WELD — Selectman Bernard Vining’s neat, printed handwriting flows down the page of a worn ledger in straight columns. He has kept a backup set of the town’s finance records for years.
The 86-year-old selectman has served the town for a total of 33 years.
He’s decided not to seek re-election in March, he said, because his wife didn’t want him to run in the last election three years ago.
“I figured I certainly wouldn’t dare run for three more years,” he said.
Vining first ran for selectman in 1959 when he was in his 30s. He served for 11 years, 10 of that as chairman, before he took a break. He was re-elected to the board in 1991 and served for 10 years as chairman.
“When I ran for the first time, I was running against a man I didn’t think I would stand a chance of beating,” he said.
He left his name on the ballot, anyway. That was when voters elected selectmen from the floor at town meeting.
To his surprise, he won against a friend, the late Ervin White.
A lot has changed since he was first elected. Back then, the town had more control, Vining said.
“The state didn’t have much to say about what we did back then,” he said.
Vining was born in Weld and lived there except for the 30 months he served in the military.
He graduated from Weld High School in June at age 18 and and on July 7 that year he entered the U.S. Army during World War II. He went overseas that December as a soldier with the 80th Infantry Division of the 3rd Army, he said.
“I never saw another person I knew until I came back two years later in December 1945,” Vining said.
He went to Europe on the “Queen Elizabeth.” There were two other fellows from Weld on board, he said.
“We landed in Scotland and that was the last time I saw them,” he said.
His unit entered the invasion of France on the eighth day.
Once back home in Weld, he got married in May 1947. He and his wife, Jane, had three children, Michael, Randall and Rachael.
Vining went to work at Diamond Match in Dixfield where he sharpened knives. From there, he went to Oxford Paper Co. in Rumford for two years.
After the paper mill, he went to work as a lumberman. He began working for a Wilton man and then for the family’s business, Vining Logging. He retired in 1990.
He has enjoyed his time as a selectman, he said.
“I wouldn’t have stayed on so many years if I didn’t like it,” he said. “I like to work with people. I like keeping the taxes as low as possible.”
He said he expects to check in at the Town Office once in while.
“We’re going to miss him,” Town Clerk Carol Cochran said. “He comes in Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to do the books by hand. Bernard never changes.”