Asermily will not run for another term on Midd. selectboard

LAURA ASERMILY IS pleased with what she has accomplished as a member of the Middlebury selectboard, but is happy to pass the baton to a new leader.

Rotation of service is healthy and it’s time for others to seek office.
— Laura Asermily

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Selectwoman Laura Asermily has confirmed she won’t seek a third, three-year term on the board in March, saying it’s time for someone else to bring new energy and ideas to the community’s top governing panel.
“Rotation of service is healthy and it’s time for others to seek office,” Asermily wrote in a recent email exchange with the Independent. “I encourage many to run. We are healthier for it.”
As previously reported by the Independent, Swift House Inn co-owner Dan Brown has confirmed he will run for one of the two three-year terms that are up for grabs on the Middlebury selectboard on Town Meeting Day. He enters a field that so far includes selectboard Chairman Brian Carpenter, who will be seeking a third term.
Candidates for municipal and school offices have until Jan. 27 to file petition papers to get on the March 3 ballot.
Asermily will leave the selectboard following an eventful six years during which she proved particularly influential on renewable energy and public safety matters.
“I rose through our energy committee, which I helped found out of my very well-known concern of climate change and desire to position Middlebury as a leader in addressing it,” she said.
She would eventually pivot from the energy committee to the town’s Public Health & Safety Committee, in order to better understand and improve the community’s emergency preparedness and response efforts. With that in mind, the committee during Asermily’s tenure has increasingly networked with Middlebury Health Officer Tom Scanlon, local emergency responders, the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, Porter Hospital and Middlebury College.
In recent months, Public Health & Safety Committee members have been “discussing rigorously how to respond to escalating homelessness and mental health conditions and substance use,” Asermily noted. Town officials are asking for state assistance in addressing the needs of the local homeless population. Middlebury police have reported challenges in dealing with the relatively small percentage of homeless people who require detox and/or mental health services.
Asermily said she’s pleased to have been a member of current and past selectboards whose accomplishments have included:
• Advancing a $72.5 million project to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges with a 360-foot concrete tunnel. Work this year has focused on construction of support infrastructure that will lead to installation of the tunnel next summer. 
“We formed healthy bridges of dialogue and support in planning and implementing the rail bridge project, holding countless public meetings and steady reports coordinated by our liaison Jim Gish,” Asermily said. “Certainly, this has dominated my tenure and afforded us an opportunity to transform transportation and our downtown.”
The tunnel work will also result in what Asermily said are “badly needed upgrades to our water system, sidewalks and roads, and the bonus of burying utility lines.”
• Restructuring Middlebury’s public works department, with the hiring of Bill Kernan as director of operations. Asermily said this has allowed Public Works Planner Dan Werner to focus more on individual projects.
What was once the “Public Works Committee” is now known as the Middlebury Infrastructure Committee, a diverse panel chaired by Selectwoman Heather Seeley.
“We’ve hired other new department heads during my tenure and added needed staff to other departments coordinated by our extremely hard working Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay,” Asermily said.
• Re-energizing the town’s economic development efforts. Those efforts had been spearheaded by Jamie Gaucher, the former director of the now-defunct Office of Business Development & Innovation. The town pulled the plug on that office in 2017, and Middlebury now has an economic health task force that will offer recommendations next spring on how to stimulate the local business scene.
In the meantime, Asermily points to some positive signs, including Community Barn Ventures’ recent makeover of the historic Stone Mill building into a retail-dining-office-lodging hub. She praised the Neighbors Together citizens group for helping to infuse excitement in the downtown during the ongoing rail bridges project.
Selectboard Chair Carpenter was happy to have Asermily serving on the board.
“Laura has brought a strong voice to the table in so many different areas that were probably not well represented in the past,” he said. “It has changed the dialogue on a number of our projects and things that have gone on. It was great to have her as part of the board.”
Outside of her role on the selectboard, Asermily has championed Mary Hogan Elementary’s “Safe Routes to School” program. She routinely dons a banana costume to encourage children to be safe and be cognizant of their carbon footprint as they arrive and leave their school.
She’ll continue to be a Safe Routes to School booster and will steer the upcoming Vermont Walk Bike Summit in Middlebury on May 8. Asermily wants to remain on the Public Health and Safety Committee and she vowed to keep masterminding the annual town meeting poll. And Asermily will stay involved in keeping the downtown vibrant next summer when Main Street and Merchants Row are closed to traffic for 10 weeks of heavy construction.
She feels a sense of déjà vu as her selectboard tenure comes to a close.
“It is interesting that I came on to the Middlebury selectboard at a time of enormous contention on an issue dividing our town with Middlebury College over what to do about our aged town office and gym on a beloved lot (77 Main St.),” she said, “and I am leaving after another (controversial project) with the installation of an industrial-scale solar project on South Street Extension in a beloved view shed. Rigorous debate ensued on both, toward hard decisions. This is healthy. We have worked to achieve a healthy relationship between the town and college. In fact, health is what we have aimed to bring in many regards during my tenure.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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