By Brett Yates
On March 8, the Mendon Select Board welcomed new member Valorie Taylor, who, with 128 ballots to her opponent’s 75, defeated Bryan Sell in a race for the seat on Town Meeting Day. Her first official vote, an “aye,” approved an addition to the evening’s agenda of a trio of items regarding the seasonal posting of roads, the town payroll, and the date of the board’s following meeting.
Taylor, a native of Clarendon, has lived in Mendon for the past six years. She has two children in the Barstow Unified Union School District. An amateur runner, she “fell in love” with the area in part for its recreational amenities.
The first-time elected official also spoke of the sense of safety she enjoys in Mendon. “I just want to keep it safe and pay attention to everything,” she professed.
Most of all, Taylor hopes to ensure that the board remains responsive and accessible to Mendon residents. “Just being here, being available for people, it feels like the right thing,” she said.
Taylor’s arrival coincides with a high-pressure moment for the board, which in February began the process of adopting a firearm discharge ordinance that, inside town limits, may prohibit gunfire within 500 feet of roads, buildings, and hiking trails (with an exemption for hunting). A public hearing on the controversial proposal took place on March 15.
Geoff Wells, Taylor’s predecessor, joined the board in 2014 as an appointee. Elected twice, he declined to run for a third full term.
“My daughter’s getting into high school, so I only have four more years really with her to spend,” Wells divulged. “I just needed a break. I do real estate appraisal, and it’s been insane since Covid hit.”
Once he’d made the decision to leave, he encouraged Taylor to run for the seat. “Just the fact that you have people excited to do that is good in a town,” he observed.
Highlights of Wells’s tenure included obtaining FEMA funding for post-Irene road repairs and, later, negotiating with the Green Mountain National Forest, the Green Mountain Club, the Trust for Public Land, and the state to secure a right of way for an emergency route to Killington in case Route 4 should ever again become impassable.
Wells hasn’t ruled out running for office again further down the road.
“What I liked the most about the job was that you just never know what the next topic is going to be,” he said. “Every time something comes up, you learn a lesson, and you only get better at it.”
The worst part, in Wells’s experience, was “that you can’t make everyone in a town happy.”