Five candidates vie for two spots on New Haven selectboard
NEW HAVEN — Both of the New Haven selectboard incumbents who are running for re-election will face challengers on Town Meeting Day.
Kathleen Barrett, currently chair of the selectboard, will stand for a three-year seat against New Haven Planning Commission member Dan Monger. Selectboard member Carole Hall is running against Bridget Kipp and John Roleau for a two-year seat.
Meanwhile, Ed McGuire is running unopposed for re-election to his three-year seat as a Beeman school director.
All of the selectboard candidates brought up energy projects — solar and otherwise — as important reasons they are running. The proposed Vermont Green Line project was a recurring issue. The project, put forward by Anbaric Transmission, would bring wind and hydro power from upstate New York into the New England grid at the New Haven VELCO substation, and would include, in New Haven, a power converter station five stories high and the size of a football field.
CHAIR VS. CHALLENGER
Two candidates are vying for a three-year seat on the New Haven selectboard.
Incumbent selectboard chair Kathleen Barrett, 65, is a self-employed tax preparer and bookkeeper who has lived in New Haven her whole life, with the exception of a decade in Bridport. Barrett was appointed to the board in 2009, when Keith Hall resigned; she won the seat in election 2010 and 2013. Barrett has been chair since 2013. In addition, she is currently vice chair of the Development Review Board.
Previously, Barrett served a three-year term as town auditor and was on the Mount Abraham Union High School board for 15 years, several of those as chair.
“One of the things that I’ve always believed in is that we as citizens of the town are here to serve the town and not for the town to serve us,” said Barrett. “I decided to run because I care about this town, and I care about the direction that it’s going. I’ve lived in Addison County since 1959 and most of it has been in New Haven. So the town has a special place in my heart, and I just want to have input into its direction.”
Barrett said that she approaches the office of selectboard with “no specific agenda,” and that she believes her strengths include her long history with the town, her level headedness and open mindedness.
Barrett noted that the town has faced a lot of decisions about renewable energy projects during her time on the selectboard. And she takes very seriously, the magnitude of the decision the town must make about Anbaric Transmission’s proposed converter station.
“As far as Anbaric, I am still listening to their proposals and listening to what they have to say,” she said. “I have not made up my mind one way or the other. There are good things about it, and there are definitely bad things about it. At this point, I still have an open mind.”
Barrett continued, “I understand that people are very concerned about the Anbaric project. It changes every time you talk with them, and we’re negotiating with them. I have to trust the negotiation team to look out for the best interest of the town and then decide when they come back with something, whether it’s enough or not.”
She noted that the town has other important decisions ahead in terms of maintaining its infrastructure. Barrett pointed to the upkeep in recent years to the town hall, new flooring, insulation, lighting and sheet rock. And she said that the town garage and fire station building has some repair issues that need to be addressed soon. Barrett said it was also important to make sure the town’s roads are well maintained. Additionally, New Haven will need to approve a revised town plan in 2016. Barrett said that the planning commission was still at work on revising the plan, to be followed by public hearings and possibly more revisions, before going to a town vote.
Dan Monger is also running for the three-year seat on the selectboard. He was elected to the planning commission in 2015. He plans to hold both offices if elected.
Though many know Monger as a local mail carrier, he originally trained in biochemistry (he holds a Ph.D. from Rice University) and worked for years in the pharmaceutical industry before moving to Vermont. Monger believes that this training as a logical and scientific problem solver, together with his expertise in decoding scientific data could be important assets for the selectboard, given the proliferation of renewable energy projects that New Haven has been asked to approve and evaluate.
Monger said he was originally spurred to join the planning commission because of the volume of solar projects “inundating New Haven.”
As with most of the other candidates, Monger acknowledges that the proposed Anbaric Transmission converter station “is where a lot of the tension is right now” and that decisions about the energy grid necessarily will be taking a lot of any new selectboard member’s time.
