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No takers for Middlebury seats

MIDDLEBURY — The town of Middlebury will feature only one contested local election this March — for library trustee — while there are no takers for one three-year term each on the selectboard and elementary school board.
Candidates had until the end of the business day on Monday, Jan. 25, to file petition papers to get on the Town Meeting Day ballot for local offices ranging from school director to lister. As has been the pattern in recent years, Middlebury will feature few contested elections and will in fact have to recruit write-in candidates, or appoint interim officials, as a result of sparse interest.
This will be the case for a seat on the Middlebury selectboard that is being vacated by incumbent Selectman Don Keeler, who has chosen to step down after a six-year stint. Keeler’s is one of three spots on the selectboard that is up for grabs this March. Selectwoman Janelle Ashley will be running for re-election, as will Selectman Nick Artim, who was recently appointed to fill out a term vacated by former board member Bill Perkins. Residents Jeremy Rathbun, Ted Shambo and Travis Forbes had at the time declared interest in that Perkins vacancy, but had not filed petition papers by the Monday deadline.
Artim has enjoyed his few weeks on the board, and is looking forward to winning a three-year endorsement from local voters in March. He said he believes it is every resident’s duty to give back to his or her town.
“It is fascinating to see the workings of the town and realize you can make a difference,” Artim said of his brief experience on the board thus far.
Artim believes the selectboard will need to focus heavily on budgeting and creating new jobs during the next three years. The selectboard approved for warning this year a town budget that maintains the same municipal tax rate for the second year in a row.
The town will be hard-pressed to continue that trend, Artim said.
“We cannot work on such minimal increases in revenue and expect to maintain the same quality of services,” Artim said.
That will mean increasing the town’s tax base, grand list and job numbers, Artim believes.
“We need to actively pursue light to medium-sized manufacturing,” Artim said, noting Middlebury’s past losses in that sector that have included Specialty Filaments and Standard Register.
He cited companies specializing in energy efficiency products as among those Middlebury could be recruiting.
“We need to find the companies that would value the quality of life of this area and that want to be near the major cities of the eastern seaboard,” Artim said.
He added the town should also reach out to additional retail businesses, noting some Middlebury consumers continue to lament the loss of Ames Department Store.
Ashley is rounding out her sixth year on the board. She thought long and hard about running again and ultimately decided to do so because of a wealth of important issues Middlebury is likely to face during the coming years, including tight budgeting, completing the Cross Street Bridge project and continuing to improve local recreation programs.
“We’ve got union negotiations happening right now and that will be big, in terms of how that plays out with budgeting for the next few years,” Ashley said.
Budgeting will continue to be a challenge as Vermont, and the nation, struggle through a tough economy.
“We are trying to be mindful of the struggles of the average family while providing services that residents have come to expect,” Ashley said.
Ashley has taken a particularly keen interest in the town’s recreation department during her tenure on the board. She is pleased the department has expanded its offerings beyond traditional sports programs to other activities that appeal to a broad demographic.
The Mary Hogan Elementary School board also features three vacancies and only two candidates. Incumbent board member Lucy Schumer and resident Ruth Hardy filed nomination papers in time to appear on the Town Meeting Day ballot. Incumbents Christin Eaton and Jim Wright have decided not to see re-election.
Middlebury Town Clerk Ann Webster said any registered voter of the town who wants to make a belated run for one of the vacancies can mount a write-in campaign. That will require the candidate to score at least 30 write-in tallies during Australian ballot voting on March 2. Webster advised write-in candidates to notify her about their intentions prior to the election so her staff can more easily flag votes. She also recommends that candidates remind supporters in the days leading up to the election.
Barring successful write-in campaigns, the ID-4 and Middlebury selectboards will each need to appoint an interim member to serve until the next municipal election, at which time the candidates will be able to run for a two-year term.
In the one contested race, Chris Watters and Jacob Haigh will vie for a five-year term on the Ilsley Public Library Board of Trustees.
In uncontested brackets, James Douglas is seeking another one-year term as town moderator; Beth Dow will be on the ballot for a three-year term as lister; and Lorraine Gonzalez Morse is seeking another three-year term on the UD-3 board. It should also be noted there are no contested races for the UD-3 board in any of the other six district-member towns.

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