Wanted: civic-minded citizens

Job fair aimed at candidates for town boards

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Local elections have been pretty dull in recent years. Most candidates for Williston's many elected positions have run unopposed.

Town officials hope a job fair to be held next week will help reverse the trend toward civic indifference.

The event will be held Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Current members of town boards and committees will be on hand to answer questions.

Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig said volunteers for elected and appointed positions perform a valuable community service while helping shape the town's future.

"I'd tell them it's a very interesting job, and it's very good way to serve the community," he said. "It's just an exciting job."

Finding people to serve on the town's many elected and appointed boards and committees, however, has become increasingly challenging in recent years.

Last March, there were 13 elected positions on the ballot. None of the positions, which included seats on the Selectboard and Williston School Board, were contested.

Meanwhile, the town has frequent openings on appointed boards and committees, particularly on the Planning Commission. A position on the five-member Cemetery Commission has gone unfilled for about a year. And with staggered terms ranging from one to three years on each board or committee, seats open up each spring.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett said some residents might not volunteer because they are uncertain about what the positions entail or whether they can commit the time. She hopes that they will at least attend the job fair so they can learn more about the many boards and committees.

The positions require widely varying amounts of time, Beckett said. Those who can't find the time needed for the Selectboard could, for example, instead volunteer for the Recreation Committee, which meets only once a month.

Applying for an appointed position is straightforward. Applicants must fill out a one-page application, which is available at Town Hall or at www.town.williston.vt.us. Applicants are then interviewed by the Selectboard.

Candidates for elected positions can get on the ballot in March by submitting petitions signed by 30 residents. Petitions are also available at Town Hall. The deadline for filing completed petitions is Jan. 28.

Numerous elected posts are up for grabs this year. They include two seats on the Selectboard and on the Williston School Board and one seat each on the Champlain Valley Union High School Board and the Champlain Water District Board. Other positions on the ballot will be town clerk, town treasurer, lister, library trustee and constable.

Macaig said having more citizens involved makes municipal government work better. Contested races for elected positions, he said, can help increase voter turnout. And new members bring a diversity of opinions and new energy to boards and committees.

"People get tired of serving after a few years," he said. "We always need new blood."