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After the constable race: Montgomery urges holding off on second constable appointment

In what was one of the most hotly contested town office elections in years, newly elected First Constable Whit Montgomery said last week that he recommends holding off on the town Select Board appointing a second law enforcer for the town.

"While I do feel it is important to bring on additional officers or a second constable, I also feel it is equally important to make sure the positions are filled by qualified and experienced officers. It is not something we want to rush into just to fill the vacancies. With the election now over, we can begin to focus on this, and the formation of the police department," Montgomery wrote in an email last week.

Montgomery handedly won last Tuesday's election for the top cop spot by 212 votes, with Montgomery receiving 331 ballots cast for him to opponent Mark Fiore's 119.

He said his first steps would be to begin community policing, improve school and senior relations programs with law enforcement, work on the implementation of the police department and consider applying for the police chief's position in town.

Fiore, a Killington resident and Woodstock and Castleton part time police officer, also campaigned for the first constable position after the resignation of Scott Bigelow.

Montgomery, who held the town's second constable position for years then as of late was the acting first constable, privately and publicly fended off his opponent by touting his years of experience working in the town as a law enforcer and his plans of implementing the proactive style of community-oriented policing.

Montgomery started his law enforcement career in Killington as a special officer hired in 1999 by then First Constable Howie Zack.

Both candidates are youthful and run their own small businesses in town outside of law enforcement.

But the race grew divisive and revealing.

About a month before the election, Montgomery gained approval from the Select Board to put an article on the ballot that symbolized the start of a paid, part-time police department. Voters passed article 4, authorizing the Select Board to appoint a first constable, and if needed, a second constable.

Montgomery said this measure ensures progress in the town in two ways, by providing Killington constables with more critical information on who they are pulling over, burglary and case follow ups and by taking the politics out of law enforcement.

"You don't want to have to worry about who you are pulling over and if they are going to vote for you the next day just because you are doing your job. Police officers should not have to be campaigning and asking for votes," Montgomery said at last week's meeting.

Article 4 was passed last week by a vote of 281-166.

Those voting against the article were very upset that voters will no longer decide who is in charge of law enforcement in town.
At an informational meeting prior to the vote last week, some residents shouted from the crowd that the article was meant to guarantee Montgomery had a job despite the outcome of the first constable vote.

Resident Charlie Demarest urged residents to vote down the article because he said it was "an erosion of their rights," claiming that police officers would be hired from out of town and voters could no longer decide for or against who they like.

Resident Jan Rich applauded the Select Board for putting the article on the ballot to ensure more information on out-of-state drivers is available.

Mark Fiore, in an interview after the election, said he felt like the police department concept was a good one although there was not enough money in the budget to pay for a chief and the budget itself was "not realistic."

Fiore said he would not apply for the second constable position.

When asked why he ran for the first constable position, Fiore responded, "the only proactive police officer up there (in Killington) was Ryan Soos."

Soos, a Killington resident, was hired by the town as a special officer in 2010, and according to a resignation letter provided by the town, Soos resigned from the position in August 2012.

In multiple interviews in late 2012, Webb, Selectman Jim Haff, Whit Montgomery and Scott Bigelow would not say why Soos left the position.

When asked to elaborate on Soos and his "proactive" law enforcement in town, Fiore would not provide details.

Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The Mountain Times, she can be reached directly by email cristina_kumka@yahoo.com