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Two vie for one seat in Starksboro

CARIN MCCARTHY

I see the vibrancy of the small business community as essential to small towns. We have a role to play in generating revenue and creating job opportunities, so that people will move here and stay here.
— Carin McCarthy

STARKSBORO — When Starksboro voters to go the polls on Town Meeting Day, March 2, they will be asked to elect two selectboard members.
The seats’ current occupants are both running again: Koran Cousino for another three-year term and Carin McCarthy, a recent appointee, for her first full two-year term. Cousino is running unopposed, but McCarthy faces a challenge from Carrie Austgen.

CARIN MCCARTHY
McCarthy grew up in Starksboro, attending Robinson Elementary School and Mount Abraham Union High School. After attending college out of state and graduate school in Scotland, she returned to Starksboro and “fell in love with Vermont all over again.”
In 2015, McCarthy and her husband opened the Vermont Bed & Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.
“I love living in this community I grew up in,” McCarthy told the Independent.
Over the years McCarthy has benefited from the talents and hard work of past selectboard members, she said, and she believes in the importance of serving the town in a civic role.
“I want Vermont to be a place where businesses and families can thrive,” she said. “A critical part of that is being involved in the community and being connected to neighbors.”
McCarthy holds a master’s degree in Human Relations and Organization Development and said she cares deeply about creating opportunities to bring people together.
When the pandemic drastically affected her own business, McCarthy founded the Vermont Collaborative Circle, a resource hub where small business owners can connect, learn from one another and collaborate to solve shared challenges.
“I see the vibrancy of the small business community as essential to small towns,” she said. “We have a role to play in generating revenue and creating job opportunities, so that people will move here and stay here.”
McCarthy was appointed to the Starksboro selectboard in November after Greg Hahr resigned from the board.
Over the past four months, she said she has enjoyed connecting with the rest of the board, working on town business and helping plan next year’s budget.
“Things have been busy, active and vibrant.”
McCarthy is happy that her seat is being contested, she said.
“I appreciate that people in our community care enough about the future of Starksboro to bring their talent and their vision to the table.”

CARRIE AUSTGEN
Carrie Austgen and her wife built a house in Starksboro this past year. They had originally planned to spend their summers in Vermont and their winters in Texas, but they fell in love with their Starksboro property and will now live there permanently.
“Starksboro is gorgeous,” Austgen told the Independent. “And it has clean air, clean water and clean food, which are the three most important things.”
Originally from Chicago, Austgen attended Texas A&M University, where she played softball. She went on to have a 34-year career as a teacher and coach in Texas. In addition to softball, she coached basketball, volleyball and track.
When it came time to retire, Austgen thought of her parents, who themselves had retired in Wisconsin, “among the rolling hills, with clean air, clean water and clean food.” Her search for her own version of that place took her all the way from Washington state to Vermont.
The Green Mountain State won out in the end.
“There is a sacredness to how Vermont operates,” she said. “And I really appreciate the way people get out and enjoy the nature here.”
After retiring, Austgen began looking for ways to be of use to her community, so when the question “Who would like to serve?” was asked at Starksboro’s annual meeting last year, her ears perked up, she recalled.
Her wife, Alexsys Thompson, currently serves on the town’s development review board.
Austgen sees herself as a creative, out-of-the-box thinker who understands a lot about teamwork.
“Teamwork goes a long way,” she said.
And because she’s worked in school systems, she’s no stranger to tight budgets, she added.
If Austgen could wave a “magic money wand” she’d secure grant money for farmers and for the town’s infrastructure, including the Jerusalem Schoolhouse, which is in need of some “TLC.”
Chief among the challenges facing Starksboro in the coming years is how to manage growth and change while preserving the things that are sacred to those Vermonters who were born and raised here, Austgen said.
“How do we generate revenue without taxing people to death? How do we preserve our local school? I think we need to find some balance and harmony in terms of our vision for the town of Starksboro.”

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