When choosing a candidate for the three available seats open on the Middlebury Board of Selectmen, voters might ponder what individual qualities are most effective in that role: In our mind, strong leadership skills, a rational approach to problem-solving, and working well as a team are three of the more important strengths a candidate must have to be effective.
Voters should also consider what tasks lie before the selectboard in the immediate future. Here are a few that top that list: following through on the public’s decision on the town municipal building and recreation center; shepherding the Agency of Transportation’s work on Merchants Row and Main Street as the railway underpasses are reconstructed and a tunnel is placed over the railway at Triangle Park; monitoring and creating opportunities for pedestrian and vehicular access to the Marble Works Business District from Main Street when the old Lazarus building is razed this spring/summer; monitoring and bolstering the town’s economic development efforts with Middlebury’s Economic Development guru Jamie Gaucher; continuing work with Middlebury College to create a town park (if that bond is approved) and working with the UD-3 board to build the new recreation facility and make it work well with the UD-3 school district.
And those tasks are just the big-ticket items that require a sharp focus on project completion. There’s also the need to scrutinize budgets and spending, plan for the future, and be ready and able to respond decisively to opportunities as they come along.
To that end, two candidates among the eight demonstrate exceptional leadership, problem-solving and team-building skills and who have demonstrated an ability to make forward-thinking decisions in a collaborative manner: incumbent Dean George and Brian Carpenter.
George, who is running for the one-year term, is currently the selectboard chairman and has done an outstanding job in difficult times. Throughout contentious hearings and meetings, he has remained remarkably good-natured, calm and rational — the sure mark of a diplomat and leader confident that their work has been in the best interests of the community.
His experience on the selectboard over the past several years also gives him the context to consider issues from a historical perspective and help lead the board with that thread of continuity. Such experience is an invaluable asset to the town and we can only hope his re-election will provide the steady hand so desperately needed as the town launches into a couple years of significant transformation.
Carpenter, who currently holds the position of Brigadier General in the Vermont Army National Guard and has spent a 30-year career in the Army, is one of six candidates seeking one of two three-year seats. He is also a Middlebury businessman who has helped Champlain Valley Equipment, a family firm, expand throughout northern Vermont over the past 20 years. In those positions he has demonstrated a unique ability to lead, take command of situations and build highly effective teams to accomplish the task at hand.
A native of Middlebury, Carpenter has also spent the past 13 years coaching youth sports, and in his years at Middlebury Union High School, served as captain of the lacrosse and ski teams. He has served on the town Public Works Committee for nine years and volunteers as a member of the Middlebury Regional EMS board of directors.
He knows Middlebury well and in many capacities, and would serve the town well as a member of its selectboard.
When casting your Australian ballot next Tuesday at the town gym, vote for Brian Carpenter and Dean George for two of the three seats that are open.
Five other candidates are competing for a three-year term on the board: Laura Asermily, Craig Bingham, Ted Davis, John Freidin and Eric Murray.
Freidin, Asermily, Davis and Murray would each bring unique characteristics to the board and offer varying types of experience.
Bingham has ensured his candidacy is fraught with divisiveness and ensures that an air of contention would be part of his presence on the selectboard for the next three years. We have no problem with selectboard members who question board and committee action in a thoughtful and collaborative manner, but it’s not helpful to shout from rooftops, rattle sabers and feign indignity — particularly when they are actions and points he has accepted for months only to suddenly find need for modest corrections.
A case in point is protesting the $2 million cost estimate town taxpayers would pay under the proposed plan to build a new municipal building and recreational center. He is calling that figure “misleading” and “inaccurate,” and decrying words like “energy efficient” and “healthy” in a town-distributed brochure that informs residents what the bond vote is about, while carefully avoiding any reference as to how anyone should vote. Most residents know that schools and towns are well within their rights, and obligation, to ensure voters are reminded of upcoming votes through such measures and that care needs to be used when describing the issues in an honest and straightforward manner. Bingham supported a similar mailing and town expense concerning the Cross Street Bridge just a few years ago with nary an objection.
If Bingham was truly concerned about the $2 million estimate, residents might wonder why he has not questioned its use in the previous six months of discussion, but rather waited until the week before the election to make it an issue. And does he really believe that the current basement in the municipal building is “healthy” for town employees? Of course not. He knows it is dank, dirty and reeks of a moldy smell. And does he believe the existing building is energy efficient? No again. It has some insulation, but he and all others recognize it is wholly inadequate and that substantial work would need to be done to bring the municipal building up to modern energy efficiency standards.
Those truths, as expressed in the flier, are not his issue.
Rather, he is playing “gotcha” by nit-picking a few items, creating a scene and casting the hard work of the selectboard, the steering committee and many others into doubt in the hopes of defeating the issue. To Bingham, the end justifies the means.
That’s not being a productive player on a team; it’s not exhibiting leadership that puts the town in good stead; and it’s not problem solving through rational consideration.
— Angelo S. Lynn