A busy ballot

.

By Inge Schaefer
Colchester Town Clerk and Treasurer Karen Richard, left, was recently awarded as Vermont Outstanding Treasurer of the Year, and Planning Director Sarah Hadd, right, was awarded as Planner of the Year by the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association. CONTRIBUTED

Colchester Town Clerk and Treasurer Karen Richard, left, was recently awarded as Vermont Outstanding Treasurer of the Year, and Planning Director Sarah Hadd, right, was awarded as Planner of the Year by the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association.
CONTRIBUTED

You may want to consider bringing lunch, or at least a snack, when you go to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 4. According to Town Clerk/Treasurer Karen Richard, “Voters probably can expect to spend at least a few minutes completing their ballot at this year’s November election.” Here’s why — no one is running unopposed for the state legislature, which means at least four (and even more) candidates for the Vermont House of Representatives (each district will elect two). Even Senator Dick Mazza has an opponent this time around: Ben Bosley is also running for the Senate from Colchester/Grand Isle.

Every two years, 15 folks are elected as Justices of the Peace and this time around you will select those 15 from a field of 27 candidates. For the first time in a long while, a separate ballot will offer you an opportunity to vote “yea or nay” on eleven town charter changes. To help with that selection, a brief summary of each item will be offered. So all in all there will be lots to look over and decide upon when you enter the voting booth.

Voting is our duty, of course, so this should not deter you from casting your ballot, but if you want more time to consider all these items, or your sustenance is limited, or you fear you might forget to bring a snack to sustain you, pick up an absentee ballot beforehand.

Give the Town Clerk’s office a call, 264-5520, for an absentee ballot, or better still, to save the stamp, stop by their office in the Town Hall on Blakely Road to pick up the packet of ballots. All of the ballots to be completed on Nov. 4 will be available starting on Monday.

The Colchester Sun will no doubt do a good job of interviewing candidates and presenting the issues, so check out their next five editions before the election on Nov. 4. Lake Champlain Access Television always interviews the candidates as well, and their schedule is as follows: Oct. 13 at 7 p.m., District 9-2 (Malletts Bay area) candidates; 8:30 p.m., District 9-1 candidates (village area). Oct.15 at 7 p.m., will be the Senate candidates for Colchester/Grand Isle. I think officially it’s listed as the Senator from Grand Isle/Colchester, but I can’t bring myself to listing Colchester second. With LCATV, if you have a question you want the candidates to answer, send it ahead of time to info@lcatv.org. For updates on their election coverage, go to: lcatv.org.

What is disappointing, however, is that with all these candidates, there is no public forum or debate scheduled — at least, not yet. With so many people running, their families and friends alone would fill up a room, so why isn’t one of our service/civic groups, or a local radio/tv or newspaper organization offering the public an opportunity to directly ask the candidates questions that are important to them? Years ago, we had a Colchester Woman’s Club that ran a debate before local elections, usually in one of the schools, but alas, they are no longer around. There may have been others as well, but I remember the CWC events in particular because they always provided good refreshments. If a group is interested in sponsoring a Candidates Night, I’d be happy to help organize the event (ingevt@comcast.net) and I bet a lot of other folks would step up as well.

We really should be pleased and thrilled to have folks willing to take the time and make the effort to run for the Legislature. It is, of course, what our democracy is all about. So, for now, mark your calendars to vote on Nov. 4, be kind to the candidates that stop by your door to introduce themselves, and read whatever you can on the ballot items.

Here’s some more exciting news!! Two – not one, but two — of our town administrators have been recognized as being outstanding in their respective fields by their peers. Karen Richard, our Town Clerk and Treasurer received the “Vermont Outstanding Treasurer of the Year” award from the Vermont Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Association. In presenting the award, the President of the Association credited Karen with helping to drive the Supreme Court decision that not only helped Colchester, but the state of Vermont and surrounding towns, in methods of property valuations. She also was active in getting correct information out to the public regarding the Declaration of Homesteads. She’s on the Board of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, chairs their legislative committee and serves on many local committees and organizations. Before being elected to her current position in 1998, she was the town’s assessor for 11 years and before that, Clerk/Treasurer for Fire District No. 3. She finds the best part of her job is doing something different every day and interacting with the town’s residents. A bit more challenging, she says, is dealing with some folks after they receive their tax bills or when they are inadvertently delinquent with their tax payment, but she adds,“there are not many bad days.” The busiest times of the year are elections and taxes and dealing with defeated budgets. The work has also become more technical with more transactions being done on-line. Karen says, “Skill sets today are different from 25 years ago.”

Our other honored town employee is Sarah Hadd, our Planning and Zoning Director who was named “Planner of the Year” by the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association (Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire). Sarah has been director for the past five years and in the Planning Office for a total of 13 years. She came to us from South Burlington where she was Associate Planner, and did her graduate work at the University of Vermont. She, too, finds every day to be different, saying, “Colchester is so diverse on so many levels, yet remains a small town. We have a great team of people in my office and we accomplished a great deal, but there’s still much to be done.”

Sarah talks about West Lakeshore Drive and developing a plan for that area that “just doesn’t get put on the shelf.” She appreciates the collaboration that exists between the planning commission and the selectboard as they work together on such issues as water quality that she says Bryan Osborne, Public Works Director, has worked so hard on, and all together they work to engage the community in the dialogue. Asked about changes she has seen over the years, she says, “Seeing Severance Corners develop and the Albany College of Pharmacy being a part of that growth center . . . it’s gradually coming together.” She won Vermont Planner of the Year in 2013, but was still shocked and surprised to receive this award. She credits her family for supporting her, her colleagues in town and around the state and smiling, says, “it’s nice to show to my parents.”

Congrats to both gals and to all of us for having them around on our behalf.

Last, but not least, the Colchester Community Chorus has once again begun rehearsing for their Holiday Concert on Dec. 5, in the CHS auditorium. They meet on Wednesday nights from 7-9 p.m., at the Malletts Bay Elementary School music room and you are invited to join them – new members are welcome and encouraged to come. It’s a fun group and their concerts are a joy, so if you can sing – were I only so blessed! – do join them. For more info, contact Choral Director Carol Reichard at winchris65@comcast.net.

Happy fall, folks, and a blessed Rosh Hashanah. God Bless!