Asermily, Carpenter, George win Middlebury selectboard election
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard will welcome two new members and a familiar face when it convenes for its first post-Town Meeting Day gathering on March 11.
Local voters this past Tuesday returned Middlebury selectboard Chairman Dean George to office for another year. George garnered 960 votes for the one-year term, giving him the victory over challenger Heather Seeley, who recorded 662 tallies.
In a six-person race for two three-year terms on the board, Brian Carpenter and Laura Asermily won election with 810 and 654 votes, respectively. Finishing out of the running were incumbent selectman Craig Bingham with 460 votes; Ted Davis with 454 tallies; John Freidin with 394 votes; and Eric Murray, who notched 228.
It was a hotly contested race stoked by a controversial proposal to build new town offices and a recreation center. That $6.5 million proposal passed on Town Meeting Day by a 915 to 798 margin. The vote was preceded by months of heated debate among citizens about the merits of the project, which calls for a new municipal building to be erected at 77 Main St. and a new recreation center to be built off Creek Road. Middlebury College has agreed to underwrite $4.5 million of the $6.5 million construction costs in exchange for a town-owned parcel at 6 Cross St. and the current municipal building-gym parcel at 94 Main St., which will be turned into a public park. Up to another $1 million will be paid by the college to finance clearing of 94 Main St. and moving the Osborne House to its new site.
Only two of the eight selectboard candidates — George and Carpenter — went on record as supporting the project. The other six candidates opposed the proposal, based on process and concerns over parking adequacy, siting and a notion that the town should retain the 94 Main St. parcel.
Asermily, 54, has been a leader in local “green” initiatives. She currently serves on the Middlebury Town Energy Committee and helped establish the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACoRN) and the related ACoRN Renewable Energy Co-op. She is a certified energy auditor who currently works at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op.
“I am honored to be one of several qualified candidates chosen for selectboard,” Asermily said of her successful campaign. “I will work collaboratively toward progress for all Middlebury residents. I promise an open, participatory style that honors the decision voters made on the town office and gym proposal and our budgets.”
It was Asermily’s first run for the selectboard.
In the short term, Asermily pledged to “seek ways we can heal the recent and intense divisiveness experienced in our community and reflected in the vote (on the town offices-recreation center). I will request this as a selectboard agenda item for our next meeting and make myself available regularly to hear from community members in small and face-to-face meetings throughout Middlebury.”
Carpenter, owner of Champlain Valley Equipment and a brigadier general and commander of the Vermont Army Guard, was grateful for the support he received at the ballot box.
“The easy part is done,” Carpenter, 52, said of the election. “Now comes the hard part.”
Like Asermily, Carpenter said he wants to work to heal some of the rifts that might have formed in the community in the aftermath of the town offices debate.
“A lot of work lies ahead of us to bring both sides together to work for the betterment of the town,” Carpenter said.
He, like George, was pleased with the voter turnout on Tuesday. More than 1,600 Middlebury residents voted — several hundred more than have typically cast ballots in past town meetings.
“I know that people care deeply about their community,” Carpenter said.
“I’m very thankful,” George said. “I was very glad to see so many people interested in participating in local government. I hope that trend continues.”
George and his colleagues will be shepherding some major downtown building projects next year.
Work is expected to begin in the spring on a new tunnel that will replace the deteriorating railroad overpasses on Main Street and Merchants Row. And construction is slated to begin before the end of the year on the new town office building and recreation center.
Craig Bingham was a very vocal opponent of the town office/recreation center projects since they were introduced to the community last June. During that time, he challenged the accuracy of an informational flier about the projects that the town sent to households last month, and raised questions about whether one of his then-colleagues — former Selectman Victor Nuovo — should be allowed to vote on matters relating to the building proposals. Nuovo is a retired professor of philosophy at the college who still holds the title of professor emeritus. Bingham and others argued that such an affiliation required Nuovo to recuse himself from voting on elements of the project, due to the college’s involvement in the proposed deal. Nuovo argued that he had no conflict, but resigned this past January so as not to become a “distraction.”
Bingham issued the following statement on the election outcome:
“In the end we did not defeat a well-oiled political machine that had access to virtually unlimited print media and was willing to stretch the truth to sell their product,” Bingham said. “I am proud that I represented the views of the 47 percent of Middlebury voters who oppose the town offices/recreation facilities plan.”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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