Ferrisburgh has most contests in city area; school board positions going begging

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents will face the most personnel decisions among their Vergennes-area neighbors on Town Meeting Day this year, as Monday’s deadline to file petitions for town offices brought news of three contested races.
Two of those involved incumbent Treasurer Garrit Smits, who this year has faced criticism on his performance from the Ferrisburgh selectboard, town and professional auditors, and co-workers.
Smits is seeking re-election for three years as treasurer. He is opposed by current town auditor Deb Healy, one of those who according to selectboard minutes has been unhappy with the incumbent’s working hours and accounting practices.
The selectboard has cut the position’s salary in its budget proposal, intending it to reflect a 20-hour week, down from 35. The board also set aside money in a contingency fund to add a part-time town office employee to share the workload, with the final hours to depend on the identities and abilities of the jobholders, members said. 
Smits’ other race is a rematch of sorts: He won the treasurer’s job in 2014 in a close race with Town Clerk Gloria Warden, who while decisively winning her clerk contest ran as a write-in candidate for treasurer vs. Smits and came up short, 350-332.
This time around Smits is seeking both offices: He is challenging Warden for the town clerk position.
Smits also ran for delinquent tax collector a year ago, losing to former selectwoman and incumbent Sally Torrey, who won with 418 votes, and former tax collector and town clerk Chet Hawkins (350 votes); Smits garnered 215 nods.
It is possible the winners of those races will be the last elected to the two jobs: The Ferrisburgh selectboard is moving to write the town’s first charter, one that if eventually approved by voters would make the positions appointed, not elected. 
The third contested race in Ferrisburgh was set up by longtime Selectman Jim Warden’s decision not to run again: Warden, the Shelburne Police Chief, will wrap up a dozen years of service on the selectboard and as Ferrisburgh’s Town Service Officer in March.
Selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said Warden was a valuable selectman, in part because of his knowledge of law enforcement and of budgeting that came from running a town department.
“It certainly will be a tremendous loss,” Lawrence said. “Not only was he a great board member, but it was a great advantage to have him on the board for his expertise.”
Warden will be missed, she said.
“He was just a resource for so much. We’re all sad to have him leave. He’s a great public servant,” Lawrence said. “It’s going to be big shoes to fill, for sure.”
Seeking to do so will be two candidates, Dennis Armell — who has sought a seat on the board previously, losing to current member Red Muir in 2015 — and Rick Ebel, a voice at town and school board meetings. Meanwhile, incumbent Selectman Jim Benoit is running uncontested for re-election.
The Independent plans closer looks at the Ferrisburgh races in future issues.
The area’s other contested race has already been well documented: Incumbent Vergennes Mayor Bill Benton is facing a challenge from former Mayor Mike Daniels. Both men filed petitions well before Monday’s deadline, and the Independent has published their thoughts on their candidacies.
Incumbent Vergennes City Council members Lowell Bertrand, Jeff Fritz and Mark Koenig are all seeking re-election in March without opposition.
In other selectboard news, Panton Selectman John Viskup is also stepping down, and Town Clerk Jean Miller said earlier this week she had not heard of anyone expressing interest in being nominated from the floor of town meeting on March 7 to fill that three-year term.
On the other hand, Miller said, Selectman Zach Weaver, appointed last year to replace Beth Tarallo, has indicated he would like to be nominated and elected to serve the final year of that term.
In Addison, the terms of incumbents Rob Hunt and Peter Briggs end on Town Meeting Day, and both filed for re-election, without opposition. Town officials said there are no contested races anywhere on the ballot.
In Waltham, Town Clerk Mary Ann Castimore said Selectman Michael Grace’s tenure will expire on Town Meeting Day, and she believes he is interested in serving another term.
The members of the Addison Northwest School District board that will assume control of a unified union on July 1 were chosen in March 2016, but the boards that are now operating the supervisory union will still operate until then.
And there are a total of 11 terms expiring among the Vergennes Union High School, Vergennes Union Elementary School, and Addison and Ferrisburgh central school boards.
Six school directors from around ANWSD have agreed to serve until the boards dissolve, and by Monday had filed petitions for election: Laurie Gutowski, Brad Hargett and Chris Kayhart for the FCS board; Chris Cousino from Vergennes and George Gardner from Ferrisburgh for the VUHS board; and Sue Rakowski from Vergennes for the VUES board. Panton’s Jason Fearon has also said he would be willing to be nominated and serve on the VUES board, according to Miller.
But four vacancies remain, barring write-ins. In Addison, two ACS incumbents, Michele Kelly and Eugene Stearns, and one VUHS incumbent, Laurie Childers, did not file for re-election. In Vergennes, incumbent VUHS director Greg Burdick, who had been appointed to fill a vacancy, did not seek election.
Unless write-in candidates emerge, ANWSD Superintendent JoAn Canning said the Addison selectboard and Vergennes City Council each have the power to appoint board members. However, those boards could operate without more members if they have quorums at their meetings, she said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the last name of Ferrisburgh Town Clerk Gloria Warden on first reference. We apologize for the mistake.

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