Terry Macaig, Chris Roy running uncontested
Feb. 16, 2012
By Luke Baynes
Both of the open positions on the Williston Selectboard will be decided on Town Meeting Day in uncontested races.
But Selectboard candidate Chris Roy isn’t taking anything for granted.
In the early 1990s, when Roy was living in Burlington, he ran uncontested in a School Board race — and lost.
“The School Board races everywhere are nonpartisan, but everything’s partisan in Burlington,” said Roy, a Republican. “Well, the Progressives figured out pretty darn fast who the heck I was, found a candidate, and had a write-in campaign and crushed me.”
Such a scenario is unlikely to occur when voters hit the polls in Williston on March 6.
Yet Roy and fellow incumbent candidate Terry Macaig are treating the pre-election process as if it were a contested race, each meeting with the Observer to share their thoughts on their past terms and their views on key issues that will affect Williston residents in the upcoming years.
Roy, 47, has been a Selectboard member since 2008.
A resident of Williston since 1993 and a father of three boys, Roy was born in Barre and holds degrees from Harvard University and Cornell Law School. He has been a member of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC since 1990, and currently serves as a director of litigation for the Burlington-based law firm.
He said that while his legal background has been an asset during his time on the Board, he needs to be cognizant of his role as an elected leader for the entire town citizenry.
“What lawyers have to be careful of is lawyers aren’t normal people,” Roy said. “If we’re not careful, we don’t think like normal people. We analyze things differently, and so I bring my lawyer stuff to the table when it’s helpful, but I try not to be a lawyer when I’m being a Selectboard member.”
Roy commented that the town budget has been chief among the issues during his time on the Board.
“I came on just as the economy tanked, so I’ve never had a fun budget,” he said. “There are certain things we can put off, and certain things we can level-fund, but there’s going to come a time when that’s going to catch up with us. I think that this year we made some headway on that, and hopefully the economy will start picking up.”
When asked what he would most like to see improved in town, Roy immediately mentioned affordable housing.
“I think that we need to do a better job with how we deal with housing, generally, and with affordable housing,” Roy said. “What we’re creating is two types of housing with a gap in the middle. We don’t have the full spectrum. I don’t want to have it be a community where there’s the nice houses over here, and affordable housing over there.”
Roy, who was a candidate in the 2010 Republican primary for secretary of state, said for now he’s content to just run for town office.
“I have absolutely no interest right now in running for statewide office anytime soon,” he said. “I’m very happy at work, I’m very busy at work, I have college expenses coming up, so work sounds good.”
Macaig, 73, is a 10-year Selectboard veteran.
A Schenectady, N.Y. native who has lived in Williston since 1966, Macaig has been the Board’s chairman for the past six years — the last four of which he has also served as a Williston state representative.
He said his experience in Montpelier has given him a broader perspective on town issues.
“You deal with talking to people in town a lot about taxes and other things, and the perspective from the legislative scene gives you an overall vision of what’s going on,” Macaig said.
Like Roy, Macaig pointed to affordable housing as an area where the town needs to improve.
“We are short on (affordable housing) in Williston, and that’s one of the things we need to work harder on, I think,” Macaig said.
Taking a cue from fellow State Rep. Jim McCullough’s recent proposal to build a community center as part of an expansion at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center that would require a zoning change, Macaig suggested that such a facility is needed in town; either at Catamount or elsewhere.
“I think we need to look seriously at a community center, and I think that it’s probably doable over the course of three to five years,” said Macaig. “As our bonding goes down for other things, we can start to take a look at that.”
With over four decades of Williston living under his belt, Macaig harbors a sense of nostalgia for the time when residents cast votes at the actual town meeting by a raise of the hand, instead of the following day at the polling booths.
“It’s unfortunate, in a way, that we went to the Australian ballot, because that sort of dilutes the town meeting and the issues that you debate at town meeting,” Macaig said.
But he acknowledged that the change was probably necessary — and that it reflects the changing complexion of Williston from a rural farming community to a statewide growth center.
“People have an awful lot to do, so (the current format) gives them a better opportunity to at least weigh in,” he said. “They don’t hear the discussion, perhaps, but at least they can weigh in on the things that cost money.”