Two candidates vie for a Ferrisburgh selectboard seat

FERRISBURGH — Three candidates for the Ferrisburgh selectboard are on the March 6 Town Meeting Day ballot, but one of them is running unopposed — incumbent Michael “Red” Muir.
The other two candidates are both seeking to become first-time members of the board — and to replace long-time chairwoman Loretta Lawrence, who announced in January she would not file papers for another term.
Those seeking to replace Lawrence are Dennis Armell, who has twice run before for the Ferrisburgh selectboard, and first-time candidate Jessica James.
Armell, 63, most recently ran in 2015, when he lost to Muir.
Armell retired from the Vermont Army National Guard’s U.S. Property and Fiscal Office in 2015, and has also worked as an auto dealership department manager and as a dairy farmer. A member and former officer of Vergennes American Legion Post 14, he served on the Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission for more than a decade and has worked with the county’s Riverwatch program and the Lewis Creek Association.
Armell is also an instructor for the Vermont Fish & Game Hunter Education program and has coached extensively for elementary school and local youth sports programs.
James, 36, is a fourth-generation Ferrisburgh resident who grew up on a dairy farm, earned a University of Vermont degree, and has worked for the past six years as a legal secretary and administrative assistant for the law firm of Ouimette and Runcie in Vergennes. She has volunteered at Ferrisburgh Central School, and with the Girl Scouts and Vergennes Champs swim team.
James said Lawrence encouraged her to run while James was volunteering and visiting her two children at the central school.
The Independent last week asked each candidate to respond to the same five questions. These are their responses:
1. Why did you choose to run?
JAMES: “I feel inspired to give back to my hometown through public service. I have been interested in how the town operates and now is the time for me to dive in. I give credit to Loretta Lawrence, Selectboard Chair, who spoke with me about my value and about this opportunity of how I could serve our community at this level.”
ARMELL: “I have run for Selectboard before (and) have been on the town Conservation Commission for several years (and) have worked with the other town boards on several issues. I enjoy working out town issues.”
2. What would make you a good selectboard member?
ARMELL: “I have lived here all my life. I am presently retired and have plenty of time to work for the town and to listen to any town members ideas or concerns.”
JAMES: “I understand the expectations of a Selectboard member; there are night meetings, occasional special meetings, educational trainings and being available for the public to contact me at any time with any issues or concerns. To have a strong governing board, we need to make sure that everyone has a voice and is heard. I believe strongly that we need to utilize all generations of our community, reaching out to our partners and building new relationships, including to the state level, to gather and share new ideas and issues. I am eager to learn from our town issues, build upon our strengths, and continue to grow and make smart decisions together.”
3. Are there specific issues that you would like to address in office?
JAMES: “I believe that our current board is doing a great job. In my career I work with the town office employees and I have great respect for them. Often they are the first line of communication with anyone in the town and have a lot of work to keep up with. They need the support to run the office efficiently and in a timely manner.”
 ARMELL: “Control town spending. The current members have done a very good job of overseeing the town budget. (I) want to make sure we continue to stay on track. And to try to sell property that the town owns.”
4. What would you like to say to the residents of Ferrisburgh, and why should they vote for you?
ARMELL: “I Retired out of the VTARNG (National Guard) after 44 years of service. I worked as the Stock Control manager for the USPFO (Property and Fiscal Office) for several years. That job is almost the same as being on any town Selectboard. As the stock control manager my team oversaw all the expenditures for the entire state. (I) made sure all items purchased were paid for with the right funds and were an authorized purchase. Declined fraudulent spending of funds throughout the state.
JAMES: “I am a generational resident and have deep roots. I am constantly seeking more information. I keep up to date by following the Selectboard (and) School Board, and I am an active member of the Ferrisburgh Central School PTO. I follow town activity through local news and engage through conversations with community members and social media. The ability to engage and educate yourself on the issues is important and can occur within formal and informal settings. I take advantage of all information sources and I have many assets that could be helpful to our community.
5. Anything else you would like to add?
JAMES: “I would like to thank all the people who have energetically encouraged me and continue to support me in this endeavor, my friends and my family, especially my husband, Mike, and our amazing children, Sophia and Skyler. I hope to bring a sense of vitality and a new voice to the Ferrisburgh Selectboard, not just my own but a collective voice from my neighbors, our local families and friends too.
ARMELL: “In my job with Stock Control I oversaw over 50 fuel credit cards scattered all over the state and controlled spending of other cards. Most of the work I oversaw is identical to what a Selectboard does for their town.”

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