Fuentes-George makes it a competitive Middlebury selectboard race

MIDDLEBURY — Lindsey Fuentes-George has always believed government works best when many diverse voices of the community are represented in its actions.
With that in mind, Fuentes-George has decided to run for one of the two spots up for grabs on the Middlebury selectboard on March 6. Fuentes-George, 38, hopes to represent the voices of local parents, East Middlebury residents and families struggling to make ends meet.
And Fuentes-George also knows something about diversity. She and her husband — who hails from Jamaica — have three young children, two of whom are students at Mary Hogan Elementary School. The Fuentes-George family was among those who raised concerns about the racial climate in Addison County’s shire town last summer when two Confederate flags were seen flying at homes in the East Middlebury area. Their concerns, and those of others, culminated in the appointment of an Addison Central School District Task Force on Racism, Bias and Discrimination. The panel, made up of local people of color, is scheduled to issue its report with recommendations this May.
“With the current national political situation, we need to ensure that our local government is responsive to, and representative of, everyone in our community,” Fuentes-George declares of her candidacy in a letter to the editor in this edition of the Independent. “I would bring this resolve to my work on the board.”
Fuentes-George joins a three-person race for two, three-year terms on the Middlebury selectboard. Her competitors include incumbent Selectman Farhad Khan and former Selectman Gary Baker. As previously reported by the Independent, incumbent Selectwoman Susan Shashok has decided to step down from her post this March to devote more attention to her skin care products business, Caroline’s Dream.
The Fuentes-George family moved from Massachusetts to Middlebury around seven years ago. Kemi Fuentes-George teaches political science at Middlebury College. Lindsey works full-time at one of the Counseling Service of Addison County’s Middlebury group homes for developmentally delayed adults. Her resumé also includes work at a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
While Fuentes-George earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism (from Mount Holyoke College), she has always worked in the realm of human services.
She acknowledged the biggest issue before the selectboard right now is the impending replacement of the Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges. Preliminary work on that $72 million project is scheduled to start this spring. The most disruptive construction is slated for the summer of 2020, when construction begins in earnest on a concrete tunnel that will supplant the two spans.
Fuentes-George believes the oft-delayed project — criticized by some for its scope and price tag — should proceed without further delay. The 1920s-era bridges on Main Street and Merchants Row had been deteriorating, and were replaced last summer with two temporary spans.
“We have to be forward thinking and think about the town in 25 years and what will serve us best,” Fuentes-George said during a Monday interview at the Independent offices.
She’d like to investigate ways to help downtown businesses that will be affected by occasional construction disruption during the next two or three years.
“I’d hate to see any of (the downtown businesses) fold because of this project,” Fuentes-George said. “At the same time, it’s got to happen.”
She considers the Ilsley Public Library as a vital part of the Middlebury community, and hopes to further that organization’s efforts top renovate its historic headquarters at 75 Main St. There are a combined total of seven people running for three spots on the Ilsley Library board. Fuentes-George wants to become a library advocate through the selectboard.
“I very much think Ilsley is the heartbeat of the community, and it was the place where we first felt welcome after moving (to Middlebury),” Fuentes-George said. “I think we have to be sure the project is done well and that the library can continue to be such a vital part of our town.”
If elected, Fuentes-George looks forward to not only representing the entire town, but also following in Shashok’s footsteps as an effective advocate for East Middlebury-specific issues. For example, sections of the Middlebury River are being sized up for fortification to stem future flooding in East Middlebury village. Fuentes-George wants to be a local liaison for that project and other matters specific to the neighborhood.
“We actually moved to Middlebury right around (Tropical Storm) Irene,” she recalled. “We got all these messages and emails from people who were worried about us … For a lot of people in East Middlebury, the river rises up to their back door. That’s got to be stressful every single time.”
Fuentes-George said she’d like to hear her fellow residents’ priorities for the town going forward. She knows some people can’t conveniently get to board meetings.
“There are real barriers that make it difficult for people and they often feel disconnected,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to feel like they’re heard and for the board to be conscious of making themselves accessible to everyone.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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