Meet three candidates for Chester Select Board

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The Chester Telegraph sent a series of questions to the three candidates who are vying for two one-year terms on the Chester Select Board. Those two seats are currently held by Heather Chase and Peter Hudkins. Chase, who also serves as a state representative, is not seeking reelection and Hudkins is seeking a three-year term. These questions address some of the issues for many Chester voters.  The candidates were asked to keep each of their answers to 250 words and have been lightly edited for style, spelling and grammar. Not all the candidates answered specifically to each of the questions.

Also, you can meet these and other candidates at Candidates Night at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23 at Town Hall, 556 Elm St. Bill Dakin will be the moderator and questions will be taken from the audience. Town Meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 4 at Town Hall, 556 Elm St. in Chester, and via Zoom. Voting will take place on 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5 by Australian ballot at Town Hall, 556 Elm St. Or you can pick up an early voting ballot at Town Hall.

Tell the readers a little about yourself, what they should know about you.

ARIANNA KNAPP: I have lived in Vermont for over 30 of my 55 years. Graduated from high school up in Colchester, raised five kids in the Upper Valley and my husband and I moved to Chester in 2018. I am not retired. I continue to work full time as an executive in the entertainment business, traveling a great deal to New York and Los Angeles. The flexibility within my schedule has allowed me to carve out the time to serve. Our home here is our homestead, our life here is our priority. I get a great deal of satisfaction from hard work, even more so when it is shared. I enjoy motorcycle riding and blacksmithing (low level hobbyist) as well as a good mystery novel. In addition to serving on the Select Board, I am currently the Tree Warden for Chester, and serve on the local Cannabis Commission.

TIM ROPER: As a Chester resident of over 30 years, I’ve always been involved in our community at some level. Both of our kids went through Chester schools from K-12. I coached youth sports during those days, back in the ’90’s and early 2000s and also helped out with the thankless job of refereeing games for a time. I’m proud of our now adult kids who are both self-sufficient and happily living in Vermont with one here, in Chester. That’s motivation for me to look ahead to the long-term well-being of our town.

My wife and I will celebrate our 35th anniversary just days after the Town Meeting. For any relationship to thrive that long, it takes compromise, commitment, determination  and empathy. And it doesn’t happen without willingness to do whatever it takes. That’s something that I think applies to the work of governing, as well.

I was raised by a single mom who went back to college after my father left us. Mom earned her teaching degree, then taught high school history and government for over 30 years to support my sister and me. Her example showed me that overcoming obstacles through hard work and perseverance is possible but not always easy. I also saw that a little help from family and friends can go a long way in getting someone through a tough stretch. We can’t always make things work out on our own and having some safety nets often changes the course of people’s lives.

LISA RUFA: While I was not born in Vermont, I consider myself a Vermonter. I moved to Chester in 2005 in search of a new beginning. I looked for a community that was safe and rooted in family values to raise my three children. The town of Chester was the answer I was looking for to develop a lifestyle my children could learn and grow. During my time here, I worked as a licensed nursery school teacher, ski instructor and a gardener before starting D&R Property Services in 2017 with my partner, Donald Roys. When I am not working you can find me playing in my own gardens.

What prompted you to run for the Chester Select Board?

TIM ROPER: I know that our town is working hard to meet the multiple goals of municipal government and I believe that my life experience, work experience and my seven years on the Planning Commission are beneficial in helping to navigate the rough economic waters we’re currently experiencing. We have a stellar town manager whose hard work in finding funding to continue improving our basic services and infrastructure needs to be supported by Select Board members with experience along these lines. The current board has displayed a professional decorum that allows for dissenting positions to be discussed and worked through to develop outcomes that best serve the people of Chester. Keeping that balance is crucial at this juncture and I’m someone who can step onto the board and continue that ethic.

Further, my experience as a manager and business owner will be beneficial in working to further the interests of small and regional businesses located in, or thinking of moving to Chester. The Planning Commission has taken steps to remove barriers to establishing and operating a business here;, now the Select Board may be able to find some avenues to promote and welcome new employers to our town. I see that as something that will be discussed during this next term and look forward to that work.

LISA RUFA: I was prompted to get involved because there are several critical issues that are before the Select Board. I also believe strongly in giving back to the community that has been supportive of my family over the last 20 years.



ARIANNA KNAPP: If elected, this would be my second term serving as a Select Board member. I have learned a great deal, and continue to learn every day from my neighbors, from my fellow Select Board members and from the research and grass roots education required to consider the variety of issues that come before the board. I have realized that spending time out on the land and getting to know people and see how they are directly impacted by the decisions and issues raised to the Select board is the single most important aspect of being part of the Select Board. When the residents of Gassetts and Chandler Road shared the realities that they have been facing due to the All Stone operations here in Chester, it cemented my commitment to serve by listening, asking questions and being the best advocate I could be for my neighbors.

