Four candidates seek three city council seats

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Town Meeting Day ballot will offer a race among four candidates — two incumbents and two newcomers — for three seats on the Vergennes City Council.
The race will not include Senior Alderman Randy Ouellette, who chose to step down after a decade.
Incumbents Joe Klopfenstein and Lowell Bertrand, who was re-elected to the council in 2012 after losing in 2011, have served multiple terms. William Northrop and Jeffrey Fritz are joining them in the contest as first-time candidates. The top three finishers in the open race will earn two-year terms.
The Independent asked each of the candidates the same five questions. Their responses are re-printed below from their written responses and edited for length and clarity. The questions were:
1.  Please provide basic biographical data, including age, career information, public service background and anything else you believe might be relevant.
2.  What motivated each of you to run for or seek re-election to the Vergennes City Council?
3.  Are there specific issues or concerns you would like to address if elected or returned to the council?
4.  Why should the residents of Vergennes vote for you?
5.  Is there anything you would like to add?
QUESTION 1: Background info
FRITZ: “I was born, raised and educated in a small farming community in northern Indiana, where my family has lived for more than 150 years. I am 55, a former banking administrator and small business owner. I spent most of the past 25 years in Washington state where I was actively involved in charitable fundraising for a variety of organizations, and have continued to do so since moving to Vergennes several years ago.”
Fritz is president of the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vergennes, chairman of the Northlands Job Corps Community Relations Council, a member of the Bixby Library fundraising committee, a Vergennes-Panton Water District commissioner and a justice of the peace. He has also worked with the Vergennes Opera House board on fundraising.
BERTRAND: “I will be 47 on March 17, and have lived in Vergennes almost all of my life, since July of 1971, and in Vermont all my life. I have worked at Simmonds Precision Products, Inc. (now owned by United Technologies Corp.), here in Vergennes, for 27 years. My wife, Sherri, works at Northlands Job Corps, and my daughter, Sierra, is a fifth grader at Vergennes Union Elementary School. I am now finishing my third term on the city council and am also an appointed alternate on the Development Review Board.”
KLOPFENSTEIN: “I am a native of Indiana and graduated as a veterinarian from Purdue University in 1983. I have lived in Vermont since 1984; first in Newport then in Vergennes since 1986. Currently, I am a Main Street resident and business owner and partner in the building housing my business, Vergennes Large Animal Associates (a farm animal veterinary practice) and Vergennes Animal Hospital.”
He served as three terms as a Vergennes alderman, sits on the boards of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association and of the Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra, plays in the Vergennes city band and belongs to the Vergennes Lions Club.
NORTHROP: Northrop, 25, is a lifelong Vergennes resident with a University of Vermont degree in political science who is currently working on a master’s degree. In the past three years he has worked as a community organizer for political campaigns and community issues. He serves on the Vergennes Basin Task Force and is the president of Vermont Young Democrats.
He attributes his career path to the service that began when he attended Vergennes Union High School.
“There I started to become really engaged in the community through organizing the first ever Peace One Day rally, hosting open mic nights to raise food donations for our local food shelves, and working to make the Vergennes Skate Park a reality.”
QUESTION 2: Motivation to run
BERTRAND: “I love the city and want to help preserve its charm, but also assist in making the necessary changes to attract perspective homeowners and vacationers. We have made some changes and improvements in recent years to the city, and I would like to be re-elected and see where the future leads.”
 KLOPFENSTEIN: “The current council has an excellent working relationship with the mayor and the city manager. This is an activist council that is looking for solutions and shares ideas well. The council shares a number of goals: being available and responsive to the public, keeping our city safe, maintaining effective public works and improving the quality of life in Vergennes. I would like to continue to work with this excellent group of public servants.”
NORTHROP: “What motivated me to run for the council is that I wanted to be able to contribute back to my community. This community has provided me a great place to live, grow and learn. Most importantly, this small city has made me who I am today. I want to see this city continue to be a great place for people to call home and to raise children, as well as for people to continue visiting for our rich history and our wonderful downtown.”
FRITZ: “In addition to active participation in the community in which I have decided to live, an open seat on the council was one of my motivations for running. Living in Vergennes is very much like ‘coming home’ for me, and ongoing involvement in the community is one way of affirming my devotion to my adopted home. Honest and unafraid to speak my mind, I am strongly committed to working with my fellow council members to find economical ways to make needed improvements to Vergennes, including infrastructure, revenue generation and working with our state legislators.”
