May 23, 2019

Candidates sound off on Selectboard race

By Jess Wisloski

Observer staff

No seat will be uncontested in the Selectboard race on voting day this year — Tuesday, March 7.

Four candidates are running for two open seats, one a two-year term, the other for a three-year term — and most of them are newcomers to the Selectboard.

Jeff Fehrs, the vice chair of the Selectboard who now has 17 years of service under his belt, will run again, but a three-year seat instead of a two-year seat. Challenging him is Orlando Bru, a newcomer.

For two-year seats, David Cranmer, a recent addition to Williston who was involved in several town committees in his previous hometown of Shelburne, runs against Terri Zittritsch, a longtime resident who has been outspoken on the issue of the town’s stormwater management plans, and is vice president of her homeowners association.

Also up for grabs, though promising little reward, is the three-year seat on the Williston School Board, one on the CVU High School board, and a two-year stint on the Williston School Board. Soon, none of the boards will exist, as they will be dissolving in November or December, due to the ongoing transition to a merged school district. Nobody is running for the three-year seats, and only Kevin Mara, who already serves as a representative of Williston in the new Champlain Valley Union District’s board, ran for the two-year seat (which denotes “or until dissolved” on the ballot.)

“The duties of the Boards will primarily be done July 1 when the consolidated school district (Champlain Valley School District) takes over completely. The new Board is the board we elected last June; it is the Board that put together the budget that we will be voting on in March (which takes effect July 1),” explained Town Clerk Deb Beckett in an email.

As part of the Observer’s election coverage, we asked candidates vying for Selectboard seats to introduce themselves, provide a statement explaining what they thought the issues of most concern were to Williston and what their second and third priorities would be in representing Williston voters.

Two-Year Seat

CANDIDATE-DavidCranmerDavid Cranmer

North Williston Road

2 years in Williston

Background: Retired from the American Cancer Society, managed state-wide cancer coalition. Served as president and co-founder of Vermont Cancer Survivor Network; a member of University of Vermont Cancer Center; member of the Williston Brick Church Concert committee; on Stowe Weekend of Hope’s Board of Directors. Past service in Shelburne on Social Services Committee; Shelburne Food Shelf Committee and UnitedWay of Bennington County Board of Directors.

Most important issue: Distribution of costs to bring neighborhood stormwater systems into compliance. As there is no easy answer, I will support further public discussions with the town, the neighborhoods affected, as well as other interested citizens and appropriate environmental staff to work to find a fair and equitable resolution. Also, create a community/senior/recreational center in Williston.

Other priorities: Controlling costs to taxpayers and improving communications between town government and citizens.

I will bring my many years of management and communication experience, as well as my commitment to community service to the residents of Williston.

CANDIDATEPIX-TerriZittrischTheresa ‘Terri’ Zittritsch

Heritage Meadow

25 years in Williston

Background: Engineer, with extensive organizational leadership and business development experience

Service experience as the Heritage Meadow Homeowner Association vice president; part of an organization of neighborhood stormwater representatives.

Most important issue: The lack of elected representation on the Selectboard

The residents of Williston elect Selectboard members to manage the town manager, lead the town’s policy decisions and most importantly, to do all of this with the best interests and will of the residents in mind.

Effective representation can only be accomplished if our Selectboard members take the time to fully understand the town residents’ issues and challenges, especially when issues differ in opinion and fact with town staff. If elected, I will put in the time and energy to fully represent all of the residents of Williston to the best of my ability, research the issues put in front of me and make sure policy decisions are made with all residents in mind to achieve the most equitable solutions.

Other priorities: The affordability of Williston due to high housing costs, taxes and fees, as well as transportation infrastructure in Williston.

Three-Year Seat

CANDIDATEPIX-Orlando BruOrlando Bru

Meadowridge

Most important issue: One of the primary issues I hear about daily is the lack of communication and empathy of the Selectboard towards the citizens of Williston, resulting in inefficient representation. I have a background in psychology and communication, and am a writer by trade. I hope to serve as an empathetic ear and a loud voice for the people of Williston. A panel of five individuals should rarely vote unanimously, but having watched many of the meetings, the Williston Selectboard rarely dissents, discusses, debates or subsequently justifies its decisions, which greatly impact the people that make up the community of Williston.

Other priorities: I hope to provide a greater degree of accountability and justification for the decisions the Board does make, which may assuage the fears and frustrations of many of our Town’s citizens. It’s important to help those in need today, because you may need help tomorrow, and that is the backbone of a community.

CANDIDATEPIX-JeffFehrsJeff Fehrs, incumbent

Governor Chittenden Road

30 years in Williston

Professional Engineer
(Civil and Environmental)

Background: On Board of Abatement, Board of Civil Authority and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Task Force; past service on Affordable Housing Task Force and Conservation Commission. Also on board of non-profit summer camp in Vermont.

Most important issue: Costs! Unfunded mandates pushed onto Williston by the feds and state, as well as increased demand for municipal services caused primarily by growth. The Town needs to do more while minimizing impacts on taxpayers. The Selectboard needs to work closely with town staff to ensure services and programs are necessary and provided in the most cost-effective manner. Some homeowner associations and neighborhoods face huge costs to comply with state and federal stormwater requirements. A key question is what portion of those costs is it fair and equitable for the affected homeowners to pay as opposed to all stormwater fee payers in Williston? The town is using public forums to help answer this question.

Other priorities: Adopt the updated Town Plan which establishes the framework for how Williston should grow and progress into the future by addressing key issues facing the town. Purchase the McCullough/Catamount property, which will provide significant recreational, open space, and other benefits. Discuss how to respect and support immigrants who live or work in Williston and consider becoming a “sanctuary town.”

All this weeks News Articles