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Former teacher, GOP candidate seeks seat

MIDDLEBURY — The prospect of an open seat on the Middlebury selectboard is generating interest among some eleventh-hour candidates, including resident Brian Bauer, a former Vermont House candidate who last week confirmed he will wage a write-in campaign for selectman.
Resident Travis Forbes also confirmed that he will also mount a write-in campaign for the board (See story, this page).
Bauer is targeting a seat that is being vacated by Selectman Don Keeler, who has decided not to run for re-election after a six-year run on the board. Terms were also up for incumbent selectboard members Janelle Ashley and Nick Artim, and they filed nomination papers in time to appear on the Town Meeting Day ballot. No one filed papers to be considered for the third vacancy, creating an opportunity for Bauer — and other interested candidates — to wage write-in campaigns. To be successful, a write-in candidate for the race will have to record a minimum of 30 votes to be eligible for the election run-off for the three available selectboard posts.
This will not be the first election or foray into public service for Bauer, 66, a former, longtime science teacher (1969-2001) at Middlebury Union Middle School. He also has served on the Middlebury Zoning Board and Addison County Regional Planning Commission. He is a former volunteer with the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association and was an auxiliary Vermont State Police trooper for several years.
Bauer ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for one of Middlebury’s two House seats in 2002.
He took a break from public service for the past year, in order to deal with the aftermath of a family house fire. Bauer said he is now ready to jump back into the fray.
“I recently noticed a number of positions on the Middlebury selectboard that seemed to be open for this coming term,” Bauer said during a recent interview. “One of my concerns is that people have a choice.”
Based on discussions with other potential candidates, Bauer had thought others would step forward to run for the selectboard.
“It’s a lot safer to listen to reasons why not to open yourself up to the public,” Bauer acknowledged of his initial impulse to sit back and let others run.
When no one did, Bauer decided to step forward himself with a campaign message that emphasizes job creation, business development and lower taxes.
Bauer said he has seen a trend in which school taxes have increased so much that it has forced the town to pare back on municipal spending, often at the expense of maintaining roads and other town infrastructure.
“From my perspective, the towns are afraid to increase their tax rates because, when coupled with the education tax, no one would be able to afford it,” Bauer said.
The Middlebury selectboard has proposed a fiscal year 2010-2011 town budget that would maintain the same municipal tax rate for the second year in a row.
Along with keeping property taxes in check, Bauer said the town must do more to increase its tax base. With that in mind, Bauer believes the town should do more to attract businesses, including providing financial incentives and more development-friendly zoning.
“Small business is where the jobs are going to come from,” Bauer said. “And those businesses will be attracted to towns with good infrastructure.”
The recent closing of such local businesses as Standard Register, Monahan Filaments and CPC of Vermont, Bauer said, should prompt the town to take a more aggressive approach to attracting entrepreneurs.
Middlebury officials will be asking residents on Town Meeting Day to phase out the local machinery and equipment tax, a gesture the selectboard believes will improve the business climate. Bauer called that “a baby step,” but said the town needs to adopt a more “business friendly” attitude. He cited a failed attempt by Staples to establish a store at The Centre shopping plaza, and the Holm family’s ill-fated effort to build a small-scale hydro operation at the Otter Creek Falls, as examples of what he sees as Middlebury’s “anti-development” attitude.
Bauer believes he could make more of an impact on development and taxation efforts as a member of the selectboard, rather than as part of the planning commission or Addison County Economic Development Corp.
“The selectmen run the town, including all facets of it,” he said.
Any other candidates wishing to confirm write-in runs for the Middlebury selectboard this year should contact Town Clerk Ann Webster and the Independent

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