QUESTION 3: Specific issues or concerns
KLOPFENSTEIN: “For the past two years I have served as the chair of the city recreation committee. This committee was established to advise the council on the spending of funds from the city’s watershed reserve fund, which are earmarked for recreation facilities. The committee has recently helped in procuring a $21,000 grant toward a much-needed city preschool playground. The plans for this playground are currently being reviewed by the Vergennes Development Review Board with an eye toward construction in the spring. I am proud of the committee’s work and would like to continue to be involved in the city’s recreation facilities and programs, and in improving livability for our city’s families.
“The greatest challenge facing the city in the next few years will be our aging and deteriorating infrastructure. The recent challenges with our sewage treatment plant are but a symptom of this decline. Main Street and the Otter Creek Bridge are part of a major artery along Vermont’s western side and are starting to show some wear and tear. I have been a participant in the transportation committee that is an offshoot of last year’s community visit by Vermont officials. This committee is currently outlining use for a scoping grant we have received that is to be used for planning a redesign for the Otter Creek basin and the Main Street corridor. I am proud of the excellent quality of life in the city of Vergennes with our relatively moderate municipal tax rate, but I do believe we may need to investigate more investment in our infrastructure and would like to be part of this process.”
NORTHROP: “If elected, I will focus on making Vergennes a great place to live and to visit through:
•  Supporting downtown revitalization efforts through ‘painting’ Vergennes as a desirable place for small and local business.
•  Working to provide more opportunities to make Vergennes a more inviting place for young families and their children.
•  Supporting the efforts of and working with the Basin Task Force to revive the Vergennes Basin area, creating a destination for locals and tourists.
•  Listening to feedback from the community on how to make Vergennes better for everyone and taking action on these issues and ideas.”
FRITZ: “Vergennes is an amazing place to live, work and raise a family — a place to set down roots. I want to see Vergennes stay that way — (to be) a vibrant and active community that attracts and retains its residents; a place where we care for one another and make possibilities realities.
“Like so many cities and towns in our nation, we face issues with our infrastructure, our services, our schools, our streets, all of which can be addressed with some out-of-the-box thinking. We should be evaluating ways in which to best utilize our assets without burdening our citizens with increased taxes or compromising our vision of the future. We should also explore an economic development platform that is sensitive to the nature of our city — strengthening our downtown business district and supporting new business development.”
BERTRAND: “As always the taxes are my primary concern. We had to increase taxes last year to take care of the new police station and its bond. And with ever increasing school budgets, it is more important to remain fiscally responsible to keep taxes in check.”
QUESTION 4: Reasons to vote for each candidate
NORTHROP: “You should vote for me because I will listen to you. I will listen to your needs and your feedback as an individual and as a community. Also if you elect me, you will be electing a young member of the community to represent you on the council, to which I will bring a new outlook, fresh ideas and new energy.”
FRITZ: “As an extraordinarily positive person, I subscribe to the ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’ philosophy and will do my best to bring that vision to the city council. I am energetic and have time and abilities to share. I feel strongly that Vergennes has much to offer its citizens, but there is always room for improvement — and sometimes improvement just means keeping your eyes open to explore new ideas. I would hope to bring a fresh set of eyes to local issues.”
BERTRAND: “Throughout my three terms on the city council, I have voted responsibly for the good of Vergennes and its citizens and would appreciate the honor of continuing for another two years.”
KLOPFENSTEIN: “I am a hard worker and interested in continuing to improve the quality of life in our Little City. I have learned a great deal while serving on the city council and pledge to continue to learn as I listen and respond to our community.”
QUESTION 5: Additional comments
FRITZ: “I am not running for office to change our city, but because of the faith I have in our community — so much that we have moved across the country to call Vergennes home. Small-city life has so much to offer and even the smallest efforts can make an incredible difference. I would hope to bring a new vision to the council, including a broad financial background, private sector development and revitalization of existing assets. I am a consensus builder and have extensive knowledge of good municipal practices across the country.”
BERTRAND: “In addition to community service, I have also coached our area youth in a number of sports — Little League softball, girls’ basketball, and co-ed soccer.”
KLOPFENSTEIN: “I would like to thank Alderman Randy Ouellette for his years of service on the Vergennes City Council. I have learned a great deal from him and wish him well as he moves on to his next challenge. He’s never been shy while on the board and I hope that he continues to be active in the community and not afraid to stop back in and share his experience and insight.”
NORTHROP: “I hope that I can count on your vote on March 3 and I look forward to the opportunity to work with you all and the other members of the council.”

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