Ashley steps down from Middlebury selectboard

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Selectwoman Janelle Ashley has stepped down from her post because her family is moving to the town of Whiting.
“I will miss being such a central part of what’s happening in the Middlebury community,” Ashley said on Wednesday as she was packing up belongings at her Middlebury home.
Ashley explained the family’s move is primarily based on her youngest son’s growing interest in raising sheep. Jarrod Ashley, who recently entered Cornell University to major in animal science, has for the past eight years developed a knack for raising the Navajo-Churro breed of sheep. He has been exhibiting the animals at various statewide and regional shows during the summer months.
Jarrod Ashley has come to a point where he wants to enter his animals in competitions on the Northeast level. It became clear that such a goal would require more space to care for the animals than the shed on the family’s property would allow.
The Ashleys were fortunate to find a nice home with ample space off Route 30 in Whiting and are now in the process of settling in.
But moving out of Middlebury means Janelle Ashley must leave that town’s selectboard, on which she has served for the past seven-and-a-half years. Her latest (third) term was due to expire in March of 2013.
The selectboard is soliciting letters from local residents interested in serving in Ashley’s place until the next Town Meeting Day in March. Candidates will then be able to run for the remaining year of Ashley’s term in that election.
“The board will review letters of interest at its next meeting (Sept. 13) and see where they want to go,” said Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger.
Ashley was first elected to the selectboard in 2004. Her main motivation for running was — and remained — to maintain the quality and solvency of Middlebury’s recreation programs.
She recalled the recreation department’s operations and budget were under particular scrutiny when she first joined the board. Ashley said the department is faring much better these days, thanks to a new business model: Instead of creating a program and hiring someone to staff it in hopes it will draw a lot of paying participants, the department is encouraging enthusiastic people to pitch recreation ideas and recruit participants.
“When you get these enthusiastic people, they will get people to show up for (the programs),” said Ashley, who served as the selectboard’s liaison to the Middlebury Recreation Advisory Board throughout her tenure.
Ashley’s contributions extended well beyond the recreation department.
She helped craft some frugal municipal budgets during tough economic times and, with her colleagues, saw through the planning and construction of the new Cross Street Bridge.
Ashley said her successor would be busy, working with the board on an ambitious agenda that includes plans for a new fire station and potentially new town offices.
She would like to eventually become involved in civic affairs in her new hometown of Whiting.
Finger said Ashley will be missed.
“She has been a positive addition to the board,” Finger said. “She has been a quiet member, but when she speaks, it means something.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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