Local members of the League of Women Voters of Vermont sent the following questions to every candidate on the Castleton ballot. Their responses are published here. Voting will be at Castleton Fire Hall on Tuesday, March 7, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
LIBRARY TRUSTEE: (5-year term): The Trustees develop policy and guide the operation of the library. [Vote for one]
Question: What is your vision of the role of the library in our town?
Candidate: Pamela Arel
My name is Pam Arel and I was appointed to the library board three years ago. It was an unexpected honor then and has been a wonderful responsibility since. I don’t believe my personal vision for the library is important. However, the vision of Castleton residents is vital. It is your library.
What a large number of community members have expressed to me is their wish to expand horizons with excellent programming for all ages, outreach to those unable to visit the library, free wifi, computer access, community space, the ability to borrow books, films, audio and magazines, relevant and free educational materials that benefit personal and professional development. This connectivity, all while living in the beautiful and vibrant town of Castleton, is so important to our patrons.
I hope you will give me the opportunity to continue to be an active and hardworking trustee for your Castleton Free Library.
Candidate: Ted Molnar
I want our library to be the heart of our community, attracting every Castleton resident through creative programs and by serving varied needs.
This includes children and seniors; the disabled and homebound; film buffs and sports buffs; hunters, anglers, knitters and woodworkers; boaters and gardeners; smart phone and computer wanna-be users; and people just wanting to relax, learn, meet neighbors.
I plan to learn through discussions and surveys what residents want from their library, and then help find ways to meet people’s needs and interests.
For example, we already know that we need easy access for disabled residents (including the growing number of older people who have difficulty with stairs) and I plan to add my voice to those working on meeting this need.
We support the library with $114,000 in taxes, and I want to see everyone use the library so we get our money’s worth.
SELECTBOARD: (Two 1-year terms; one 3-year term): Administers town government between Town Meetings; executes duties and responsibilities prescribed by state law which they may do through a Town Manager; makes all appointments to town offices not filled at the Town Meeting, including filling vacancies until the next election; is part of the Board of Civil Authority and the Board for Abatement of Taxes; assumes responsibility for all the town’s financial transactions.
Questions: It is often said that Vermont towns are leery of “outsiders.” How do you respond to that statement? If elected, what would be your first priority as a Selectman?
Candidate: Richard “Dick” Combs (3-year term)
My first impression is that the statement is purely anecdotal and based on opinion. Before anyone seeking to be in a position of responsibility could respond to any statement such as this, they would morally be required to do some research.
Unfortunately, it is easy and comfortable to allow the vocal minority in any situation to speak first, voice the loudest opinion, and grab the media headlines. It is our duty as responsible citizens, to gather all the facts before forming any opinion. It is absolutely imperative that anyone either in, or seeking, a leadership role in our community gather any and all information before rendering an opinion or decision on any topic, including this one.
As a new member of the Select Board three years ago, my goals were quite simple and obvious to me. First was to build a new firehouse, second a proper home for our police force, then thirdly a new home for our town government. All the while, I also knew the real goal needed to be furthering economic development, expanding the tax base, and stabilizing the revenue requirements for future generations.
The priority has to be future economic development. Looking forward, the level of service our town enjoys cannot be provided without an increase in revenue. This can only be accomplished in one of two ways; increase the tax base (economic growth) or raise taxes. My effort will be towards growth.
Candidate: Zack Holzworth (1-year term)
Vermont towns epitomize resident leeriness of outsiders whether they are out-of-staters, or whether they live just a few towns over. I’ve experienced that same leeriness in other states. It is not a trait specific only to Vermonters. To a degree, I can understand why we are the way we are as Vermonters, many of whom are fifth or sixth generation Vermonters. These longtime Vermonters know the state like the back of their hand and are tight-lipped around who they would call “flatlanders.” I have even witnessed this “leeriness”, more like competitiveness, in residents of towns within Vermont. Vermonters believe their town is the best in the state and would not live anywhere else and, frankly, don’t care to hear about why your town is better. I see it as competitive spirit.
My first priority as a selectman will be to keep good jobs in Castleton and cater to businesses who want to set up shop in our town, whether it’s a mom and pop convenience store or a Ford plant. I want to incentivize people to move to our town through the promise of good jobs. Our biggest issue is that people are leaving this town and, collectively, leaving the state. This hurts those people who are left here in Castleton and in Vermont because our tax burden typically rises with inflation and, when you have taxpayers leaving, you begin to lose your tax base. That needs to end now.
