Select Board race sees many contenders
By Dan Colton
Staff Writer | February 15, 2016
PROCTOR — Three Select Board members each face one challenger on Town Meeting Day.
The slate of challengers said they’re running on the collective platform of change and financial reform.
“The three (challengers) who are running, we are all working together,” said Carol Grace, a former selectwoman who was first elected in 1997, served two consecutive terms and was the town’s first female Select Board member. “We’ve all been paying attention, and we just realized there needs to be change. And, being that the three of us have really been paying attention, we all know we’re on the same page.”
Grace, who is launching a campaign against Selectman Bruce Baccei for a three-year term, said she takes issue with the board’s handling of finances. The town leases a Highway Department salt shed for $1,600 a year, an expense that Grace said is frivolous because the town previously allocated funds to construct its own shed.
Stan Wilbur, town manager, said the town has a salt shed fund but some of the money has been used for engineering studies. The fund amounts to $89,026, and Wilbur was able to find documents that traced the fund back as far as Oct. 1, 2007.
Baccei, the incumbent facing Grace, said negativity directed at the board holds the town back.
“It does make (progress) hard where there is a lot of negativity around,” Baccei said. “I would rather see that people … see us on PEG-TV and see we’re working … for the town to make it operate as efficiently as it can.”
After years of zero-funded infrastructure repairs, Baccei said measurable progress has been made as the Select Board proposes a budget with more than a 6 percent increase.
“We’ve got to take care of some of the things — some of the roads, some of the water and sewer lines,” he said.
He said other areas of town have grown, including the Vermont Marble Museum and the introduction of a College of St. Joseph nursing program.
In November, the Select Board proposed an $800,000 bond to move the town’s office into the former Omya lab building and share the space and costs with the CSJ. Voters rejected the proposal 208-50 in a ballot vote, and many skeptics said the board was unprepared and unaccountable.
Jeffrey Durkee, who was appointed to the board last year after Dick Horner abruptly resigned, faces a challenge from Joe Manning. The seat’s term is one year to complete the two-year term Horner began.
Durkee, defending his seat, said he’s concerned with keeping Proctor affordable for families such as his own. A father and coordinator at the Vermont Achievement Center, he’s concerned with shaving down the 6.23 percent budget increase because, he said, Proctor’s taxes keep young families from moving in. Young people are more likely to move out of town, he said, and he says lowering the cost of living would be an effective lure.
“I want to keep that voice in it,” he said in reference to his municipal goals.
Durkee said he still considers himself a novice, and pays close attention to how other board members conduct business.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn,” Durkee said.
His challenger, Manning, said he is qualified to serve on the board because of a background in finance.
“My background and experience, I think, will benefit the town,” Manning said. “I think the biggest issue is keeping the tax rate low. I think it’s being done, but I think more could be done.”
Manning declined to comment further.
Susan Feenick is challenging the board’s chairman for a two-year seat. She has previously served a three-year term.
Feenick, a retired business owner and current Pico employee, said the board isn’t accountable for its actions.
The Select Board recently became aware of a $100,000 or more surplus within its Highway Department. Feenick said the money could have been used for tax reduction if it were discovered earlier.
“They were saying they could not afford to pay to plow the school parking lots anymore,” Feenick said. “They were saying they didn’t have any money and that the School Board was going to have to put their parking lots out to bid.”
Wilbur, Proctor town manager, said the School Board paid the town $2,000 per season to plow the two schools’ parking lots. But the road crew was recently cut from six to three, he said, and the Select Board wasn’t certain the manpower existed to continue the school work. But when the School Board offered an extra $1,000, he said, the board changed its mind and accepted the job.
Feenick takes issue with that, she said.
“It’s all coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets,” Feenick said. “I have been going to a lot of the meetings and watching a lot of them on TV, and there are a lot of questions that get asked. There are no answers, so there seems to be a huge lack of responsibility.”
William Champine, the board’s chairman, is running to retain his seat against Feenick. He’s a retired construction worker and military veteran.
It’s Champine’s third consecutive bid after serving two terms back-to-back. He said the recently discovered surplus money can still be incorporated into the proposed budget, but that some should be saved for emergencies.
