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Let the race begin

Three seats open on the Brattleboro Selectboard

BRATTLEBORO—As the municipal election season begins, three Selectboard seats are open, and hopefuls are ready to toss their hats into the ring.

Selectboard members Jesse Corum, Martha O’Connor, and Daryl Pillsbury have decided not to run for re-election this year, freeing two one-year seats and a three-year seat.

“I got other things to do,” said Jesse Corum, of his decision to step down after serving three one-year terms.

Corum said he had a lot on his plate. The practicing attorney with Corum, Mabie, Cook, Prodan, Angell & Secrest, PLC, called from his office Monday night and said he had about another hour’s worth of work.

Corum said he also planned to back off some of the volunteer positions that he holds in town.

He reported that his wife, Lynn Corum — who ran for state representative last year — is also stepping down from the Brattleboro Union High School District No. 6 board. According to Corum, the couple plans to sit back over the next year and decide what they want to do next.

Calls to O’Connor were not returned by press time.

“I got burnt out,” said Daryl Pillsbury of his decision.

Pillsbury, who served eight years as a state representative and five years on the Brattleboro Selectboard, said he would probably run for the board again, but for now needed a break.

“It’s all good. I really do want to spend time with my wife (now that the kids are out of the house), and I really do want to watch my son play college lacrosse,” said Pillsbury.

Pillsbury also wants to devote more time working with Richard Davis for the Windham County Heat Fund, a charity that helps people buy heating fuel. He will also continue work on a campaign to decriminalize marijuana in Vermont.

He said that rude and inconsiderate calls from the public were the root cause of the burnout.

Pillsbury said that, in general, he loves hearing from residents, and that he receives satisfaction from helping people, “especially those who don’t feel they have a voice.”

He also felt that listening to callers was a must, because if they took the time to call regarding town business, then it must be important to them.

But, during a number of recent phone calls, some residents called Pillsbury names like “corrupt” and “racist.”

“It felt overwhelming for me,” said Pillsbury.

Pillsbury believes he should hold himself to a high standard of conduct because of his public position. Yet he was finding it harder and harder to hold his tongue during discourteous conversations.

A small group of very vocal people got to me, he said.

“Every decision you make pisses someone off,” Pillsbury joked.

Pillsbury hopes residents give the upcoming board members the benefit of the doubt.

“Please give them space. Those people are stepping up to the plate. None of us are know-it-alls,” he said.

Pillsbury cautions that serving in government is harder than most people realize. The first time he served in the Legislature, he went with an agenda. He soon discovered, however, that he represented a whole town and not just his personal to-do list.

Still, he feels good about public life and his fellow Selectboard members.

“This is a good Selectboard, and the people of Brattleboro have been pretty darn good to me. Thank you to everybody,” he said.

Joining the fray

Town elections will be Tuesday, March 1. To get their names on the ballot, residents need to file a petition, signed by 30 registered Brattleboro voters, with the Town Clerk’s office no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 24. Residents can obtain blank petitions from the Town Clerk’s office in the Municipal Center.

At press time, two residents had contacted Town Clerk Annette Cappy for petitions.

Ken Schneck has put his name in for the three-year term vacated by O’Connor, while John Wilmerding looks to win a one-year term.

Cappy said she hoped more people would run for the open seats because “two is not enough.”

“It is with great pride and much excitement that I submit my name as a candidate for the three-year Selectboard position for which a vote will be held on March 1, 2011,” Schneck wrote on his Facebook page Ken Schneck for Selectboard

“I spent the past decade empowering students to step up and use their voice to create positive community change, and now I want to do the same on behalf of the Brattleboro community,” wrote Schneck.

Listeners of WVEW-LP, Brattleboro Community Radio, might recognize Schneck as the host of This Show is So Gay, a weekly, syndicated program heard by over 20,000 listeners around the country.

“I am fully prepared to ‘walk the walk’ and use my own voice in support of this community,” Schneck said about his role as a Selectboard member.

He wants to restore confidence in the municipal government with a fresh perspective. Schneck is prepared to use all forms of new media, such as Facebook and podcasts, to keep municipal communications transparent and to engage people who can’t make it to Tuesday Selectboard meetings.

Schneck, Ph.D, is the dean of students at Marlboro College. He is passionate about students’ health, specifically around substance abuse, working with lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) students, and finding ways for students to express themselves through either creating student radio stations or new media.

He has won awards for his dissertation which studied the connection between how adolescents used “that’s so gay” and the safety of LGBT students in school.

Schneck chairs the Town Arts Committee and produced Notes for Life, a 2009 concert at the Latchis Theatre benefiting the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

He plans to host a number of “meet Ken” events throughout January and February.

Third time lucky?

This year will mark Wilmerding’s third run for the Selectboard.

“The community might need me, what I have to say, and I really want to serve,” Wilmerding said.

Wilmerding has been concerned with the number of proposals and projects the Selectboard has shot down over the past year.

“I don’t want the town to sit on a fence on an important project,” said Wilmerding, about potential projects like refurbishing, or not, the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, or deciding on the final location of the town skate park.

Wilmerding, who has an MBA, wants to save the town money and describes himself as “pro-business.” He said that he would consider every reasonable effort to attract new business to Brattleboro, but is not sure he “wants to give away the store.”

He wants to focus on lowering expenses and improving how the town raises revenue. He also listed “proactive planning” as an important issue.

To Wilmerding, proactive planning means “doing due diligence” when taking on projects like the skate park, slotted for a location near his home.

Wilmerding, a former skateboarder, said that large community projects such as the skate park have ramifications for neighborhoods, such as changes in noise level and changes in traffic.

Town departments and agencies must show that they’ve considered the consequences of these projects. He feels that this is true even for projects that he thinks are necessary, like the skate park is for area youth.

He believes that the current Selectboard often takes a “reactive” approach to issues. He hopes, if he is elected, to take a more “proactive” approach, and to explore issues and projects even after someone from the town presents them with the caveat of “this is what we’re locked into.”

Wilmerding, an avid recycler, takes advantage of the WSWMD’s Commercial Organic Waste program (Project COW), and stood from the start against the town adopting a pay-as-you-throw trash system. He would like to see the town push recycling. He also thinks that the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon should be shut down on schedule in March 2012, if not sooner.

In addition to running for Town Meeting Representative, Wilmerding said that he originated Vermont’s Restorative Justice Centers, a concept he proposed in a paper published in a corrections industry journal in the late 1990s. 

Wilmerding said he intends to run a “spirited” campaign and feels reasonably hopeful the Brattleboro voters will elect him.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #82 (Wednesday, January 5, 2011).

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