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Conlon to run for Addison-2 House seat

CORNWALL — UD-3 school board Chairman Peter Conlon confirmed on Thursday that he will run for the Addison-2 seat in the Vermont House soon to be vacated by Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton.
As previously reported in the Independent, Jewett — the former House majority leader — has decided to retire after 14 years representing the single-seat district that includes Cornwall, Ripton, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen and Hancock.
Conlon, a 52-year-old Democrat, is a lifelong Vermonter who has lived in Cornwall since 1990. His résumé includes 15 years as a reporter and assistant editor at the Addison Independent, and a decade working as a labor specialist in the dairy industry. He is currently self-employed as a move manager and home inventory specialist.
Conlon and his wife, Mary, moved to Cornwall after they served as Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay from 1987 to 1989. They have three sons, Emerson, a school teacher; William, a college senior; and Silas, a freshman at Middlebury Union High School.
“I always had it in the back of my mind (to run for the House), and once Willem Jewett confirmed he was not going to run, some people encouraged me to run in his place,” Conlon said. “I was honored by that, and decided to go for it.”
This Thursday, May 26, is the deadline by which candidates for Vermont House, Senate and statewide posts have to file their nomination papers to run for office. There were no other officially declared candidates for the Addison-2 seat as the Independent went to press on Friday. The Independent will publish the complete list of local candidates for all the Statehouse races following the May 26 filing deadline.
Conlon has represented Cornwall on the UD-3 school board since 2005, and began chairing the panel in 2014. His community last March elected him as its lone representative on the new Addison Central School District board, which will oversee all schools and budgeting for the ACSD’s seven elementary schools and UD-3 — which includes MUHS and Middlebury Union Middle School.
Conlon also serves as a firefighter and training officer for the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department and is a volunteer interpreter at the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury.
Previously, he was an active member of the Friends of Cornwall School for many years, serving as president for two. Conlon is a past president of the Champlain Valley Little League, which has since merged with Middlebury Area Little League. He coached Little League for nearly 10 years.
“Addison County and Vermont are part of who I am,” Conlon said. “To play a greater role in the future of our state and communities is a special opportunity. I look forward to talking with the people of this House district about our state, its future and what needs to be done now.”
CAMPAIGN ISSUES
At this early stage of the campaign, Conlon said he is still learning about the issues he would work on in the Statehouse if he is elected.
“I’m in learning and listening mode,” Conlon said. “I want to learn how people in the six towns feel.”
He did offer commentary on some of the bills the House fielded during the past biennium:
•  Act 46, the state’s school governance consolidation law. Conlon supports the new law and was a booster of the unification effort in the ACSU.
“I think it will ultimately prove to be a positive change for Vermont,” he said, referring to potential budget savings through the increased sharing of resources and educators among the schools.
•  Legalization of recreational marijuana. The House balked at a Senate bill that would have legalized possession of small quantities of recreational pot.
“I am evolving (on the legalization issue), but am in no hurry,” he said.
Conlon also wants to glean more feedback from states that have already legalized the substance.
•  Opioid addiction. The Legislature, among other things, passed a bill expected to lead to limits on the amount of narcotic painkillers a physician can prescribe for various ailments — a step that Conlon endorses.
•  Solar siting legislation. Lawmakers supported S.230, a measure that calls on the Vermont Public Service Board to give towns more of a say in the siting of solar projects, provided the towns draft energy plans that are consistent with Vermont’s renewable energy priorities.
“I definitely favor legislation that gives communities more of a voice in the siting of solar and wind (projects),” Conlon said.
The next several months will see Conlon visit with Addison-2 constituents to get a sense of their priorities.
“Throughout my adult life, I have been fortunate to work with, serve with, and socialize with people from all walks of life,” Conlon said. “Those relationships will provide an important foundation to the experience I hope to bring to the Vermont House.”
He credited Jewett for setting what he believes was a high bar for representation in Addison-2.
“Willem has served this district very well. I hope to continue his dedication to the people of our communities and our state,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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