Two candidates vie for New Haven board: Bruhl, Christiano both stress fairness and listening to all sides

NEW HAVEN — After a tumultuous year in which the New Haven selectboard led the community decision-making process on the multimillion-dollar Vermont Green Line proposal and then negotiated a formal agreement, New Haven residents must choose between two new faces for the selectboard seat currently held by Doug Tolles.
Taborri Bruhl and Jon D. Christiano are competing for Tolles’ three-year seat.
Voting will take place on Town Meeting Day, March 7.
Nearly all other candidates on the New Haven ballot are incumbents running unopposed, including Selectman Steve Dupoise, who is running unopposed to renew his two-year seat on the New Haven board. The exception is Debra Ash, a new candidate for one of New Haven’s unopposed auditor positions.
Selectboard candidate Taborri Bruhl, 49, made a name for himself last fall when, running as a Democrat, he ran a close race against incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith for Smith’s Addison-5 Vermont House seat.
A high school teacher for 22 years, Bruhl is also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the First Gulf War. Bruhl teaches social studies at Rutland High School. He studied history and journalism as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University and holds a Master’s in History from California State University.
Bruhl and his family came to Vermont and to New Haven in 2003, drawn in large part by family ties. Bruhl said that although he and his wife (Susan Bruhl, Addison Northeast Supervisory Union director of student services) both come from military families and grew up “all over the place,” she spent many summers in New Haven with grandparents Francis and Helen Dupoise. The Bruhls have three children: two at Mount Abe and one at the University of Vermont.
“There’s work that needs to be done,” said Bruhl of his motivation to run for the selectboard. “Part of what makes a town work well or democracy work well is just people giving of their time, being public servants. I want to contribute.”
Bruhl said his strengths come from his work with the Marines, where he learned organization and leadership, and from his years as a public school educator, which have made him a good listener and someone capable of motivating and working with a diverse group of people.
Bruhl said his vision for town leadership is “to be part of a really well-functioning, cost-efficient, common-sense cost-effective government.”
Equally important, he said “is just being able to get along with people.”
Bruhl also stressed the importance as a selectboard member of trying to be fair to all parties.
“You can’t go in there bullheaded. There’s two parties to everything that comes up and if both parties are in town — whether it’s a new road or a driveway or a barking dog or a solar array or whatever — you’ve got to try to find a balance that helps both of those parties and helps them get along. And a lot of times you can. There might be a win-win solution.”
Sustainability is important to Bruhl. He and his family power their home and two cars on renewable wind and solar energy generated on their property. He writes a sustainability blog and for a number of years served on the board of Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op. But for Bruhl it’s important to move forward with renewables on roofs and on what are called “brown fields” (land that’s already disturbed, such as parking lots and landfills) rather than on agricultural land and open spaces.
Finally Bruhl pointed to a recent social media post where he urged New Haven residents to be civil with each other in public discourse: “We need to talk to one another, and listen to one another, and respect each other, and do the hard work that is necessary to find common ground.”
Jon Christiano is a retired senior buyer for IBM, where he was responsible for negotiating contracts for and purchasing around $40 million of capital equipment annually. He grew up in Gloversville, N.Y.
Christiano and his wife, Jane, have lived in New Haven for four years. Christiano came to Vermont from Pennsylvania in 1969, as part of his work with IBM. The Christianos bought land in New Haven in 2006, built a house, and moved into it in 2013.
“I believe strongly in serving the community I live in,” said Christiano about his motivation for joining the selectboard. “I like the rural atmosphere of New Haven and the friendliness of the townspeople.”
Christiano has served as  New Haven lister since 2015, and is the current chair of the New Haven and Addison County Republican committees. He is an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Navy. Christiano holds a degree in business administration from Trinity College in South Burlington.
The Christianos operate a small farm in New Haven and raise sheep, pigs and chickens for sale.
“As a result, I can relate to the difficulties a farmer faces in today’s environment,” he said.
In addition to his “extensive experience in purchasing and negotiating contracts,” Christiano said that he would bring to the selectboard “a sense of fairness, old fashioned common sense and a strong desire to apply them to benefit the residents of New Haven.
“As a lister it is important to work with both sides of an issue. This is even more important on the selectboard, and I believe I can do this fairly.”
New Haven voters will elect candidates for town office by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The town and school meetings will be held Monday, March 6, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Directly before the town and school meetings, 5:30-6:30 p.m. March 6, the Beeman Elementary School PTO will sponsor an a la carte dinner. All events will be held at the New Haven Town Hall.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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