2021 BIPOC Candidate Spotlight

Note: The NAACP is a nonpartisan organization. We do not endorse any of these candidates. We are taking the opportunity to highlight and uplift all the candidates of color in our region and invite you to learn more about them and their positions.

Thomas Franco

As a young professional and educator, I am running for Alderman because I am committed to making Rutland a city of opportunity. 

I grew up in a working-class, immigrant household in West Texas. Alone, at age sixteen with no more than a sixth-grade education, my father came to this county and built his own small business from the ground up.  My mother worked at a call center for more than 20 years before sending me off to college on a merit scholarship. This paved the way for me to attend graduate school. My family’s American Dream is what has inspired me to dedicate my life to helping others.

Rutland deserves innovative, forward thinking policies that spur development initiatives to forge a clear vision for our city. We can diversify our municipal revenue streams to lower property taxes and provide relief for our taxpayers. To attract more young professionals, we can develop quality, affordable rental housing and increase broadband in downtown Rutland. We can center social and racial equity in all of our policy and budgetary decisions. 

Together, we can position Rutland as a welcoming, and more attractive place to live, work, and play, for current and future residents.

I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about the concerns and ideas that you have. With your vote on March 2nd, we can create a Rutland that works for everyone.



Tina Cook

I am running for the Town of Bennington Select Board and am asking for your vote on March 2, 2021.

As we re-imagine Bennington’s future and its possibilities, it is essential to have a town government that represents all of its constituents and creates plans and strategies that bring about comprehensive change. As a start, with a vote for me, we have a wonderful opportunity to elect the very first African American Selectperson in Bennington’s history.

Not only should these strategies seek new revenue streams to help reduce heavy tax burdens, but also make certain that all who visit and call Bennington home, enjoy an equitable quality of life.  

My 21 years as a tourist-turned resident, I have been a business owner, homeowner, taxpayer, friend, parent, conservationist, and activist Vermonter, make me uniquely qualified to serve on the Bennington Select Board.


Donate via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tina-Cook-for-Bennington-Vermont-Select-Board-100345442042353/shop

Donate via Act Blue: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/tina-cook-for-bennington-vermont-select-board

Mary Gerisch

My name is Mary Gerisch, and I am a proud Lakota woman, currently living in Bennington, Vermont. I volunteer for many service organizations, including the bi-state Rights and Democracy organization, where I was a founding advisor and currently sit on the Board of Directors and the leadership council. I am a past President of the Vermont Workers’ Center, and a former Chair and current Secretary of the Town of Bennington Democratic Party. I’m actively involved in the Bennington Organization Committee which supports the Put People First Campaign, the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign, and the Put Patients First at the Vermont Veterans Home campaign.

I have also served as a lay representative on the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council, which has established and supports the Bennington Free Health Clinic, as well as the Bennington Food and Fuel Fund and the Kitchen Cupboard, a Vermont Food Bank Distribution Center.

I serve on the Indigenous Caucus of the national group People’s Action, and was a local Board member of the Healing Winds Pow Wow. Serving on various church committees, I’m an active member of St Peter’s Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont.


Esther Thomas

I am Esther Thomas, a first-generation Haitian American. My immigrant parents instilled in me the value of education. Through their encouragement, I’ve completed a Bachelor’s in History & Communication, a Master in Corporate Communication & Public Relations, and Master of Arts in Teaching.

As a full-time professional in higher education, and mother of two, I know the importance of community. I moved to Middlebury in 2019 to settle down and get involved. I am a member of a local congregation and a board member for the Middlebury Co-op.

Service has always been a part of my life, including building Habitat for Humanity houses with students in Tennessee. As a Select Board member, I will work for Middlebury’s families, support inclusion within our community, and help make sure that your voice is being heard in town government.

By taking time to listen and learn from each other, we can make Middlebury be a place where we truly welcome and take care of every member of our community. 

I would be honored to receive your vote for Middlebury Town Select Board on March 2.


Anthony “TJ” Williams  

As a life-long community member I have always found great joy in giving back to our community. Over the course of my career, I have had the pleasure of working with local businesses, state agencies, community action groups, and not-for-profits for one common goal: to better our community and its residents. I am looking forward to bringing my experience, knowledge, and strong work ethic to the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School Board.

My current goals for the SW Vermont Regional Technical Board are to 

  • Increase the ways the community can access and utilize our local Technical Center
  • Train students for the future, not just the present 
  • Offer flexible youth summer technical programs 
  • Assist with all the great work that is already taking place


Jamar Bivens

Currently residing in the town of Bennington, Vermont, I’m a 33-year-old Pan-African father of four. I served in the U.S. Navy as an Operations Specialist, and am continuing my education in computer sciences.

My vision, should I be elected to the Southwest VT Regional Technical Board, is to be actively involved in our community and to engage the community in the Board so that we might be a crossflow of ideas so that we can all better understand and serve the needs of our students and prospective students.

I believe in fostering an environment that is diverse and inclusive of all backgrounds and nationalities. By supporting me for this year’s local campaign for the Southwestern Regional School District, you would have a strong voice and representation towards creating a more diverse culture in the community which welcomes its BIPOC residents. 


Asher Edelson

When I moved to Vermont, I found my home and a community that I love. I want to be an asset to the people of Bennington and their collective prosperity.

Living with Tourette Syndrome, I understand many of the challenges people — and students — with disabilities face. My goal is to be a voice for people with disabilities, as well as marginalized communities, such as communities of color. 

I am passionate about many issues ranging from equity to accountability, and love to listen, learn, advocate, and take action.

Please consider casting your voice and vote for me for the SW VT Regional Technical Board on March 2, at the Bennington County Town Meeting Election 



Farhad Khan

Originally from India, I grew up in a large family with my father being the family’s sole 

breadwinner.  My mother was a homemaker for me and my seven older siblings. I live in Middlebury with my beautiful wife Amtul, and my wonderful son and two daughters who attend MUHS and MUMS.

I came to the US In 1991 and worked at gas stations in Jamaica, New York. In 1993, my brother opened a Dollar store in South Burlington and I soon followed his footsteps, worked for him for a 18 months, before opening my own business, the “One Dollar Market”, in Middlebury. I’m grateful for the opportunities Middlebury afforded me and feel it is my duty to serve the community in a manner that makes a real difference.

In 2017, I was nominated to Middlebury Select board for a one-year term and was re-elected for a three-year term in 2018.  I am running for re-election unopposed. I want to see a successful Downtown Middlebury, because I believe successful business guarantees a healthy job and housing market.

I am passionate about the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiative we have undertaken on the Select Board level. I have also proposed and am in the process of drafting a DEI resolution that would reflect The Town of Middlebury’s resolve to take a stand on this important issue. I am also passionate about retail and our local economy. Above all, I enjoy working with my colleagues on the Select Board.

Please give me a call if you have any comments/questions etc. @ 802-233-2442.


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