5 chosen for Chester Police Advisory Committee

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At it’s March 22 meeting, the Chester Select Board chose five of the 10 residents interviewed to serve on  a new committee to advise the town’s Police Department and communicate with their community. After the interviews, the board went into executive session to discuss the appointments, then returned to tap Frank Kelley, Wendi Germain, Samantha Snedorf-Bailey, Roy Spaulding and Vincent Buckholz to serve.

Samantha Snedorf-Bailey

The idea of a volunteer civilian board has been discussed for several years with the sticking point always being whether it would have an “oversight” responsibility or not. Town Manager Julie Hance has said that she wanted to have an outside assessment of the Police Department before going forward with a citizen panel. That assessment was conducted last year by former Vermont State Police Commander Jim Baker.

In his assessment, Baker pointed to a lack of communication both within the department and with the community as a problem to be addressed, saying that the town should “explore and develop” a police community advisory board and develop a community policing strategy.

Wendi Germain

Then, in December, with the retirement of then Police Chief Rick Cloud, Chester promoted Lt. Tom Williams to police chief. At a recent Select Board meeting, Williams called Chester “prime territory” for a citizen advisory panel. He also noted that since the community is paying for the Police Department, it should have a way to say what it wants from it.

He told the board that “community policing” is not just “coffee with a cop” but is the public and police finding solutions together and that the department has no mission, vision or goal statements and that there should be public participation in framing those.

Vincent Buckholz

In forming the committee, the Select Board approved a Citizen Advisory Committee Policy and made it clear that the committee would be subject to the state’s Open Meeting Law and that the public will be welcome at their meetings. The appointments were made with staggered durations to preserve institutional knowledge of the committee’s workings.

Samantha Snedorf-Bailey, whose first term will be for one year, told the board that as a person of color in the Chester demographic she has a different perspective that she can bring to issues like language, which can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. She noted that “opening their arms makes (the police) more accessible.”

Frank Kelley

Vincent Buckholz, who will take a two-year term, emphasized his long career in the mental health community as a licensed independent clinical social worker. Buckholz said that it seemed to him that the Police Department is “open and ready to hear…that’s good enough for me.”

Also receiving a two-year appointment, Roy Spaulding cited living in Chester all of his life and operating a fourth generation business as bringing a long view perspective and he hoped that the committee can show the good the department does.

Roy Spaulding

Wendi Germain got the nod for a three-year term, saying that she had spent all her career in social services including a stint with a restorative justice organization in Springfield and helping that police department set up Neighborhood Watch organizations, which helped neighbors get to know each other and work out their differences without police involvement.

Teacher Frank Kelley also received a three-year appointment. He pointed to the knowledge, skills and perspective he gained from working with the police when students were having “a not very good day” and understanding the benefits of the appropriate intervention when people are learning “the importance of making the right choices.”

Hance told The Telegraph that she is working on pulling together the first meeting of the committee. She and Police Chief Williams will serve as non-voting members.

Residents who applied but were not selected include Leslie Thorsen, Marilyn Mahusky, Larry Semones, Susan Bourne and David Brault.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    There is no pay attached. They are not town employees.

  2. is this a paid position that there doing .. Or are these people working on this committee at NO charge