“There’s a lot of things I started, and I need more time to take and finish,” Champine said, including installation of water infrastructure around town, a bicycle path and the acquisition of Beaver Pond.
He said claims of the board’s unaccountability and irresponsibility aren’t accurate.
“A lot of these people that complain, I hate to say it, but you have that in every town,” he said. “The main thing is, we try to improve our structure that we have, for piping, water, sewer — the infrastructure hasn’t’ been maintained like it should’ve. It’s something that should’ve been done years ago.”
Voters elect board members on Town Meeting Day, March 1.
North of Rutland County, Middlebury has five people vying for three three-year seats on the Select Board. Incumbents Nick Artim and Gary Baker will vie with challengers Dick Terk, Heather Seeley and Victor Nuovo.
Down in Bennington County, there are seven people running for three open seats on the Bennington Select Board.
Incumbent Tom Jacobs is seeking re-election and Mike Bethel, Jason Bushee, Jeanne Conner, Jeannie Jenkins, Michael McDonough and Don Miller are also running for the at-large seats. Incumbents Sharyn Brush and John McFadden are not seeking re-election.
For the Mount Anthony Union School Board, incumbent Ed Letourneau is being challenged by Sue Plaisance.
In the race for the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center’s School Board, there are five candidates, Art Haytko, Leon Johnson, Francis E. Kinney, James Salerno and Kenneth Swierad, for four seats. Johnson and Kinney are incumbents.
Dorset voters will have some choices to make with at least one new Select Board member to elect.
There are two one-year terms on the Select Board and incumbent Brad Tyler is not running for re-election. There are three candidates for the at-large seats and the two who get the most votes, among the candidates of incumbent Henry Chandler and challengers Dan Frost and Megan Thorn, will win the seats.
Also for the Select Board, incumbent Michael Connors is being challenged for a three-year seat by Jack Stannard.
Manchester will get a new Select Board member. Greg Cutler is running for the two-year seat that is currently held by Lisa Souls. Souls is not seeking re-election.
For School Board, Joe Hoffman and Patrick Monroe, neither an incumbent, are running for a single two-year seat while Brian Vogel, the chairman of the School Board, is being challenged for a three-year term by Jim “Coach” Lind. The two-year seat is held by Mary Beth O’Donnell who is not seeking re-election.
No one has filed to fun for school or town moderator in Manchester.
Over in Windham County, Chester has two races for the three seats open on the Chester Select Board.
Dan Cote is challenging incumbent William Lindsay, who currently holds a three-year seat. There is also a three-way race for two one-year seats, with newcomer Ben Whalen challenging Thomas Bock and Arne Jonynas.
Londonderry nominates from the floor.
Ludlow has no contested races.
There is a five-way race for the two seats that are open on the Springfield School Board. Current Chairwoman Jeanice Garfield is running for re-election to a three-year seat, along with four newcomers: Mike Griffin, Joseph Costello, Pamela Young and Samantha Snyder. Incumbent School Director Ken Vandenburgh is not running for another term.
On the Select Board, incumbent Stephanie Thompson is being challenged by Chuck Gregory, a member of the Springfield Planning Commission.
Other contested races include a race for one five-year term as cemetery commissioner, with incumbent John Swanson being challenged by Steven Osterlund.
Rockingham voters have an abundance of choice.
Four people are running for one, three-year seat that was held by Selectwoman Ann DiBernardo, who is instead running for one of the two, one-year seats.
Running for the three-year seat are Lamont “Monte” Barnett, Selectwoman Susan Hammond, Bellows Falls village trustee Stefan Golec and newcomer Charles Thurston.
Hammond currently has a one-year seat on the Rockingham board.
Four people are seeking the two, one-year seats on the Select Board, as Stefan Golec has filed petitions for both positions, according to Rockingham Town Clerk Kathleen Neathawk. Golec, if successful, will have to choose which seat he wants, she said. In addition to DiBernardo and Golec, newcomers Steven Adams and Cass Wright are running for the board.
Joseph Dicton, chairman of the Rutland Town Select Board, will resign on Town Meeting Day, March 1, raising the number of vacant board seats in March to three.
Dicton didn’t attend Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting but made the announcement via Selectman Don Chioffi, the board’s clerk.
