Armell and Ebel vie for Ferrisburgh selectboard seat
FERRISBURGH — Two candidates who would be first-time selectmen are competing this winter for an opening on the Ferrisburgh selectboard, Dennis Armell and Rick Ebel. Ferrisburgh residents will choose between the two men in Australian balloting on March 7.
Armell and Ebel are seeking to replace Jim Warden, who will step down after 12 years on the selectboard. Meanwhile, incumbent Selectman Jim Benoit is running uncontested for re-election on the Town Meeting Day ballot.
Armell, 62, has sought a seat on the board previously. He lost a race to current member Red Muir in 2015, and in 2013 was one of six candidates who applied for a vacancy on the board. At that point the board instead chose current member Steve Gutowski to replace John DeVos, who had resigned after multiple terms.
Ebel, 67, often a voice at Ferrisburgh town and Addison Northwest School District meetings, is a career school administrator seeking public office for the first time.
The Independent asked both candidates for biographical information, and then what prompted them to run, whether there were specific concerns or issues the hoped to address, and why voters should cast their votes for them.
ARMELL: Armell is a lifelong Ferrisburgh resident and 1972 Vergennes Union High School graduate who attended a trade school for two years and joined the Vermont Army National Guard as a teen. He worked on a Ferrisburgh farm for 17 years, then for 10 years as a department manager at a South Burlington automobile dealership. After that he joined the Guard full-time and worked for its U.S. Property and Fiscal Office until retiring in 2015.
He has coached baseball, softball and basketball for Ferrisburgh Central School and youth leagues, has been a Hunter Education instructor for the Department of Fish & Wildlife since the early 1970s, and has held officer positions for Vergennes American Legion Post 14.
Armell has served on the Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission for a dozen years, during which he notes he as worked closely with local nonprofits as well as other town boards.
“I’m retired now, so I’d have more time to devote to town matters,” Armell said. “I’m still on the Conservation board. I still work with the selectboard and the planning and zoning commission on a lot of stuff. I have a lot of experience on town matters.”
EBEL: Ebel grew up in Huntington, N.Y., and after earning a degree at SUNY-Brockport began a 34-year career in education as a classroom teacher at Vergennes Union Elementary School in 1974, the year he moved to Vermont.
Since then he has been an adult tutor, earned a master’s in school administration from the University of Vermont, been the Lincoln Community School principal, directed a Burlington special education program, been an assistant principal at South Burlington High School, and wrapped up his career by serving several years as the principal at South Burlington’s Orchard Elementary School before retiring in 2009.
He and his wife, Donna, have renovated their home into a guesthouse, a project that Ebel said has progressed far enough to allow him time to serve on the selectboard.
“This will be my first official foray into town government,” he said. “Certainly in my time as a school administrator I previously sat on committees and commissions of various kinds to support the growth of the organizations that I was part of. So I have some of the skills that would be important to help in terms of communicating a plan to people and helping it move forward.”
QUESTION 1: What prompted them to run?
EBEL: “I’ve always had the interest, but with my work in school administration didn’t feel I had the time that I thought needed to be dedicated to that kind of work, as a town official, understanding what some of the expectations might be. And now I feel I do have that time.”
ARMELL: “The selectboard approached me. They said, ‘You’d be a good fit … I’ve run three or four times now. I’ve always wanted to get more involved with the town matters. I’ve been a leader all my life, and I feel everyone should be involved in some way in the town matters.”
QUESTION 2: What are their specific concerns?
ARMELL: “I’m not planning on rocking the boat. I think our selectboard has done a very good job of keeping the budget down. There aren’t any major concerns. I’d just like to keep town taxes as low as we possibly can without hurting anybody.”
He is concerned about the Union Meeting Hall, which required major maintenance and has been a board topic for years.
“We have an older building, and we’ve already discussed this a couple times with the selectboard, that needs major, major maintenance … As far as the town keeping putting money into it to restore the building, it’s a wonderful building the town has owned for 100 years, but we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to either sell it or put the money into fixing it.”
EBEL: “I do not have a specific issue. I’m not a one-issue candidate, for sure. Really, my interest is to take a look at the work that is going on in Ferrisburgh, look at our town plan, that is a wonderful document … look at that and work with that to move Ferrisburgh forward in its growth and be thoughtful about that.”
Ebel does want to keep an eye on the Vermont Green Line electric power cable and make sure the town’s interests are protected.
“I know a big project coming through is the Green Line, the hydroelectric project that is going to connect down through the lake. That proposal takes certainly a lot of attention from the town. We have to look at how that would impact us.”
QUESTION 3: Why should voters choose you?
EBEL: “My background in running organizations with multi-million-dollar budgets and keeping those balanced, I know that’s always a concern in our community. What do we need to do, and what’s it going to cost to get it done? And we know where that’s going to come from. It’s going to come from property taxes. Folks want to support the town, but want to make sure those funds are spent as efficiently as possible.
“My background in those management areas is pretty strong, personnel management, working with folks, both with folks that are part of running the town and communicating with community members. I’m here to listen to them. I view myself as a very good listener, and able to synthesize thoughts and ideas folks have to see where it fits into the bigger scheme of things.”
ARMELL: “I’ve been involved with the town for a number of years on different boards so I know what has to be done and how things should be accomplished. And I’m a lifelong resident of this town. I care very deeply for this town.”
Armell cited his work with the U.S. National Guard, where he was responsible for, “Dealing with money issues, making sure the National Guard had all the stuff they need to operate with, which is almost the same thing as the selectboard does. So my fulltime job in the Guard relates to basically the same thing the selectboard does, managing a lot of money. And I was always known as the frugal guy in the state.”
QUESTION 4: Anything to add?
EBEL: “I’m excited to be running, and people should feel free to contact me.”
ARMELL: “Let’s hope the voters get out there.”
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.