Voters back budgets, elect political veterans

Incumbents triumph in local races

March 6, 2008

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Williston voters chose experience over fresh perspectives on Tuesday, re-electing incumbents to the Selectboard and School Board. But in the Democratic primary, residents liked the senator from Illinois who promises to take the country in a different direction.

On the ballot were four contested races for local offices and a host of other candidates running unopposed. The marquee match-up, however, pitted Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York against Barack Obama. He was picked by 60 percent of Williston residents who cast Democratic ballots.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett said the primary is what produced an unusually high turnout for a non-presidential election. Forty-seven percent of Williston's 6,880 registered voters cast ballots, nearly double the participation in the last local election.

"It was definitely the primary that drove this one," Beckett said.

In the contest for a two-year seat on the Selectboard, Chris Roy, a lawyer who has considerable civic experience, triumphed over Joel Klein, a television producer who moved from Los Angeles last year. The vote was 1,506-1,264.

The race featured a testy exchange of advertisements in last week's Observer. Roy boasted that he was "One of Us, for all of Us," an apparent reference to the fact he has lived in Williston for 15 years while his opponent is a new resident. Klein countered with an advertisement asserting that he didn't need to be born in Williston to understand the issues.

Both Roy and Klein waited in person on Tuesday for results to be posted at the Williston Armory. When it was clear Roy had won, the men shook hands.

"Life's too short to get worked up about that stuff," Roy said afterward.

He said he formulated the advertisement before he knew who his opponent would be. The slogan, Roy said, was intended to point out that he would work for all residents.

Klein said he felt good about his first run for public office.

"It was extremely positive," he said. "Obviously, I didn't win, but I got to meet a lot of people and made a lot of new friends."

Klein added that he ran for office to become more involved in his new hometown, and the campaign accomplished that goal.

The other Selectboard contest, this one for a three-year seat, pitted incumbent Judy Sassorossi against Bob Blankenheim, a first-time candidate and business executive. Sassorossi trounced her opponent, 1,850-844.

That race also included controversy. Blankenheim is among the 37 residents suing to overturn an agreement between the town and Chittenden Solid Waste District that would permit construction of a landfill near his home.

Sassorossi raised questions about Blankenheim's allegiance. Blankenheim pointed out that Sassorossi was on the Planning Commission when it voted not to require the developer of his subdivision to tell future homeowners about the proposed landfill.

Candidates waged a quieter —
and much closer — contest for a three-year seat on the Williston School Board. Incumbent Darlene Worth was re-elected by a narrow margin over Abby Klein, a veteran teacher and children's book author who is married to Joel Klein. The vote was 1,353-1,244.

In the final contested race, veteran lister Linda Ladd won easily over newcomer Charles Coney, 1,571-826.

It was the first time in years that there had been so many races for local offices. The past few elections included few if any contested seats.

But not all voters were happy with the choices. Some said they didn't know much about the local candidates; others noted the number of unopposed candidates.

"I was a little disappointed that there were a lot of uncontested races," said Williston resident Paul Angstman. "There just wasn't that many people running."

Selectboard, 2-year seat
Joel Klein 46%
Christopher Roy 54%

Selectboard, 3-year seat
Robert Blankenheim 31%
Judith Sassorossi 69%

Williston School Board, 3-year seat
Abby Klein 48%
Darlene Worth 52%

Charles Coney 34%
Linda Ladd 66%

U.S. Presidential Primary

Hillary Clinton 39%
Barack Obama 60%

Mike Huckabee 13%
John McCain 71%
Ron Paul 8%

Williston School Board, 2-year seat
Holly Rouelle 2,492 votes

CVU High School Board, 3-year seat
David Rath 2,489 votes

Town Clerk, 3-year term
Deb Beckett 2,684 votes

Town treasurer
Deb Beckett 2,671 votes

Lister, 2-year term
Gerald Huetz 2,389 votes

Library Trustee, 5-year term
Patricia Mardeusz 2,538 votes

Champlain Water District representative, 3-year term
Donald Phillips 2,524 votes

Town Constable, 1-year term
Kermit Laclair 2,582 votes