“Serving as Select Board chairman and representing the people of Rutland Town for the past five years has been a privilege and true honor,” Dicton wrote in a letter. “As of Town Meeting Day … my service to Rutland Town as a selectman will end.”
Dicton said his term would have expired in 2017 and declined to specify why he decided to resign the position early.
Dicton resigned as a selectman once before, in April 2010, with 11 months left on his term, citing personal reasons.
Another former board member, Paul Clifford, resigned last summer after several months in office. He said a new job required more of his time. Selectman Joshua Terenzini won the open seat in August.
Rutland Town residents interested in running for office need signatures from 1 percent, or 27, of the town’s registered voters. Petitions are available at Town Hall and online, and must be filed with the town clerk by 5 p.m. Jan. 25.
Elected for three Select Board terms, Dicton served five years on the board. Board members elected Dicton as chairman earlier this year and they said they will miss his presence.
“I think serving on the Rutland Town Select Board with Joe Dicton as our chairman made me a better selectman,” Terenzini said Wednesday. “Joe is fair and balanced, and he’s a real gentleman, and he will certainly be missed.”
Chioffi — who recently exchanged heated demands for respect with Dicton during a board meeting — agreed with Terenzini.
“Good man,” Chioffi said Wednesday. “Good chairman. … His heart has been for the town, and he just for his own personal reasons can’t complete his term.”
Both Chioffi and Selectman John Paul Faignant have terms expiring in March and both said they are running for re-election as incumbents. Only Chioffi has submitted a petition so far.
Faignant needs to solicit signatures, he said Wednesday.
With Dicton’s resignation and two board members up for re-election, that leaves three seats on the ballot in March. Remaining board members, Selectwoman Mary Ashcroft’s term ends in 2017 and Terenzini’s term ends March 2018.
Board elections generate excitement, Terenzini said.
“I anticipate learning and collaborating with different people on different problems,” he said. “I think we have a good board, for the most part, right now. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to the voting public.”
Debate crowd comes to see Bernie, and more
By ANDY CLARK
STAFF WRITER | November 15, 2015
Chris Graff opened an evening of politics at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday night, acknowledging that the Democratic presidential debate would be very different “than if it had been held 36 hours ago.”
Graff, former longtime Vermont bureau chief for The Associated Press, said CBS changed the debate rules Saturday to emphasize foreign policy after terrorist attacks killed more than 120 people Friday in Paris.
“It would be interesting for us to see how the transition to foreign policy questions would affect Sen. Bernie Sanders,” said Graff, author of “Dateline Vermont,” a memoir of his 30 years in journalism.
“We as Vermonters can learn much from how Bernie Sanders is being treated by the press, much like Sen. Jim Jeffords and Gov. Howard Dean,” he said. “They speak authentically, which we take for granted here. The nation embraced them, because they all spoke directly and honestly and exude authenticity.”
The debate’s 9 p.m. start time was too late for press deadline, but people arriving for the event were interviewed.
Among those in attendance was Maria Davis of Rutland, an independent whose reason for attending was “I love Bernie.” Likewise, her friend Caitlyn Frazier of Rutland, who favored Sanders, said, “I’m anxious to see how Sanders approaches the crisis we witnessed last night in Paris.”
Danielle Payton of Shoreham, a student working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work at Castleton University, had a lament: “I wish Castleton students would be more interested in politics.”
That’s what the Project 240 program, which aired the debate Saturday night, is intended to address.
Payton came with fellow Castleton student Matthew Smela, a philosophy major. “I’m for Bernie, but I want to hear from (Hillary) Clinton and much more from (Martin) O’Malley,” Smela said. “In the last debate, he kept saying how he rescued Baltimore.”
Payton agreed and added she had seen some of O’Malley’s ideas on the web, which “were awesome.”
Marsha McLean, a management consultant from Pawlet, was collecting Vermont primary signatures for Clinton. She said she worked for Clinton, then the secretary of state, at the Department of State from 2009 to 2011.
The crowd in attendance — about 125 — attended the event for a range of reasons. Some had no cable television, some came for the discussions, and a few representatives of Sanders and Clinton came with signature petitions in hand for the Vermont primary.
The Paramount Theatre and Castleton University sponsored the event as part of a collaboration, Project 240, designed to elevate public discourse around the 2016 general election while bringing the community together for a series of events in celebration of the nation’s 240th birthday next year.