Candidate: Jim Leamy (1-year term)
Vermont towns have always welcomed people from other areas of the country and I would assume that tradition would continue.
My priorities if elected are as follows:
Complete the town office project on schedule and within the budget presented to the Voters.
Resolve the contract negotiations between the town and union employees in a manner that is fair to both parties.
Continue to cooperate with Castleton University, one of our major employers
Encourage economic development to reduce the tax burden on homeowners and existing businesses.
Evaluate town services as to cost and result.
Work with local and state agencies to protect our natural resources.
Maintain our infrastructure such as roads, wastewater systems and expand them when funding is available.
Operate town government in a cost effective manner.
Candidate: Gary M. Munnett (1-year term)
My name is Gary Munnett. I’m a native of Hydeville, Vt. I attended Hydeville Graded School, Castleton Elementary, Fair Haven Union High School and Castleton State College. As a young man I volunteered coaching Hydeville’s Little League and Catholic Youth Organization basketball.
I became a member of the Castleton Volunteer Fire Department, Recreation Department and Castleton Lions Club. I was elected to the Constables Department, serving the town until I moved away forty years ago. My purpose for moving was to pursue a career in law enforcement. My career took me all the way to becoming chief of police for the city of Vergennes.
During my years in upper management I participated in the budget process in towns and a city. I realized early the importance of putting together a budget that was realistic but one that could easily be justified to the tax payers. Accountability to the tax payers is what gives them confidence in the people they elect to the Select Board. When elected to the Select Board, it would be my first priority to build and earn the confidence of the people of Castleton.
A year ago, I purchased a home in Hydeville. Since returning, it has been my desire to become involved in activities in Castleton. I’m currently a member of the Sons of American Legion Post 50, treasurer for the Castleton Lions Club, and the chairman of the Board for the Castleton Fire District #3. I ask for your vote on March 7 for Select Board.
Candidate: William Potter (1-year term)
Anyone is always welcome to Vermont towns.
My priority is to work a budget that will keep the municipal tax rate level while keeping the town infrastructure in good condition.
SCHOOL DIRECTOR (Two 3-year terms; two 2-year terms of 3-year terms)
Castleton-Hubbardton Union School Board
Question: When consolidation occurs, what specific benefit would you like to see brought to our schools?
Candidate: Michael Lenox (3-year term)
Consolidation of the districts that comprise Addison Rutland Supervisory Union into one unified school district, governed by a single board, will result in a better education for all of our students. The most notable change will be greater equity for all of the students in our schools as we share resources, coordinate curriculum and professional development for staff, and shift our administration’s focus from managing several
School Boards to improving our students’ education. The merger will also allow for improved flexibility and agility in navigating the constant waves of change, both locally and nationally, while at the same time realizing efficiencies to help control the cost of education.
Candidate: Toni Lobdell (3-year term)
The benefit I would like to see brought to our schools is increased student learning, so more of our students achieve or exceed the standards. This will help to ensure they graduate from high school having the opportunity to go on to lead productive lives.
SCHOOL DIRECTOR (One 3-year term; one 2-year term of a 3-year term)
Slate Valley Unified Union School District
Question: What do you think consolidation will do to affect the program/s at the Castleton schools?
Candidate: Julie Finnegan (3-year term) No Response
Candidate: Toni Lobdell (1-year term)
I feel that consolidating the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union will help to make programs at the Castleton Schools stronger. Unification could even allow for the expansion of some programs. An excellent example of this is foreign language. Right now only Spanish is available in grades 6-8 in Castleton. By sharing teachers between schools, it may be possible to offer a second language and/or include other grade levels.
Another example could be an increase in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program offerings. Unifying into one school district will make the sharing of staff with the expertise, as well as the resources needed, more efficient than is currently possible with separate school districts.
A unified school district will also enable students to access the vast array of extracurricular activities such as clubs, educational programs, music, art or athletics offered throughout the district and not just those in their home school.
TOWN MODERATOR: (1-year term): Is the first elected presiding officer at the Town Meeting and serves this meeting and interim meetings during the year.
Question: How would you explain the rôle of Town Moderator?
Candidate: Michael Finnegan No response.
FIRST CONSTABLE (2-year term): Chief law enforcement official for the town; may be appointed as court officer to the District Court; if the office of Tax Collector is not filled at the Town Meeting, the First Constable does the job.
Question: Considering the town has a police force, how is the position of Constable different? Or is it?
Candidate: Silas Loomis No response.