March 8, 2007
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Former alderman Michael Daniels unseated one-term Vergennes Mayor April Jin in balloting on Tuesday, 260-175.
Daniels, a 38-year member of the Vergennes Fire Department and a retired Vermont Army National Guard sergeant, said during his campaign he planned to tap volunteers to improve city services and keep city spending under control.
Daniels, who manages two dozen buildings and 40 employees for the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services, said he would also use his and others’ expertise to try to operate the city’s buildings and equipment more efficiently and cost-effectively.
Jin, who served as an alderman before running unopposed for mayor two years ago, faced several controversial issues in her term, including conflicts with state officials about funding for the city for hosting Northlands Job Corps and about whether Vergennes should host a mental health facility.
Nor did all in the city agree with her stance favoring a potential $1 million sewer-extension deal with a private developer, who wanted to run a line into Ferrisburgh.
On the issue of proposing future sewer extensions, residents also overwhelmingly supported a proposed city charter change on Tuesday that would not allow aldermen to strike a deal for any sewer extension of any size outside the boundaries of the city without calling for a public vote. The vote went 315-78.
But even with that support of the charter change, the decision to make any changes will ultimately rest with the legislature, and could also hinge on whether the newly-constituted council supports it.
Jin believed the unpopularity of the sewer extension question played a role in her defeat.
“I think that was the driving issue. No doubt about it,” she said.
Jin declined to comment on her accomplishments in office. She generally earned high marks for the time and energy she devoted to the job, and her other civic commitments, including her ongoing service as chairwoman of the Hannaford Career Center board and as a member of the Vergennes Union High School board. During her campaign Jin also said she took pride in her efforts to control spending and develop positive relations with Northlands.
Jin said now it may be time for her to move closer to her grandchildren, several of whom live in the metropolitan New York City area.
“I want to see more of my grandchildren, and seriously I’m going to move wherever my grandchildren end up,” she said.
In the five-way race for three two-year terms on the city council, Diane Lanpher, a former Democratic candidate for the Vermont House, emerged as the top vote-getter. Lanpher, who works with the Department of Health to fight substance abuse, earned 303 votes.
Also winning election to the Vergennes City Council were incumbent Randy Ouellette, owner of R&K Woodworking, with 261 votes, and newcomer Christine Collette, manager of the Vergennes branch of the Merchants Bank, with 257 votes. Collette has served in the past on the city’s planning commission and the Vergennes-Panton Water District board.
Trailing the winners were two new faces on the city ballot — Mathew Chabot, manager of Macy’s Department Store in Burlington, with 157 votes, and Peter Garon, who works in human resources for the state, with 132 votes.
Aldermen Craig Minor, Clara “Ziggy” Comeau and David Austin’s terms were not up this March.
On the school front, the proposed $3.4 million Vergennes Union Elementary School budget passed in Vergennes, Panton and Waltham, 347-295. It calls for a 4.9 percent increase in spending.
The $8.06 million VUHS budget passed in the five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns, 750-696.
Vergennes residents do not vote on city spending. Aldermen will come up with a budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, by the end of June.