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Swift House owner eyes seat on Middlebury selectboard

DAN BROWN

I’ve always been a stickler on property taxes, which keep rising. I’ve always challenged the selectboard to be creative and do things differently. We also need to be concerned about the education property taxes.
— Dan Brown

MIDDLEBURY — Swift House Inn co-owner Dan Brown is no stranger to serving his country. Prior to becoming an innkeeper, the U.S. Naval Academy graduate spent 27 years piloting ships, P-3 airplanes and a segment of the Navy’s acquisition management division.
Now he’d like to serve his community as a member of the Middlebury selectboard.
Brown is one of two candidates to have thus far announced for two spots up for grabs this coming March on the town’s chief governing board. The other is incumbent selectboard Chairman Brian Carpenter, whose current three-year term is expiring.
Board incumbent Laura Asermily has also confirmed she won’t be seeking re-election. The Independent early next month will publish articles about Carpenter’s campaign priorities and about Asermily’s contributions to the town.
Friends and acquaintances have encouraged Brown to run for the selectboard through the years, but he and his wife Michelle always had many irons in the fire. The biggest of those irons has been the popular Swift House Inn and the accompanying Jessica’s Restaurant, which the Browns have owned and operated for the past 16 years.
But they recently put the inn up for sale, and Dan has decided to pare down the number of leadership positions he’s held in the theater, commerce and hospitality industries.
“I’ve come to a point where I have time (to run),” Brown said during a recent interview. “I’ve thought about it for several years, and with an open seat it’s perfect time for me to do this.”
Brown in September left the Middlebury Town Hall Theater board after nine years. During a portion of that tenure Brown led the nonprofit’s finance committee, a panel that played a role in the recent hiring of THT Executive Director Mark Bradley. Brown was also a leader of THT when it purchased the adjacent Diner property on Merchants Row. That site might someday allow for expansion of the theater.
A longtime member of the Congregational Church of Middlebury, Brown just completed a three-year stint on the Charter House Coalition board. The coalition oversees a huge volunteer effort to supply low-income people with food, shelter and other resources. Brown also coordinated repairs to the coalition’s warming shelter at 27 North Pleasant St. a few years ago.
Brown’s civic résumé also includes service on the Addison County Chamber of Commerce board and what is now known as the Better Middlebury Partnership board. He’s been a member of state and national associations promoting inns and bed and breakfasts.
If elected in March, Brown vowed to contribute to a selectboard agenda he believes will include:
• The ongoing $72.5 million effort to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges with a 360-foot-long concrete tunnel. The most disruptive phase of work will begin next summer with the scheduled 10-week closure of Main Street and Merchants Row. That’s when the new tunnel will be installed.
“We need to get through that year,” he said.
• Improving the town’s water-system infrastructure, which is aging and has been springing leaks. The town is preparing a $2 million bond vote for Town Meeting Day in March that would help finance replacements of parts of the water mains on Court Street, Court Square and Washington Street. Other water main projects loom, most notably on Exchange Street to ensure more reliable service to businesses in Middlebury’s industrial park.
• Deciding what to do with a growing surplus in the town’s Cross Street Bridge fund. The surplus derives from local option taxes on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol, revenues that are proving more than enough to pay off and maintain the downtown bridge. The surplus currently stands at more than $2 million. Local voters will be given a say in how those funds are used.
• Devising ways to keep downtown businesses viable.
• Containing property tax increases.
“I’ve always been a stickler on property taxes, which keep rising,” he said. “I’ve always challenged the selectboard to be creative and do things differently. We also need to be concerned about the education property taxes.”
• Supporting current efforts to create a downtown Middlebury master plan. That plan will serve as a long-term blueprint for growth in the core village area.
“I’m looking forward to helping plan what the future of Middlebury will be,” he said.
Brown praised both Asermily and Carpenter for their work on behalf of the town.
Asermily, who joined the board in 2014, has particularly distinguished herself in matters relating to public safety and renewable energy.
“She has been really good for the town,” Brown said. “I think she’s done a great job and been very vocal and positive, being the caring-type person she is on the selectboard. Congratulations to her.”
Carpenter, according to Brown, has “done a great job, and I think we need that kind of stable leadership for the next couple of years, with what’s going on in town.”
Candidates have until Jan. 27 to file petitions signed by at least 30 registered town voters to run for municipal or school offices.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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