Short term rentals have been an issue before the board the past two years, addressing the issues surrounding STRs, particularly unhosted ones. What other actions do you believe the board should take? Or what actions would you seek to modify because you believe they have gone too far?

LISA RUFA: Two main concerns are Short Term Rentals and zoning. These decisions could alter Chester’s future and the lifestyle that brought me here. It is important to find a balance between the values and lifestyle of a small community like Chester while also bringing in the revenue to help the economy.

ARIANNA KNAPP: I continue to support the Chester STR ordinance, which was put in place at the end of 2022. As a current Select Board member, we are in the process of exploring additional considerations related to density of STRs within a specific area, a waiting period between purchasing a new home and renting it out and restrictions to the quantity of rentals a single owner might have within Chester. It is my feeling that STRs, both hosted and unhosted, have a place in our community and as part of our tourism profile, our business profile, and our lifestyle profile. However, I also feel that STR operators and their guests can support the community and have access to the safety services with registration, clear expectations/regulation within reason, and dialogue.

TIM ROPER: I participated in the Planning Commission’s work to develop a list of possible regulations for STRs in Chester. That list was forwarded to the Select Board to use as a starting point for the discussion on how best to regulate the STR business model here. I think the current Select Board has done good work in sorting through those options and adding a couple of others for consideration in working out how to establish reasonable and workable controls over Chester’s STRs. I look forward to participating in the next level of discussion as a Select Board member, with a goal of amending the existing STR ordinance early in the coming term.

There are two sides to every coin and finding balance requires give and take, but the overriding issue is that this work will help mitigate the shortage of housing we’re currently experiencing. Adding just a few more places for working folks to live might not seem like a big accomplishment — unless it’s your family that’s not able to find a home. I think it’s safe to say that not everyone will be completely happy with the results no matter what’s decided, but making a few more homes available for full-time residents is important and well-worth the effort.

Other than STRs, what are the two issues that you consider the most important that the Select Board can address and why?

ARIANNA KNAPP: It would be tempting to simply say “affordable housing and business development.” The underlying need is around sustainable growth. Sustainable implies that the current residents can continue to afford to live here while new families and small businesses can add to the population and economy. Chester has improved and expanded its services and infrastructure to a remarkable level. The current costs associated with those services have led to a tax burden that is higher than is comfortable. It is important that we highlight the quality of life that Chester resources and services provide, and that we point to those services as we seek business development and housing development investment in our community. There have been years of successful planned growth in services, now it is time to focus on funding and stabilizing those services for the next 10 years in a way that allows long term residents to share the benefits.

TIM ROPER:  Housing: Rents and home prices are at record high levels, building costs are at record high levels and earnings for working folks have not kept pace. I think we have to look at every tool that’s available to us and be creative in finding additional solutions to ensure that people have places to live and raise their families here.

The current board has wisely supported our town manager and town planner in forming a Housing Commission that’s tasked with exploring potential solutions for creating more housing. I attended a recent Housing Commission meeting via Zoom and was impressed by the work ethic and drive of the people on that commission. I will do all I can to help further their efforts.

Economic Development: Since we’ve recently put some of the pieces in place regarding zoning and permitted uses and are working to solve housing issues as well as taking steps to upgrade some basic infrastructure, I think it’s probably time to put additional effort into finding ways to bring more employers to Chester, and to support those currently here in promoting their businesses to help them thrive. Our town has much to offer with regard to quality of life and it might be a simple matter of doing some outreach and marketing to attract more business. I won’t pretend to have the answers to this challenge, but I know there are a lot of smart folks here that have ideas to contribute to the conversation, so let’s do that.

Editor’s note: The Chester Telegraph received an email Wednesday morning from candidate Lisa Rufa, who said she did not understand the format of our Q&A and thought we were looking for a synopsis instead of complete answers to each question. Because of this we are allowing her to address the one question that was not addressed in her synopsis. Below is her answer, received at 9 a.m.

LISA RUFA: The other issues I am concerned about are property taxes and small business. These high taxes are making it unaffordable for young people to stay in Vermont. I have a small business and I struggle every year to find employees. I am not alone. There are help wanted signs everywhere. This directly affects small businesses. Also, it affects the schools, without young families the school will disappear.  I also want to address the lack of businesses in town. To be clear I am not looking to build new buildings, I am simply looking to fill the empty buildings. More business in town would definitely help our property taxes. We need economic stability. We need positive growth in our community.

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  1. Ron Patch says:

    I don’t know any of these candidates. They live in Chester? I also see how proud they are to say they have lived here 30 years. Is there a secret seniority list that I am unaware of? The longer you’ve lived here the more qualified you are?

    If so, where do I fit in with 72 years?