Where are all the candidates?

Telegraph logoBy Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Many years ago a police officer in a large, East Coast city gave me some house-hunting advice. He said that if you are looking at buying a house, walk down the street in that neighborhood and ask passersby how to get in touch with the Neighborhood Watch group. If nobody knows, move there.

The logic behind his advice was that if people are not involved in protecting their community, its likely quiet and problem-free. Applying that same logic to town government, one would think that things are pretty much hunky dory in Chester.

As of this writing, there are no contested races for any elected office, including three select board seats. And several offices – lister, auditor and budget committee – have no candidates at all. Should we conclude that everybody is happy with the direction the town is taking and gladly pays the property tax?

Show of hands?

There have been plenty of issues that have riled Chester’s residents in the past few years including questions around the purchase of land for a new water tank, changes in zoning law, the number and duration of closed door select board sessions and the question of who should pay to maintain the town’s water system. The comments sections of The Telegraph are filled with the opinions on these issues, but it looks like the ballot will be bare.

Yes, everyone is busy and it’s a pain in the neck to drag yourself out to a board meeting when it’s 9 degrees outside, you’ve had a nice dinner and the woodstove is crackling.

But as we enter into the annual celebration of direct democracy that is Town Meeting Day, remember that most of the decisions made in Vermont’s towns are not made from the floor on that first Tuesday in March, but by elected representatives all the time. These decisions affect our lives in profound ways.

And an uncontested election is only marginally better than no election at all.

A petition to run for office in Chester takes the signatures of about 30 registered voters. The deadline for petitions for the following elective offices is 5 p.m. on Monday Jan. 25. Offices with an asterisk are paid positions.

Chester Town School District Moderator – one one-year term
Town Moderator – one one-year term
Lister* – one three-year term and one unexpired one-year term
Selectmen* – two one-year terms and one three-year term
Town Grand Juror – one one-year term
Agent to Defend Suits – one one-year term
Trustee of Public Funds – one three-year term
Trustees of the Whiting Library – two three-year terms
Auditor – one three-year term
Chester Town School District Director – one three-year term
Chester-Andover Elementary School Director – Union #29 – two three-year terms
Green Mountain Union High School Director – Union #35 – two three-year terms and  one unexpired one -year term
Budget Committee – six three-year terms

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