In terms of the proposed Vermont Green Line, important to Monger are issues around sound and light mitigation, health and medical issues potentially associated with electromotive force, and aesthetics. Monger also believes that’s it is important for the process to be honest and straightforward and that the decision-making process move forward constructively. He is concerned that factions are developing within the community at a time when townspeople need to come together.
Monger is also concerned about the negative impact that the project could have on local property values and would want to insist that all property owners “be made whole.”
A THREE-WAY RACE
Three candidates are vying for a two-year seat on the New Haven selectboard: Carol Hall, John Roleau and Bridget Kipp.
Incumbent Carole Hall, 60, has been on the selectboard since 2014. Hall said that she first ran for office because “I wanted to get to know people better and I wanted to serve the town.” Hall has lived in New Haven for over 20 years and works as an outreach worker at the Parent-Child Center, in Middlebury.
Hall is one of two selectboard members appointed as negotiators in the town’s ongoing discussions with Anbaric Transmissions, the other being Steve Dupoise. She said that a large part of her decision to run again in 2016 was to be able to follow through on the work that she and Dupoise are doing as the Anbaric point persons on the selectboard. She noted that she and Dupoise work well as a team and that both have already invested a lot of time in working on the project.
“Across the board with people, I really care about our town,” said Hall, discussing the front seat that the Anbaric project has taken on the selectboard’s agenda. “I really care about the landowners. I think it’s important that whatever happens — whether the project happens or not — it needs to be as well done as possible. It’s a huge project and it’s going to impact our whole community in one way or another.
“We’re doing a lot of digging right now for more and more information so that we’ll be able to pass on even more to the townspeople so that they’ll have a better idea of what is going on and whether they really support this or not.”
Hall also noted her professional experience in human resources and felt that that could be an asset for the town in hiring and working with employees. Hall ran her own franchise in Maine, and has worked in HR at Autumn Harp and at the Vermont Coffee Company as well as as a consultant.
Hall also said that protecting the environment was important to her as a selectboard member. “I really care about the impact to the environment with any of these projects — whether it’s solar or Anbaric — I feel that it’s really important that we take care of our environment. If we don’t have that we’re not going to have a place to live.”
Finally, Hall said that it was really great that there were so many citizens choosing to run for selectboard in this year’s elections.
“I think it’s wonderful for people to be involved in their towns and in town government to whatever capacity they can,” he said. “So I’m really thrilled that there are other people running.”
John Roleau, 39, is running for elected office for the first time but considers himself part of a long-standing tradition of family service to the community. The Roleau family’s roots run deep in New Haven, and if elected, Roleau would be the third generation in his family to serve on the New Haven selectboard.
Roleau took over the family business, Packard of Vermont, in 2007, and among his top priorities are supporting small businesses so that they can be successful.
“I want to make sure that the little guy gets attention too,” said Roleau.
While he acknowledges that the “the biggest issue that is on everybody’s table right now is the Anbaric project,” Roleau also thinks it’s important to keep a focus on bread and butter issues. He stressed that culverts and paving jobs, road projects and road budgets, are important to keep in the forefront as the town wrestles with large projects, such as the proposed converter station.
Roleau’s family has a small farm — he sells hay and raises beef cattle on a small scale — and he believes that it’s important to preserve agriculture. An avid fisherman, Roleau is also concerned about the pollution issues facing Lake Champlain.
Roleau feels a sense of pride in the town and a desire to take on more responsibility in contributing to the town’s governance.
“I think that this Anbaric project has really stirred some people up to run to make sure their voice is heard and that’s totally fine,” he said. “But once the Anbaric thing passes and goes on, then what? I’m not running on an agenda, I’m completely open. I’m running on tradition. I feel like I’ve learned enough in the business world and in the town world that I have something to offer the town in making some pretty important decisions. That being said, I’m not going into it to try and change anything or try and stop anything. I want to hear all sides on all issues and try and do the best for the town.”
Candidate Bridget Kipp declined an opportunity to appear in this story.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.