Donahue resigns from Middlebury selectboard

MIDDLEBURY — Citing increased professional and family responsibilities, Middlebury Selectwoman Donna Donahue confirmed on Tuesday she will resign from her post, effective March 8.
The Middlebury selectboard will now solicit interest from local residents interested in serving out the one year left on Donahue’s original, three-year term.
Donahue joined the board in September of 2014. The selectboard at the time picked Donahue to serve the remaining six months of a term vacated by former Selectman Travis Forbes. Donahue then successfully ran for the position on Town Meeting Day 2015.
“It has been a privilege to serve the Middlebury community,” Donahue stated in a brief, handwritten resignation note to selectboard Chairman Brian Carpenter.
During a phone interview on Tuesday, Donahue noted her job in the National Bank of Middlebury’s marketing department had recently increased from three days per week to four. That increased commitment, coupled with “family issues out of state,” prompted her to announce her resignation.
Donahue said she doesn’t believe she has the time necessary to fulfill her selectboard duties. She added she’s not a person to do things “half way” and felt it was best to step aside and let someone else take on the role.
“I have strong feelings about voter trust and accountability,” Donahue said.
She praised her colleagues — and the board as a whole — for the role they, as volunteers, play in conducting town business. The Middlebury selectboard meets twice per month, but members do a lot of additional work behind the scenes. They belong to various town subcommittees and attend functions representing the community. They do a lot of prep work for their meetings and routinely field constituent phone calls. Board members perform their tasks largely out of a sense of civic duty. They receive a small stipend for their efforts.
But the responsibilities of elected municipal officials continue to grow with new laws and bureaucracy. Donahue noted board members must depend on each other to relay important information prior to voting on issues. And there are times when the board doesn’t have the time to digest all of the available information, according to Donahue.
“I’m a process person,” Donahue said. “I believe a clear and open process leads to the best possible outcome. I’m not sure there’s always time to do that the way we conduct our selectboard business. It’s hard to process all the information we get, and it’s hard to share all our information. It’s a very difficult position.”
Donahue said her decision to step down from the board was a tough one. She wanted to make sure to stay on through town meeting, in order to fulfill her reporting assignments to residents at the annual gathering on the evening of March 6. Leaving on March 8 means she won’t have a say in the leadership elections for the next selectboard, which she believes is appropriate.
Donahue said her time on the board has been rewarding. She has repeatedly raised concerns about a $40 million plan to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges. That project is currently on hold pending an environmental assessment of the construction area.
“I was fully supportive of the project once it got going, but I don’t think it was the best solution for the town,” Donahue said.
Donahue said it’s unlikely she’ll run again for the board in the future.
“I don’t think it’s a good match for me,” she said of the job.
Middlebury residents interested in serving the final year of Donahue’s term should contact Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay at 388-8100. If a resident is unhappy with the person the selectboard picks to serve out the term, he/she can file a petition requesting a special election, according to Town Clerk Ann Webster. The petition would need roughly 260 signatures, equivalent to 5 percent of the registered voters in Middlebury.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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