Middlebury leaders cite goals for next three years
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters on Town Meeting Day will decide two contested elections and will be asked to grant three incumbent selectboard members an additional three years in office.
Candidate petitions filed with the Middlebury town clerk’s office by the Jan. 28 deadline reveal:
• Five candidates vying for three available three-year terms representing Middlebury on the Addison Central School District board. Those candidates include incumbents James Malcolm, Lorraine Gonzalez Morse and Steve Orzech, and challengers Betty Kafumbe and Ryan Torres.
• Three candidates competing for two three-year terms on the Ilsley Public Library board. Those candidates are incumbents Alice Eckles and Catherine Nichols, as well as challenger Joe McVeigh.
• Incumbent selectboard members Nick Artim, Victor Nuovo and Heather Seeley are unopposed for new, three-year terms.
• Susan Shashok is unchallenged in her bid to succeed Middlebury Town Moderator James Douglas, who has decided not to seek re-election to a post he has held since 1986. The term is for one year.
• Beth Dow and Gary Baker are unopposed for terms of three years and one year, respectively, as town listers.
The Independent will interview candidates vying for selectboard and school board as the March 5 election draws closer. This story is focused on the selectboard candidates and what each hopes to accomplish during the next three years.
Artim joined the selectboard back in November of 2009, taking over the balance of a term vacated by then-selectboard member Bill Perkins. Artim is a licensed fire protection engineer with considerable experience in emergency services.
Contacted on Friday, Artim said he had planned on stepping down from the board at the end of his current term. But he, like Seeley and Nuovo, wants to see through some of the larger projects under way in Middlebury — most notably the rail bridges project.
Artim believes the preliminary work on the project has been successful and has instilled confidence in most residents that the heavier phases of construction to come will be performed on time. The most disruptive phase of construction will come during the summer of 2020, with a scheduled 10-week shutdown of Main Street and Merchants Row.
“I’ve seen the anxieties (about the project) go away, and people are looking to the future,” Artim said.
It’s a future that Artim believes will be rosy, if the town is proactive. With that in mind, Artim wants the town to follow through with a downtown master plan, which would serve as a blueprint for how the town wants to develop its core village area. Such a plan, he said, would give developers a clear idea of how they could introduce profitable enterprises in a Middlebury downtown that should be revitalized after construction crews move out in 2021.
At the same time, Artim wants to see the town develop blueprints on how its north (Exchange Street) and south (Court Street Extension) areas could be improved to encourage more economic development that fits into Middlebury’s character.
Artim believes Middlebury should encourage development of more affordable “workforce” housing to allow young families to settle in the county’s shire town and fill local jobs.
“We have to look at what we can do as a town to make this happen,” he said.
He has confidence in the current town staff and its ability to maintain solid public works, public safety and recreation services to attract new residents. And he’s pleased to see the community tap some of its surplus local option tax money to pay for upgrades to local roads, bridges and sidewalks.
“The role of the town is to make sure basic services function well for residents and the private sector,” he said.
Nuovo joined the selectboard in 2006. He is widely heralded as the panel’s elder statesman, often reminding his younger colleagues about the historical significance of area parks, monuments and other public assets that occasionally come into play during the board’s work.
For example, Nuovo was a lead proponent for naming a soon-to-be built park off Printer’s Alley after the Lazarus family, which for many years ran a department store at that site.
“I like the direction in which the selectboard is heading, and I want to be a part of the team,” Nuovo said.
One of Nuovo’s top priorities for the next three years is to see through the major rail bridges construction project in downtown Middlebury. That $72 million project will involve replacing the Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges with a concrete tunnel. Work will result in occasional detours, noise, dust and other hardships for those who live, work and shop in downtown Middlebury, but state and local officials are developing plans to mitigate the impacts of the construction that will kick off this spring.
Nuovo noted his new term will expire at a time when he turns 90 and when the rail bridges project is due to wrap up.
“I feel an obligation to the upcoming generations to provide them with a prosperous, nice looking town,” Nuovo said.
Also on Nuovo’s to-do list: Supporting efforts to improve the town’s municipal infrastructure, including water mains, wastewater conduits and roads. The board will ask participants at the upcoming March 4 annual town meeting to use $400,000 in surplus local option tax money to address some of the town’s most pressing capital needs “so we don’t have to face a crisis” in the future, according to Nuovo.
Middlebury is again working on an economic development policy to encourage greater business investment and job creation within its borders. An ad hoc “economic health committee” is currently meeting with business leaders to come up with a strategy. In tandem with that effort, Nuovo said he’d like to see the town support more affordable housing opportunities as an added incentive for entrepreneurs to create jobs in Middlebury.
New jobs would likely lead to more local families and more children to populate Middlebury’s schools, which are experiencing declining enrollment — a common trend in the vast majority of the state.
Nuovo is pleased fellow incumbents Seeley and Artim have also committed to new terms. He believes the current membership works as a team, with each member having a special skill or talent to bring to the board’s work.
“We have a fairly nice team effort going on in the selectboard and I am happy to be a part of it,” he said, adding with a chuckle: “I don’t expect them to hand me the ball to run for a touchdown, but I’ll do my part.”
Seeley joined the board in 2014. She chairs the town’s Infrastructure Committee, which works in the trenches on matters relating to local roads, bridges, sidewalks and public works projects.
She enjoys the work, and has a wealth of knowledge about the construction industry, as her family operates the business Seeley Earth Moving.
“I’m pretty invested in the infrastructure end of things,” she said.
Seeley currently works at Feed Commodities, and does some bookkeeping for the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society.
During the next three years Seeley wants to continue her leadership role in helping the town plan and complete major work within the Middlebury River to make it less susceptible to flooding in East Middlebury Village. She added that water mains in the Exchange Street area are due for a big overhaul, as many industries in that area have a critical need for reliable water service.
And Seeley noted some major sidewalk repairs throughout town are in the offing.
“I want to see (that work) further along than it is at the moment,” Seeley said.
Like Nuovo and Artim, she’s also keen on seeing the rail bridges project completed with as little hardship to the downtown community as possible.
And she wants to see more businesses and jobs come to Addison County’s shire town.
“I am still interested in the economic health issue,” she said, having led an ad hoc committee that explored that issue last year. She promised to support downtown master planning, promoting Middlebury, and creating more affordable housing.
Seeley has enjoyed her work on the board and is looking forward to three more years.
“I’m making the time,” she said. “I think it’s important to be involved in the community. It’s a way I can give back and help support the community.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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