Bruce Bouchard, executive director of the Paramount, said Saturday night’s airing was the first such event in a grand theater in the country.
Graff’s role in the event was twofold — to deliver formal remarks and to engage the audience in discussions before and after the televised debate. He prepared his audience to think about differences between Washington, D.C., and Vermont.
Next up in the Project 240 series is “The American Experience,” hosted by Ken Burns, at 7 p.m. Nov. 21. Tickets are available from the Paramount Theatre box office for $35.
The next televised debates at the Paramount are Jan. 17 for the Democrats and Feb. 6 for the Republicans. Both are free of charge.
Barbara Snelling embodied the kind of civic virtues that have underpinned the building of Vermont and the nation. She died on Monday, and her passing marks the passing of an era with many lessons for the Vermont of today.
Snelling served two terms as Vermont’s lieutenant governor and might well have become governor if her health had permitted. Those who knew her from her political involvements knew her as a woman who was both strong and gracious. In fact, each of those two qualities nourished the other: She was strong enough to be gracious, and her grace made her stronger.
She might have been overshadowed by the powerful figure of her husband, Richard Snelling, who was elected governor five times and loomed large for many years over the politics of Vermont. He was a man of strong opinions and abundant energy who did not suffer fools gladly and was willing to argue his point with great conviction. Barbara Snelling had a particular kind of strength in holding her own as his partner. Indeed, their son, Mark, spoke with admiration about the competitiveness between the two of them. It was something that spurred them on.
The list of civic contributions by Barbara Snelling is astonishing to contemplate. She was chairwoman of the Shelburne School Board and the first chairwoman of the Champlain Valley Union High School Board. She was a founding trustee of the Vermont Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization that has had a profound impact on numerous organizations throughout the state. She was chairwoman of Chittenden County United Way, which plays a vital role in funneling support to worthy organizations serving the community. She was a trustee of Champlain and Radcliffe colleges and of the Shelburne Museum.
But there is more. She was a vice president of the University of Vermont, and she had her own business, Snelling and Kolb, a fundraising consulting firm.
A commitment to education is the river that runs through this long list of commitments. But politics was part of her life as well, owing at first to the career of Richard Snelling, who was first elected governor in 1976. She and he practiced the kind of moderate Republican politics that still prevails in Vermont but which is almost extinct elsewhere, characterized by a commitment to tolerance, fairness and fiscal common sense.
After recession led to a serious budget crisis during the third term of Gov. Madeleine Kunin, Richard Snelling decided he would run for governor again. He had already served four terms — from 1977 to 1985 — and after his election in 1990 to a fifth term, he pushed through an emergency budget plan.
His untimely death in August 1991 soon prompted the question: Would Barbara Snelling enter politics to carry on his legacy, or rather the legacy that the two of them had shaped as partners together? Soon, she answered that question, winning election as lieutenant governor in 1992. It was a competitive race against David Wolk, now president of Castleton University and then a Democratic senator from Rutland County.
The competitive spirit that made Barbara and Richard Snelling a dynamic pair continued to motivate her, and in 1996, she decided to challenge the incumbent governor, Howard Dean, who had been lieutenant governor when Richard Snelling died. It might have been Dean’s toughest challenge, but Snelling suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and had to bow out of the race. Later she served two terms in the Vermont Senate.
Mark Snelling said that among his mother’s achievements one about which the family is most proud is her role as founder of Friends of the Vermont State House, the organization that has been instrumental in the refurbishment of a building that is both a grand historic site and a working seat of government.
She was a woman dedicated to education, and the State House itself is an education in the state’s civic values, a living monument to Vermont’s democracy. Barbara Snelling and her family have given much to keep those values alive.
Online voter registration
The Associated Press | October 16, 2015
MONTPELIER — Vermonters can now register to vote online.
Vermont Public Radio reports the new registration system debuted on the secretary of state’s website Monday morning. Secretary of State Jim Condos says the system will improve access to democracy and make elections less susceptible to fraud. He says the state can run an audit of their checklist to see if anyone appears in multiple locations.
