Five seeking two seats on Chester Select Board Elimination of elected treasurer, clerk to be voted on March 6

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

While there’s often a challenger for two of the one-year seats on the Chester Select Board, this year brings an unusually large group of candidates. With incumbents Ben Whalen and Leigh Dakin deciding not to run for re-election, seven residents took out petitions to run and five of those collected enough signatures to be on the ballot on Town Meeting Day.

Residents will be able to vote from the floor on most articles for the first time since March 2020 Telegraph file photos

Of the five, three hold seats on appointed town boards. Hugh Quinn and Peter Hudkins serve on the Planning Commission, of which Quinn also chairs. And Arianna Knapp is the chair of the Local Cannabis Control Commission. The other two candidates are Steve Slivinsky and Donald J. Strohmeyer.

Two candidates are running to fill a vacant seat as Trustee of Public Funds. The trustees administer a number of designated funds, most of which came from bequests, and Sue Willis and Jerene Slivinsky will compete for the open post.

Finally for the contested races, there are four candidates for three one-year seats on the Whiting Library Board of Trustees.

Incumbents Jesse Bailey, Sam Comstock and Bill Dakin, who were appointed by the Select Board last summer following a mass resignation by six Trustees, are seeking election. And Chris Burks is hoping to oust one of them.

Uncontested elections

Voting on candidates for office and bonds will be by Australian ballot on Monday March 7. Telegraph file photo

Select Board chair Arne Jonynas is running unopposed for a three year seat and, as usual, long-time Town Moderator Bill Dakin has no challenger for his one-year post.

Town Clerk/Treasure Deborah Aldrich is on the March 7 Australian ballot with no challenger for her three-year post. The positions of town clerk and treasurer will also be articles on the ballot. (See below.)

In the remaining three races for Trustee of the Whiting Library, Matthew Gorsky is running unopposed for a three-year term while Lora Cokalat is running for a two-year term (out of an unexpired three-year.) However there remains one other unexpired three-year term that no one is running for. (That seat was temporarily filled by John Garison.) So, unless someone runs for that open position as a write-in and gets more than 25 votes, the Select Board will have to appoint a trustee.

The incumbent Green Mountain Unified School District directors — Jeff Hance and Rick Alexander — are also running unopposed.

Warned articles could eliminate elections for clerk and treasurer

An unusual feature of this election are two articles that would do away with the election of the Town Clerk and/or the position of Treasurer in favor of having those jobs appointed by the Select Board.

The Vermont legislature’s Act 27 of 2017 allows municipalities to shift from electing their town clerks and treasurers to having those offices appointed by their select boards. Town Manager Julie Hance said that the idea behind this is that the work of both offices has become much more complex, making it conceivable that underqualified people could be elected by the public.

While select boards set the budget, enact ordinances and handle specific town business, other elected officials are independent of their supervision or control. Hance said that while elected clerks and treasurers are independent, those appointed to the jobs could be removed — for cause and with a hearing — by select boards. 

The vote on whether to make the Chester town clerk and treasurer appointed positions will be from the floor at the annual meeting on the evening of Monday, March 6. The actual wording does not explain that voting for the measure means the town voters will no longer elect these offices. According to Hance, an elected town clerk or treasurer must be a registered voter of the town, but the statute does not say that an appointed clerk or treasurer must be a registered voter or even be a town resident. Currently the town has appointed offices filled by non-residents.

If the articles pass, the Select Board must appoint a clerk and/or treasurer within 45 days of the vote. The statute also does not specify the term of office. It is currently three years for an elected  clerk. It’s expected that the Select Board would appoint Aldrich, who has served the town in those positions for many years. But it is not required to.

Speaking to the idea that the selection of these offices is too complex to be left up to the judgment of the public, Jonynas said during a board meeting, “I’m not sure (the board) is that much better at deciding who is qualified.”


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