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Four seek recently vacated seat on Middlebury selectboard

MIDDLEBURY — What a difference a few weeks can make in Middlebury’s political scene.
No one on March 7 was interested in challenging incumbent selectboard members Brian Carpenter and Laura Asermily in their re-election bids for three-year terms.
But four candidates have now emerged with designs on the one year left on a three-year term recently vacated by incumbent Selectwoman Donna Donahue.
The list includes some familiar faces and some newcomers to local politics. Former Selectmen Gary Baker and Travis Forbes are in the running, as are One Dollar Market owner Farhad Khan and Jennifer Molineaux, director of finance for the Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC).
The Middlebury selectboard was scheduled to accept the nominations of the four hopefuls at their March 14 meeting. But Tuesday’s snowstorm prompted officials to postpone the gathering until next Tuesday, March 21.
Here — in alphabetical order — are brief profiles of the four candidates, based on their past civic experience and their correspondence with Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay expressing their interest in the one-year spot in the board.
Gary Baker, a longtime local insurance agent, has provided many years of public service to the towns of New Haven (where he also owns property) and Middlebury during the past four decades.
He served on the New Haven Planning Commission, from 1975-2003, much of it spent as chairman. He was New Haven’s delegate to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission from 1985 to 1988, a stint that included a year as board chairman.
Baker swapped the New Haven Planning Commission for the Middlebury Planning Commission in 2003. He served in that capacity until 2007, when he joined the Middlebury Development Review Board. He served on that panel — which evaluates local development proposals — until 2012.
In 2012, Baker ran unopposed for a one-year term on the selectboard that had been vacated by former Selectwoman Janelle Ashley. Baker won re-election to a three-year term on the board in 2013.
Baker in 2016 had hoped to extend his tenure by another three years. But he finished out of the running in what was a five-person race for three available seats.
Travis Forbes was first elected to the selectboard in 2010, following a successful write-in campaign. He is currently taking over the family business, Case Street Redi-Mix Inc. Forbes won re-election in 2013, and served on the town’s public works subcommittee.
Forbes resigned from the board suddenly in July of 2014, then citing personal and professional time commitments and frustration over what he indicated was his inability to effect operations at the Middlebury Department of Public Works.
He elaborated on his 2014 decision in his recent letter of interest for Donahue’s position. He specifically cited some family problems and the tragic death of one of his employees while on the job. He said he was also suffering from a sleeping disorder.
“I know that I left the board in a hasty decision and I’m sorry for that but I feel that it was best for the town and for myself at that time,” Forbes wrote in his letter of interest.
“To say the least, I was very depressed and not sure what I wanted out of life.”
But Forbes said he’s a lot better now, thanks to family, friends and medical care.
“I can assure you that I’m a very different person now and find myself very interested again in things that I once loved,” Forbes wrote.
Case Street Redi-Mix has, in the past, been involved with disputes with the town regarding sidewalk contracts. Forbes acknowledged that fact in his letter.
“If elected to the position I promise that I hold no grudges over the sidewalk issues and I’m also sorry for my actions when we were trying to figure out things,” Forbes wrote.
“I’m not looking to get on the board to get revenge on anyone.”
If picked to fill out Donahue’s term, Forbes said he would work on ideas to save the town money, primarily in public works operations and equipment purchases.
Farhad Khan owns the “One Dollar Market” on Court Street Extension in Middlebury. He and his family have lived in Middlebury for the past 21 years.
“My life would be boring if I didn’t do something for the community,” he said. “I have always felt like that.”
Khan and his wife have three children attending Middlebury public schools. And Khan and his wife are also furthering their own education, through classes at the Community College of Vermont.
Along with being a local businessman, Khan has volunteered his time to two major causes. He is past president of the Islamic Society of Vermont, and was vice president of Kids 4 Peace Vermont, an interfaith organization.
If selected, Khan would focus on bringing more businesses to Middlebury. As the owner of a small enterprise, he is aware of the challenges retail is facing from big box store and online competition.
“I want to flourish in this town, and I want everyone else to flourish, too,” he said.
In addition to her professional experience with the ACEDC, Jennifer Molineaux is treasurer of the Addison County courts.
She and her husband, Middlebury police Officer Chris Mason, have a child at Middlebury Union Middle School.
“My family is rooted in the community and I am committed to serving all our residents, particularly our youth,” she wrote in her letter of interest.
She added her marriage to a Middlebury police office has given her “insight into another vital piece of the town’s infrastructure, along with a perspective on the difficulties faced by some of our most marginalized community members.”
Molineaux has also gained insight into state and local affairs as producer of her husband’s popular Middlebury Community Television show, “Middlebury Five-O.” The show features interviews with various public officials, businesspeople, cultural figures and politicians.
“Our project is dedicated to the idea that our community is stronger and healthier when we know our neighbors better,” she said of the show.
Molineaux acknowledged that if named to the selectboard, she would have to recuse herself from decisions related to the police department.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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