Ripton board sees rare turnover

RIPTON — The town of Ripton will soon welcome a new face to its selectboard for the first time in almost a quarter-century.
The unusual vacancy is being created by Selectman Bill Ford’s resignation, which takes effect on Sept. 1. That date that will usher in a new era in Ripton municipal government, but also mark the demise of a longstanding triumvirate, the members of which have served together as the town’s legislative body since 1986. Ford, Laurie Cox and Ron Wimett all joined the Ripton selectboard at the same time.
“We all were babes in the woods,” Cox recalled of the election of the then-political neophytes, all brought on board through a confluence of unusual circumstances. Cox recalled that one incumbent was moving, another had to leave to tend to business interests, and the remaining member was elderly and decided not to run for re-election.
Ford, Cox and Wimett stepped forward and a brand new board was born.
“Fortunately, governmental life was simpler 23 years ago, but now it has gotten more complex,” Cox said.
“We used to joke around 20 years ago that we’d all stay on for 25 years and leave at once” just like they came in, she added.
But the notion of 25 years of joint service became less far-fetched as elections came and went with little opposition, and the same trio was left wielding the meeting gavel.
“A couple of years ago, we started realizing that we were getting to 25 years, and it might be time to think about moving on,” Cox recalled. “But we also thought it would not be best for the town if we all moved on at once.”
As it turns out, Ford will become the first of the incumbents to pave the way for political transition in town. Ford explained that he had come to a point where he had to take stock in the many activities he has absorbed during the years. One of those activities has been as facilities manager and commission member of the Middlebury’s Memorial Sports Center.
With more than 23 years as a selectman and a busy winter looming at the sports center, Ford decided it was the right moment to leave the selectboard.
“I thought it was time to step down and allow someone else the opportunity to apply their efforts on behalf of the town,” Ford said.
“It has been a very enjoyable time,” Ford added of his time on the board. “Ripton is fortunate to have had a consistent, good group of people involved in all aspects of town government.”
Cox said she will miss working with Ford. She also sees the impending vacancy as an opportunity to bring a new voice to the board.
“Between Bill, Ron and I, we have had a good balance of skills and approaches that have worked,” she said. “When we get a new person, I hope we will still have a balance, and that the (new board member) has a different way of approaching things than Ron and I do.”
Selectmen hope to appoint Ford’s interim successor on Aug. 24. The new member will serve until Town Meeting Day next March, when Ford’s current term was scheduled to expire. That person will then be able to run, along with any other eligible Ripton citizen, for a new three-year term.
Ripton Town Clerk Sally Hoyler said on Thursday she had received three letters of interest thus far for the interim selectboard position. Those interested can send their letters to the town of Ripton, c/o Deb Karpek, P.O. Box 10, Ripton, VT 05766.

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