Koenig picked to replace Klopfenstein on Vergennes City Council

VERGENNES — After a brief closed-doors session on Tuesday, the Vergennes City Council opted for a newcomer to city government, South Water Street resident Mark Koenig, to replace soon-to-depart Alderman Joe Klopfenstein.
Council members picked Koenig over a candidate with more experience in Vergennes, former alderman and current Vergennes Development Review Board member Peter Garon.
Koenig and Garon were the only two residents who put their names forth in letters to Mayor Bill Benton before the Nov. 5 deadline.
Klopfenstein will step down at the end of this month to take a job teaching veterinary science for Oregon State University, and Koenig will serve from December until Town Meeting Day. He must decide whether to stand for election at that point.
After the council discussed the choice privately at the close of its regular business meeting, only Alderman Mike Daniels voted against the motion to appoint Koenig once the members returned to the table in public session. Council members did not discuss their decision in the open session.
Koenig and Garon opened the Tuesday meeting by making pitches to the council members.
Koenig, who is a member of the city’s economic development task force that grew out of the 2014 Vermont Council on Rural Development  Community Visit to Vergennes, discussed his background.
He told the council he and his wife and son, now 7, “fell in love” with Vergennes and moved there 2011 from Monkton after moving to Vermont from Seattle five years before, and since then he has been “slowly meeting people.”
Koenig said he volunteers at Vergennes Union Elementary School and has followed closely the unification issues raised by Act 46. He said “two people independently” had suggested he put his name in to replace Klopfenstein.
In his letter to Benton, Koenig noted he had also “demonstrated commitment to my community” by working with the Vergennes Community Gardens and serving as a justice of the peace.
His civic experience also includes serving on the Seattle Civic League, which he described in his letter as “a volunteer organization dedicated to effective and responsive government.” Koenig told aldermen his work for an organization he described as nonpartisan included interviewing candidates and making recommendations to voters based on candidates’ positions on issues.
Benton said after Koenig’s presentation that he would, because he had a young child in city schools, bring a “different demographic” to the council.
Garon, who served a two-year term on the council that ended in 2013, emphasized his experience, especially given the three-month term. He said it would be “helpful to have someone who knows how the board operates,” and is familiar with the issues, step in.
“I have zero learning curve,” he said. “I would be an effective council member on day one.”
Garon, who also lost a council race in 2014 and was also passed over for an appointment in favor of current council member Lynn Donnelly in 2013, said his track record showed he had been “an influence on positive discussions,” that he could “disagree respectfully,” and “mediate opposing points of view.”
“I’d be really excited to come back to the board,” he said. “I liked my work here.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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