Challengers step up in Grafton, Chester Select Board races

By Cynthia Prairie and
Shawn Cunningham
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Incumbents on both the Grafton and Chester select boards will face challenges to their seats when voters go to the polls on Town Meeting Day, which this year falls on Tuesday, March 1.

In Grafton, chair Sam Battaglino has decided not to seek re-election after one term in that 2-year post. Even so, it looked as though this would end up being a contest between Joe Montecalbo and Al Sands, but Montecalbo rescinded his petition. This paves the way for a clear Sands’ victory unless an active write-in candidate comes forward.

Grafton Town Clerk Kim Record  said that the Select Board seat currently held by Nora Lee Noralee Hall, who is in her first term and is seeking re-election to her three-year seat, is being challenged by Cynthia Gibbs, former town treasurer, lister and clerk, who is running for this office for the first time.

Grafton Town Clerk Kim Record looks over petitions on Monday afternoon. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

Grafton Town Clerk Kim Record looks over petitions on Monday afternoon. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

In Chester, long-time Select Board member Bill Lindsay will face Dan Cote in a contest for a 3-year seat. Lindsay has held both 1-year and 3-year seats for a total of 18 years on the board. He is the owner of the Chester Laundromat.

Cote, a political newcomer, is a local innkeeper, president of the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce and past president of the Chester Rotary Club.

Also in Chester, three candidates are vying for two 1-year Select Board positions. They are longtime Select Board member and Planning Commission chairman Tom Bock, incumbent board member and former school board member Arne Jonynas and political newcomer Ben Whalen.

Bock, who has served 12 years on the Select Board, is retired but has been active as the chairman of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission. Jonynas owns Chester Plumbing and Heating and is active with the Chester Conservation Committee, while Whalen works as a dispatcher at the Rockingham State Police Barracks and is Deputy Chief a captain on the Chester Fire Department.

Filling other seats

Grafton’s  Kim Record said that this is one of the first years that she can remember where a candidate has come forward for almost every seat in that town. The only position that was open until the last minute was Town Grand Juror, which, Record said, she herself would run for.

For other Grafton offices:

  • Dave Ross is seeking re-election as Town Moderator (1-year term).
  • Kate Muelrath is seeking re-election as Auditor (3-year term).
  • Joan Lake is seeking election to Lister (3-year term) while Kevin Neathawk is not seeking re-election to that post.
  • Gail Ann Fisher is seeking re-election to Trustee of Public Funds (3-year term) and election as Trustee of Campbell (the Campbell Fund).
  • Bob Donald is seeking re-election to a 3-year term as Library Trustee and David Whittall is hoping to take the 3-year seat of Chris Schemm, who is stepping down.
  • Re-running for their seats as School Directors are Sadie Hallock (2-year term) and Edward Bank (3-year term). Jack Bryar is seeking re-election to a 3-year term as Union High Director.

Candidates have until Wednesday afternoon — Jan. 27 — to rescind their petitions.

A pre-Town Meeting will be held at Grafton Elementary School, 58 School St., at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22 following the 6 p.m. Select Board meeting. The Grafton warning, which you can read here, will be introduced and there will be a candidates forum. A major addition to this year’s warning is Article 12, a request to exempt from property taxes the newly purchased Grafton Historical Society property at 147 Main St. Record said the historical society purchased the property from the Windham Foundation, which had been paying annual taxes of about $5,000. The only other properties exempted are the Nature Museum of Grafton, the Grafton Fire Station and the Grafton Improvement Association, which owns about 800 acres of land.

Election/Town Meeting Day will be Tuesday, March 1, with polls — at the elementary school — open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. And the Select Board re-organization meeting will be held after the ballots are counted, likely around 8 p.m.

For other Chester offices:

  • William E. Dakin Jr. is seeking re-election to the 1-year posts of Town Moderator and School District Moderator.
  • Erron Carey is seeking to be re-elected as Trustee of Public Funds (3-year term).
  • John DeBenedetti is seeking re-election to Town Grand Juror (1-year term).
  • JoAnne DeBenedetti is seeking to be re-elected as Agent to Defend Suits (1-year term).
  • Mariette Bock and David Lord both hope to be re-elected to their 3-year posts as Trustee of the Whiting Library.
  • Alison DesLauriers for one 3 year term as Town School District Director and Heather Chase for  an unexpired 1-year term of Michael Leonard, who resigned last year.
  • Jeffrey Hance and Alison DesLauriers for 3-year terms as Green Mountain Union High School Director and Bruce Parks an unexpired 1-year term.

No one has come forward to fill the following positions:

  • School Director of Chester-Andover Elementary, two 3-year terms.
  • Auditor, one 3-year term.
  • Listers, one 3-year term and one unexpired 1-year term.
  • Budget Committee, six 1-year terms.

In Chester, it takes a minimum of 30 write-in votes to be elected to an uncontested office.

Chester will hold its Town Meeting at 6 p.m. Monday Feb. 29 at Town Hall, 556 Elm St. First up will be a meeting of the Town School District to vote on the district budget, followed by the regular Town Meeting, in which voters will offer a show of hands on the town warning, which you can read here, including the municipal budget, tax exemption for three local organizations, an appropriation for Springfield Regional Development Corp. and articles for 11 non-profit or charitable organizations. On Tuesday, March 1, Chester voters will go to polls, also at Town Hall, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to vote elect officers and will vote on a $269,000 capital bond for various purchases and a $220,000 capital bond for paving.

The towns of Andover, Weston and Londonderry all take nominations from the floor during Town Meeting. You can find the Andover Warning within this article.
The Londonderry warning can be found here.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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