildren Town involvement: Two-term selectman, Affordable Housing Committee, Essex Aggie trustee, lieutenant governor of Kiwanis