Several citzens express interest in Middlebury selectboard seats
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard’s lengthy, sometimes acrimonious debate related to construction of new town offices and recreation facilities has placed the panel squarely in the public eye during the past eight months. And if recent activity at the local town clerk’s office is any indication, there will be no shortage of takers for the three selectboard terms that will be up for grabs on Town Meeting Day, March 4.
As the Addison Independent went to press, resident Laura Asermily had formally filed papers to run for one of two available three-year terms on the board. Incumbent Selectboard Chairman Dean George has confirmed he will run for the single year left on a term vacated earlier this month by former Selectman Victor Nuovo. He resigned in reaction to some citizen allegations of conflict of interest related to his votes on a proposed deal between the town and Middlebury College related to construction of new municipal offices and a recreation center. Nuovo is a professor emeritus of philosophy at the college.
The two three-year terms in play on March 4 currently belong to George and Selectman Craig Bingham. Bingham confirmed he will run for re-election, amid a field that is likely to include at least Asermily; former state Rep. John Freidin, who currently serves as an Ilsley Public Library trustee; Middlebury Development Review Board Chairman Ted Davis; and resident Heather Seeley.
Candidates for local elective office in Vermont have until Jan. 27 to file petition papers at their local town clerk’s office. Middlebury candidates must garner a minimum of 30 signatures of registered voters within their community. The Independent will interview all confirmed candidates during the weeks leading up to Town Meeting Day.
MEET LAURA ASERMILY
Asermily, 54, needs no introduction to residents plugged into local “green” initiatives.
She currently serves on the Middlebury Town Energy Committee, which has been recognized by the state as a leader in energy and climate action planning.
For a decade she worked for the Prentice Hall publishing company, taught social studies at Fair Haven Union High School, and coordinated the Learning Lab at Middlebury and Otter Valley union high schools. She also worked at local human services agencies with developmentally challenged citizens as well as those affected by addiction; helped establish the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACoRN) and related Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op; and became a certified energy auditor. She currently works at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op and views it as a business model that could be applied to other ventures.
During a telephone interview on Tuesday, Asermily said it was former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin who inspired her to run for office.
“It was (Kunin’s) call to have more women participate in appointed and elective office,” Asermily said.
“I am not running ‘against’ anyone,” she added. “I am committed to local government.”
Asermily believes her leadership on energy issues would come in handy on the selectboard. She has been an advocate for energy conservation, energy efficiency programs and alternative transportation. She noted Middlebury finished a successful round in the 2013 Vermont Home Energy Challenge that involved visiting several Middlebury homeowners to help them understand how they could make their homes more comfortable through thermal efficiency measures and conservation.
“We can apply similar understanding to our public buildings, both existing and planned,” she said, through a press release announcing her candidacy.
Asermily also cited her efforts to make Middlebury more bike and pedestrian friendly.
“Making Middlebury bike and pedestrian friendly improves our physical and mental health while reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gases and attracting tourists and related businesses,” she said. “Several of our nonprofits and schools are already supporting this work, and there is enormous potential for including Middlebury College in collaborations to seek creative solutions to a variety of issues.”
She also emphasized the importance of creating new, local jobs.
“I recognize the need to develop new jobs in our community and favor those arising from a co-operative, innovative approach,” she said. “Middlebury wants to establish itself as an innovation leader. This means attracting technology-based jobs, expanding ecotourism, food production, and waste management and learning how to take care of ourselves in the face of climate and financial emergencies.”
The Middlebury selectboard has tried to hold the line on spending in the midst of advancing some major capital projects — most recently a makeover of the town’s two fire stations. The board on Tuesday discussed paring down a draft 2014-2015 municipal budget plan (see related story, Page 1A).
“I’m definitely one who has been frugal in my life and would apply that to the budgeting in Middlebury,” Asermily said.
Asermily has been following the selectboard debate regarding the proposed construction of a new municipal building at 77 Main St. and a new recreation center off Creek Road. A current proposal calls for Middlebury College to pay the town $5.5 million in return for the current municipal building/gym site at 94 Main St., along with a town-owned parcel off Cross Street. The town would apply that money toward site preparation and construction of the two new buildings, budgeted at a combined $7.5 million.
The proposal has generated much controversy among some residents, who believe the town should maintain its town offices and gym at their current location.
“I am not prepared to make a statement on my preference,” Asermily said, when asked if she supports the current building proposal or rebuilding/renovating those facilities on-site. She said she plans to come to a personal decision based on research during the weeks prior to a Town Meeting Day vote. Asermily did take issue with the process of how the proposal has been developed.
“It’s not that there hasn’t been an effort to gather public comments, but the format hasn’t satisfied some people,” she said.
“I bring energetic, deliberative leadership for a healthier community. We appear stuck in addressing controversial issues such as what to do about our town office and gym. I support an approach that differs from traditional public hearings to reach deeper into our community and listen to each other as equals similar to the approach used in the 2007 Creative Community Program and 2012 School Governance Study Circles.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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