Leadership positions up for grabs in northwest part of county

VERGENNES — Vergennes and Ferrisburgh have more than their fair share of contested races on Town Meeting Day, while most — but not all — incumbents in those towns and in Addison, Panton and Waltham have decided to continue their public service.
In Vergennes on March 3, four candidates are vying for three two-year terms on the Vergennes City Council. Two are incumbents who have served multiple terms, large animal veterinarian Joe Klopfenstein and longtime United Technologies Corp. employee Lowell Bertrand, who was re-elected to the council in 2012 after losing in 2011.
Two newcomers, William Northrop and Jeffrey Fritz, joined the race, both saying they probably would not have if Senior Alderman Randy Ouellette had not decided to step down after a decade on the panel.
Northrop is a 2008 VUHS graduate and community organizer who is the president of Young Democrats of Vermont and serves on the city’s Basin Task Force.
Fritz, a former small business owner and banking administrator, 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, and a Vergennes-Panton Water District commissioner.
Mayor Bill Benton is running unopposed for a second term. 
The other contested Vergennes race is a second go-around between Susan Ferland and Cheryl Brinkman for the seat on the Vergennes Union Elementary School board now held by Ferland. Both are seeking a three-year term.
In 2012, Ferland, an insurance agent and former Addison Northeast Supervisory Union teacher, edged Brinkman, a public health chemist who was then an incumbent VUES and Addison Northwest Supervisory board member, 329-328. Both have extensive public service résumés.
In Ferrisburgh, Dennis Armell and Michael “Red” Muir are both seeking three-year terms on the selectboard; neither has prior experience on the board.
Muir, a certified pipe welder and former union president and volunteer fireman, has served on the Winooski zoning board and now heads the Ferrisburgh Building Maintenance Committee.
Armell is a longtime Vermont Army National Guard member who has taught hunter education, served as an officer of Vergennes American Legion Post 14, and has been a member of the Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission for 10-plus years.
They both joined the race after incumbent board member Sally Torrey decided not to run again after a decade on the board. Another incumbent selectman, Jim Benoit, is running unopposed for a two-year term.
Torrey might not be through serving Ferrisburgh, however. In the town’s other contested race, she is challenging incumbent delinquent tax collector and former longtime town clerk, treasurer and zoning administrator Chet Hawkins for the tax collection post.
Also on the Ferrisburgh ballot, incumbent Vergennes Union High School board members Kurt Haigis and George Gardner are running unopposed, as are incumbent Ferrisburgh Central School directors Bill Clark and Laurie Gutowski.
In Addison, the biggest news might be that former Republican Vermont House of Representatives candidate Peter Briggs will join the selectboard. Briggs, a dairy farmer, is generally credited with having run a strong campaign this past fall in finishing third in the Addison-3 race behind the two incumbent winners, Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, and Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh.
Briggs is running unopposed for a seat being vacated by Joy Pouliot, who will step down after eight years. Also on Addison’s selectboard ballot are unopposed incumbents Jeff Kauffman, the board’s longtime chairman, and Roger Waterman, who was appointed in 2014 to a vacancy.
Longtime Addison Central School board member Rob Hunt is running unopposed to add three years to his two decades of service on that panel. But no one filed for the ACS board seat now held by the departing Tim Lindenmeyr, and town officials said with no write-in campaign on the horizon an appointment was likely to fill that vacancy.
In Panton and Waltham, town officers do not appear on ballots but are nominated from the floor of town meetings. Races remain possible, while most incumbents have told town officials they would like to be re-elected.
In Panton, Beth Tarallo’s term on the selectboard ends in March, and she would like another three years; Howard Hall was appointed this past May to the selectboard and would like voters to award him the final year of a term; and Richard Rathbun was appointed to the Vergennes Union High School board, and he would also like to stay on the job.
In Waltham, Town Clerk Mary Ann Castimore and Treasurer Lucille Evarts have said they would like to be nominated to serve another year, and Selectman Andrew Martin, who was appointed to replace Harold Francis last fall, would like to serve another three years on the selectboard. There will be no school board elections in the town.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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