Town charter changes approved
By Kim Howard
As Assistant Town Clerk Kathy Smardon posted the results of Tuesday’s election outside the Williston Central School gymnasium, a small group huddled around to read them.
“Oh, wow. Mary, congratulations,” challenger Mike Quaid said to Rep. Mary Peterson, hunched over next to him reading numbers. “You and Jim are going back.”
Williston voters on Tuesday decided for the third time to send Democrats Mary Peterson and Jim McCullough to Montpelier to represent them in the House of Representatives.
“I think Jim and I both worked really hard and we were getting a really positive response and had a lot of help along the way,” Peterson said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do now, roll up our sleeves and get started.”
Peterson led the candidates with 2,621 votes, followed by McCullough with 2,442. Williston Town Clerk and Republican Deb Beckett, in her first race for a state position, garnered 1,655 votes. Quaid, a Republican who served as Williston’s representative from 1998 to 2002, earned 1,441 votes.
In 2002, the year in which McCullough and Peterson first won their seats, Peterson also led the pack – only 223 votes ahead of Quaid, then the incumbent. In 2004, McCullough and Peterson were re-elected by a 2-1 margin against Republican challenger Shelley Palmer. That year McCullough garnered the most votes.
Quaid said he was surprised by the big differential in this year’s results.
“From the feeling we were getting from the people and the general makeup at the top of the ballot, I thought it would be a lot closer than it was,” Quaid said.
Beckett said she would have preferred to come out in one of the top two spots.
But, she added “it would have been a whole lot worse if there was no choice for voters.” She said she was pleased with the good voter turnout.
About 65 percent of Williston’s registered voters turned out for Tuesday’s election – compared to 63 percent 4 years ago, the last non-presidential election year.
Local ballot items proposing three amendments to Williston’s town charter all passed by hefty margins.
The first change, authorizing a local options tax, would be used only in the event state law allowing the tax is repealed, or if the 70 percent of the money currently allocated to the town is reduced. The local options tax generated roughly $2.8 million for Williston last year.
The second item changes the Cemetery Commission and the Old Brick Church Trustees from elected to appointed boards; it also eliminates positions, such as a surveyor of wood and timber and a weigher of coal, that have not been needed for years.
The final item allows the town to create employment agreements with police and fire chiefs, allowing the town to dismiss an employee not meeting expectations.
Williston’s vote tallies could have been used to accurately forecast the winners in all but two state and national races.
Williston resident Martha Rain-
ville, running for U.S. House of Representatives, narrowly won her hometown, but lost statewide to Democrat Peter Welch. The race for state auditor was still too close to call, according to various media outlets, as of Wednesday morning.
Like the rest of Vermont, Independent Bernie Sanders raced ahead of Republican Rich Tarrant for the open U.S. Senate seat.
Splitting some tickets, Williston and Vermont voters supported Republican incumbents Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. In other statewide races, Democrats handily won: Deb Markowitz was re-elected as Secretary of State and Bill Sorrell was re-elected as Attorney General. State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding also was re-elected.
For Vermont Senate, Democrats Jim Condos, Ed Flanagan, Ginny Lyons, Hinda Miller and Doug Racine, and Republican Diane Snelling received the top votes. Lyons, a Williston resident, said she was pleased with the strong support she got among Williston voters.
Democrat T. J. Donovan will be the new State’s Attorney for Chitten