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Candidates sought for new Starksboro selectboard seats

STARKSBORO — Starksboro residents interested in running for the two new seats added to the selectboard are encouraged to pursue their candidacies now.
Candidates must get a petition from the town office, obtain 14 signatures (1 percent of the 1,356 votes on the town’s checklist), fill out a consent form and return the signed petition and form to Town Clerk Cheryl Estey by Jan. 30.
Starksboro voted to expand its selectboard from three to five members at a Special Town Meeting held Dec. 6. The vote was close, 18 for and 16 against the measure. That followed a non-binding vote at town meeting last February, at which residents, by show of hands, OK’d the selectboard’s proposal to enlarge the board from three to five persons.
Residents will elect the two additional selectboard members by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day, Tuesday, March 7.
“The selectboard had been discussing it (expansion) for more than a year,” said selectboard Chair Susan Jefferies. “We asked informally at town meeting last year what people thought about the idea, and it was generally well received.”
Jefferies continued, “My thought regarding the increase is that three people isn’t really very many to make decisions affecting the entire town, and I thought it would be good to have more people at the table. It can also be problematic scheduling meetings with only three members, especially during summer and around the holidays when we are on vacation or traveling to see family. Additionally, when something comes before the selectboard that personally involves one of the members, that person must recuse him/herself, so the other two have to make a decision.
“I’m looking forward to have more involvement and participation and hearing a wider variety of viewpoints,” she added.
Although both new positions will eventually be two-year seats, initially one position will be for one year and the other for two years.
Jefferies explained that as of the December vote, the Starksboro selectboard is officially a five-person board that has only three members. This means that between now and town meeting elections, all three selectboard members must be present for the selectboard to have a decision-making quorum.
The selectboard reasoned that this approach would be less disruptive and costly for the town than voting on whether to increase the board on Town Meeting Day itself and then having to hold an additional Australian ballot election.
Jenny Prosser, general counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, explained that while selectboard members can be appointed to replace someone who’s died or moved away, etc., candidates for new positions must be elected. Because Starksboro votes on selectboard members by Australian ballot, the new Starksboro positions must be voted on by Australian ballot as well.
In addition to the two new positions on the selectboard, the three-year position currently held by Selectman Peter Marsh is also up for election this year. Estey said that while there’s been interest in the position, no one has officially thrown in their hat and she is not sure who will be running for it at this time.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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