Longtime Bennington Town Clerk Timothy Corcoran died at his home Thursday of cancer at the age of 64. Corcoran also served on the Bennington Select Board and in the legislature for 16 years. He was known in political circles as "the Mayor of Bennington."
It was often said that no one knew more about Bennington and its people than Tim Corcoran. A VPR recording from the Bennington Firehouse during a 2010 election, shows him in his element, greeting townspeople by name and directing them to the right lines.
"Hi Leonard, I see you got the whole gang with you,” he says in the recording. "Duncan, you’re in District Two, way down." "How’s Theresa doing?” he asks one voter. Another wonders whether an invalid relative can cast a vote. “I’ll tell you, the deadline has passed for absentees," Corcoran tells him. “But if you can drive her down here, I’ll bring one out to the car.”
Corcoran described his approach to politics in simple terms: "I think the best thing an office-holder can do is to know their people," he said. “And I’ve tried to do that."
Bennington Senator Dick Sears says Corcoran’s office in the Bennington Town Hall was an almost mandatory first stop for visiting politicians and officials. Sears says he often sought Corcoran’s advice.
"I could go to Tim Corcoran and I knew what the average person in Bennington was thinking on a particular issue," Sears recalls. "We joked about his going to two or three grocery stores, and buying one item at each. But he talked to 40 people at each of those grocery stores."
Bennington Assistant Town Clerk Cassandra Barbeau says that Corcoran was a friend and a mentor to many people in town.
"If somebody didn’t have money to put oil in their tank," Barbeau says, "He was the one who would give them a couple hundred bucks to keep the heat on. He wanted to do anything he could to help the people in this community."
Barbeau was 18 when Corcoran asked her to work in his office in 1995, on the recommendation of a local teacher. She continued under his tutelage for more than 20 years and is expected to succeed him as town clerk. Former Bennington lawmaker Joe Krawczyk, a close friend, says Corcoran coaxed him into running for office.
"He was a Democrat and I was a Republican and that didn’t make any difference," Krawczyk says. "He, for some reason, thought I’d be a strong leader up there and he supported me."
Krawczyk says Corcoran sponsored an annual trip to Montpelier for Bennington’s sixth graders.
"I can’t remember in my eight years up there when he wasn’t able to get the kids in to see the governor and just see how state government works," Krawczyk recalls.
Krawczyk says Corcoran had strong opinions, though not always along party lines. When he or Corcoran’s son Timothy -- who represents Bennington in the legislature now -- cast a vote Corcoran disapproved of, the elder Corcoran would let them know. But if Corcoran disagreed with you, Krawczyk says, he wouldn’t hold it against you.