MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Monday welcomed a new member into the fold: Susan Shashok, a local entrepreneur who will for the next five months fill a vacancy created by Selectwoman Janelle Ashley’s recent resignation.
Shashok and fellow East Middlebury resident Eric Murray had both declared interest in succeeding Ashley until the next municipal elections in March. At that point, the remaining year on Ashley’s term will be up for grabs on the Town Meeting Day ballot.
“I’m very happy,” said Shashok, 45, who received the support of four board members and plans to run for the position next March. “I know how much work is ahead, but I am happy to do it. I’m very happy to be participating.”
The board interviewed both Shashok and Murray on Tuesday, asking them questions about what they would like to accomplish while on the board. Both indicated an interest in promoting economic development, including nurturing businesses already here, and keeping local property taxes as low as possible while maintaining the services residents have come to expect.
“I don’t take my commitments lightly,” Shashok told the selectboard. “I do my homework.”
Shashok and her husband Alan have lived in East Middlebury for the past 18 years, moving there after a two-year stay in Middlebury. They have two sons, Nikolas and Alexander, both of whom attend Middlebury public schools.
Shashok holds a bachelor of science in Food Marketing and Agribusiness from UVM, and has held managerial positions at a Ben & Jerry’s franchise, the catering department at Middlebury College, and the Middlebury Natural Foods Cooperative.
She currently owns and operates “Caroline’s Dream,” a small business that makes handcrafted Vermont skin care products that she markets wholesale and retail in the U.S. and Canada. She is also an East Middlebury water system operator.
Shashok’s civic résumé includes two years on the Addison County Humane Society Board of Directors, six years on the Middlebury Natural Foods Cooperative board and three years on the East Middlebury Prudential Committee (half of that time spent as chairwoman).
She helped represent her community in trying to influence some local projects, most notably the proposed expansion of the J.P. Carrara & Sons gravel pit off Schoolhouse Hill Road and the installation of additional crosswalks along Rte 125.
“As a result of my work on the gravel pit expansion and as a water system operator, I am familiar with some of the technical issues — such as hydrology, air quality, noise and infrastructure support — that the selectboard sometimes addresses,” Shashok wrote in her letter of interest for the Ashley vacancy.
Murray, a lifelong Middlebury resident, ran unsuccessfully for the board in March. Murray is the owner of East Middlebury-based EJM Enterprises — a company that specializes in heavy equipment and truck repairs, as well as towing.
He also previously ran for a seat on the board, losing a close race around a dozen years ago to former selectman Max Eaton before finishing on the short end this past March in a three-way race for two seats.
“I’d like to be able to contribute to the community and perhaps be able to help shape the growth and help steer the community in the direction residents would like,” Murray said. “I was thinking it was time to give back a little.”
While a majority of the board picked Shashok, they urged Murray to maintain his interest.
“The third time was the charm for me,” Selectman Craig Bingham told Murray after the vote.
RIVER WORK FOLLOW UP
Also at Monday’s meeting, selectmen agreed to hold a meeting in East Middlebury within the next few weeks to talk about excavation work that occurred in the Middlebury River following Tropical Storm Irene.
The magnitude of that work and questions about whether the town received the requisite state permission before embarking on the project has drawn criticism among some local residents and environmental groups. The New Haven River Anglers Association, in particular, has voiced concerns that excavation and the buttressing of shoreline might have done serious harm to the Middlebury River’s fish habitat. Some East Middlebury residents are concerned that the work might be setting the stage for worse damage further downstream during the next flood event.
“We are seeing different reports, and I expect we will see more reports,” Tenny said of the river work. “Somewhere in all this, there is a compromise.”
In other action on Monday, the Middlebury selectboard:
• Presided over a special town meeting featuring an overview of a $4.8 million plan to upgrade the Middlebury and East Middlebury fire stations. The special meeting was a precursor to Tuesday’s Australian ballot vote for $250,000 to take the plans to final design (see related story). The balance of the project will be up for a Town Meeting Day vote.
• Picked Dr. Hannah Benz to serve as the town’s next health officer, succeeding the late Dr. Robert LaFiandra. Benz received the requisite four votes to secure the post over a second candidate, longtime Deputy Health Officer Tom Scanlon.
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.