Khan tops the field in race for selectboard

MIDDLEBURY — When Farhad Khan emigrated from his native India to the United States in 1991, he had dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur and one day starting a family.
On Tuesday evening, with his wife looking on, Khan took the oath of office as a new selectman in Middlebury, where he owns and operates the One Dollar Market.
“I never, in my wildest dreams, expected this kind of support from the community,” Khan said on Wednesday morning.
“I’m excited to be a part of this important board.”
Khan emerged as the top choice among four citizens vying to replace former Middlebury Selectwoman Donna Donahue, who resigned earlier this month.
While he ended up the unanimous choice of his new selectboard colleagues, Tuesday’s appointment process was not without drama.
Middlebury selectboard Chairman Brian Carpenter announced at the outset that the board — per the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ interpretation of the state’s Open Meeting Law — could not conduct a secret ballot vote on the candidates: former Selectmen Gary Baker and Travis Forbes; Jennifer Molineaux, director of finance for the Addison County Economic Development Corporation; and Khan.
Because the board had on March 21 interviewed the candidates, selectboard members on Tuesday quickly declared their preferences. Selectmen Victor Nuovo, Nick Artim and Carpenter initially voted for Baker; Selectwomen Susan Shashok and Heather Seeley picked Molineaux; and Selectwoman Laura Asermily selected Khan.
Carpenter said he picked Baker at the outset because of his past experience on the board and therefore his “immediate ability to make an impact” on major issues the panel is facing.
But since a candidate had to receive at least four votes to be declared a winner, the board needed to hold a second round of voting. Citing the “personnel” clause in the state’s Open Meeting Law, the board went into secret session for around 20 minutes to reconsider the vote. When they returned, all six members declared Khan as their choice.
Carpenter thanked the remaining three candidates for their interest and promised they’d be recruited for service on the town’s many subcommittees.
“I think we’re all excited to have such a high degree of qualifications in our candidates,” Carpenter said.
Khan will now take his place sorting out a variety of issues for his community, including planning for the replacement of Middlebury’s two downtown rail bridges (see related story here).
He said he will be forever grateful to those who have helped him feel a part of Middlebury through the years. Khan recently learned 15 people sent the town letters in support of his selectboard candidacy. He has never even met some of those supporters.
“This is all to the credit of the local people who have opened their arms up to me,” said Khan, who became an American citizen in 2011.
It’s a positive relationship that has persisted through political times in which some Muslim citizens in the U.S. have felt discrimination, while President Donald Trump has proposed banning travelers from Muslim countries.
That hasn’t been a big problem in Middlebury for Khan — the past president of the Islamic Society of Vermont — nor for his wife and their three children.
“When Trump was elected, people came into the store and gave me hugs,” Khan said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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