Five run for three spots on Middlebury selectboard

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters on Town Meeting Day will decide a five-way race for three spots on their selectboard.
This is a highlight emerging from candidate filings made at Middlebury-area town clerks’ offices by the Monday, Jan. 28, deadline. As has been a trend, there are more uncontested elections slated for March 5 than there are contested ones. But voters will decide a few races in the Addison Central Supervisory Union towns of Middlebury, Bridport, Cornwall, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
In Middlebury, incumbent Selectmen Nick Artim, Travis Forbes and Gary Baker are all running for re-election. Challengers Ted Davis and Eric Murray have joined the field to make it a race.
Davis, 60, currently serves as chairman of the Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB) — a position he said he would resign should he be elected to the selectboard. He is a former member of the town’s planning commission, zoning board of adjustment, and recreation council. He is also a former member of the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association.
“I’d like to become more involved and serve the community in a different capacity,” Davis said of his main reason for running for the selectboard.
“I have always had thoughts of running for the selectboard and this seemed like a good time to do it.”
Davis is a senior vice president in charge of information services and facilities with the Middlebury-based Co-Operative Insurance Companies.
He sees the selectboard as a good avenue through which to have input in the growing community discussions about how to replace the current town offices and entertain inquiries from a prospective major, anchor store. That issue — and the wisdom of a 50,000-square-foot limit on retail store applications — was the subject of much debate during the recent updating of Middlebury’s town plan.
“The right type, size and fit for the community is really important,” Davis said.
He is looking forward to the imminent hiring of a Middlebury business development director, a position he hopes can help bring more jobs to Addison County’s shire town.
“It seems like this is a step in the right direction,” he said of the job, expected to be filled in a few weeks.
Murray, 51, is the owner of East Middlebury-based EJM Enterprises, a company that specializes in heavy equipment and truck repairs, as well as towing. He is a lifelong resident who has run for the selectboard before. Last year, he finished out of the running in a five-candidate race for two three-year seats on the board. The competitors for those two spots included incumbent Selectman Victor Nuovo, Selectwoman Susan Shashok, former Selectman Don Keeler, and resident Brian Bauer. In 2011, he finished third in a three-way race for two spots on the board, won by incumbent Selectmen Dean George and Craig Bingham.
Undaunted, Murray wants to give it another try this March.
As in his other campaigns, Murray will emphasize his contention that Middlebury’s tax rate is too high and that the town needs to spend less money. He also believes that the town exhibits an “anti-business climate,” which he said should be addressed in order to woo more companies and jobs to town.
Murray is skeptical of the newly created Middlebury business development director position and believes the money for that post “could have been better spent.” The business development fund is being fortified by contributions from Middlebury College, local businesses and a penny on the town tax rate for each of the next five years. Murray is concerned that the new director will focus on new white-collar jobs and not enough on blue-collar ones.
If elected, Murray would advocate for renovating the current town offices instead of replacing them.
“Everybody needs a good place to work, but we have just come off a multi-million-dollar project in the Cross Street Bridge and we were freshly handed a multi-million-dollar fire station project,” Murray said.
The local share of the $16 million Cross Street Bridge project is being paid through local option taxes; the selectboard has said that it would like to finance new town offices without having to raise property taxes by more than two cents.
Artim, director of the Heritage Protection Group, was appointed to the board in November of 2009 to fill the remainder of a term vacated by former Selectman Bill Perkins. He ran successfully for a three-year term in 2010. Forbes, vice president of Case Street Redi-Mix Inc., successfully ran as a write-in candidate in 2010. And former Middlebury DRB chair Gary Baker, a local insurance professional, was elected to a one-year term on the board last year. That term was vacated by former Selectwoman Janelle Ashley.
Barring write-in campaigns, there will be no other races featured on Middlebury’s Town Meeting Day ballot.
In uncontested elections, Ruth Hardy, Billy Connelly and Jason Duquette-Hoffman are running for three-year terms on the Mary Hogan Elementary School board; Lorraine Gonzalez Morse is seeking another three-year term on the UD-3 board; John Freidin is seeking a five-year term on the Ilsley Library Board of Trustees; and former Gov. James Douglas is running for another year as town moderator.

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