Condos says the new system will particularly benefit military personnel stationed overseas, since they can fill out a paper remotely. The new system provides voters with a customized account where they can request absentee ballots, see sample ballots in their precinct, and retrieve information on upcoming elections.
Condos says the system will cost $2.7 million over 10 years. A formal launch event is expected next week.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is bringing $581,000 in federal money to Vermont to support the state’s local food movement.
The money is part of $42.4 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to states and organizations throughout the country, including $73,750 for the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, or RAFFL, to improve marketing and promotion projects for local food enterprises, ranging from food processing to farm-to-institution activities.
“Our partnership with the Vermont Country Store and Green Mountain Power enables businesses to create a culture of wellness at work sites and schools as customers order local farm products from area producers,” said RAFFL’s executive director, Tara Kelly. “It’s a win-win for employees looking to buy local, high-quality foods and farmers who need support in developing a year-round market.”
Other regional awards include $69,000 for the Randolph Farmers Market.
“Vermont is a leader in locally sourced food, but obstacles remain, particularly for our smaller producers,” said Leahy, senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“These bedrock investments will help expand programs that support family farms, open new farming opportunities and ensure that healthy, local foods are available to Vermonters of all income levels,” he said.
The field expands
Democratic gubernatorial candidates Matt Dunne and Sue Minter formally launched their campaigns last week with downtown rallies.
Dunne, a Google executive and former Windsor County senator, chose Barre for his launch, a decision that turned out to put the event in the wrong place at the wrong time.
His Monday event coincided with a train derailment in nearby Northfield, and television crews heading to his event were diverted to the crash.
And only about two dozen supporters were on hand, not counting media and campaign workers. Had Dunne chosen to hold his kickoff closer to his hometown of Hartland, he likely would have drawn more friends and supporters.
Dunne did not appear disheartened, however. His 20-minute speech included criticism of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration. Although both are Democrats, Dunne made clear he would have managed things much differently than the more brash Shumlin.
Dunne criticized progress on delivering broadband Internet service to Vermonters and the creation of the state’s online health insurance marketplace.
He also said the next governor must not be a “care taker,” seemingly referring to Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But he told reporters after his remarks that he was not referring to any specific candidate.
One thing was clear: Dunne is seeking to paint himself as the outsider and his fellow Democratic opponents, House Speaker Shap Smith and former transportation secretary Sue Minter, as Shumlin acolytes.
Minter, meanwhile, drew a much larger crowd in her hometown of Waterbury.
She touted several high-profile backers, including former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, and Doug Racine, a former lieutenant governor, state senator and Agency of Human Services secretary.
In the crowd was David Mears, the former commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, who is well regarded in the environmental community.
Minter highlighted her management credentials and her tenure as the state’s chief recovery officer following Tropical Storm Irene. For Minter, convincing voters she will manage the state better than Shumlin is key.
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Democratic Town Caucuses
Monday, September 21, 2015
Rutland County Democrats meet on September 21, 2015 at times and locations listed to elect 2015-17 town officers and delegates to the Rutland County Democratic Committee. All registered voters interested in Democratic Party activities are invited. Questions: Call Mary Mellow 773-4560.
Brandon Brandon Free Library 7:00 pm
Castleton Castleton Community Center 5:30 pm
Chittenden Town Hall 5:30 pm
Clarendon Town Hall 6:30 pm
Danby 2981 Colvin Hill Road 5:00 pm
Fair Haven Town Office 7:00 pm
Killington Sherburne Memorial Library 5:00 pm
Mendon Town Offices, Rte. 4 5:30 pm
Middletown Springs TBA 6:00 pm
Mount Holly Community Center 6:00 pm
Mount Tabor Town Hall 7:00 pm
Pawlet Town Office 5:00 pm
Pittsford Maclure Library 6:00 pm
Poultney Town Office 6:00 pm
Proctor Proctor Free Library 5:30 pm
Rutland City Rutland Free Library 6:30 pm
Rutland Town Town Office, Rte 4 Center Rutland 6:00 pm
Shrewsbury 135 Spring Lake Road 6:30 pm
Tinmouth Tinmouth Library 7:00 pm
Wallingford Gilbert Hart Library 7:00 pm
West Rutland Town Hall 6:00 pm
Paid for by the Rutland County Democratic Committee
Scott Garren, Treasurer