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Thinking outside the box to solve town’s problems

Ian Kiehle takes a second run at Selectboard

BRATTLEBORO—Ian Kiehle earned 1,400 votes the first time he ran for Selectboard five years ago.

He didn’t win. Yet he calls the number and the vote of confidence from fellow Brattleboroians gratifying.

According to Kiehle, days before the Jan. 28 petition deadline, his wife, Katherine Innis, said he should run. Over the Jan. 25 weekend, a friend said he should run. Kiehle walked into Town Clerk Annette Cappy’s office the morning of Jan. 28 and returned within a few hours with the requisite number of signatures.

He describes the town’s current municipal government as inherently conservative and likelier to be reactive rather than proactive, and he hopes to be an agent of change.

“I know I can do it,” said Kiehle of serving on the board. “I’m older. Dare I say wiser?”

Kiehle is one of six candidates running for two one-year seats.

A lot has changed for Kiehle in five years. The former manager of the Main Street retail store Save the Corporations From Themselves, he is working as a freelance videographer and as a stay-at-home dad caring for two children. Kiehle jokes that he might attend a few board meetings with a two-year-old in tow.

Kiehle, who grew up in Brattleboro, said he does not have “a bold vision” heading into the election. “I just really think I can be a practical, thoughtful person.”

People like Brattleboro, he said, and overall, Brattleboro has a great town government. But, Kiehle adds, he wants the political leadership to operate on a more “even keel” and less dysfunctionally.

Despite not having a definite agenda, Kiehle has issues about which he feels passionate.

Increasing the Grand List through economic development and enticing businesses to move, or grow, in Brattleboro tops Kiehle’s list. The town must find ways of reducing residential property taxes, which he characterized as “a burden.”

And, he said, if motorists in neighboring communities such as Northampton, Mass., and Keene, N.H., can brake for pedestrians, Brattleboro’s drivers can as well.

“We need that culture here,” he said.

Kiehle describes himself as “an ideas guy” and a visual thinker with unique approaches to issues. “Maybe I’m the guy who throws out something you weren’t thinking about,” he said.

But, he adds, his self-described unorthodox problem-solving approach will be part of a mix of five people making a decision within the normal public meeting framework.

If elected, Kiehle’s first goal will be “just getting my head around the finances.”

He wants to attempt to develop a video or another visual tool to communicate how town finances break down, finding ways to translate monthly reports from Town Finance Director John O’Connor to Selectboard members.

Kiehle said among his skills is the ability to listen. He feels he is easy to talk to and will put energy into educating himself on issues before voting.

Indecision on positions is not helpful, he said, pledging to have a clear understanding of issues.

Kiehle, who said he believes nothing happens without people having will behind their actions, weighed in on some of the specific topics facing Brattleboro.

On the skatepark proposed for the Crowell lot on Western Avenue, Kiehle said he plans to “be Switzerland.” He said he loves the Crowell lot but feels that the town committee Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming (BASIC) has received poor treatment on many levels at the hands of some community opponents and during recent Selectboard meetings.

To make progress on the question of whether to shut down Vermont Yankee, the 40-year old, 650 megawatt nuclear reactor in Vernon owned by Entergy Corp., Kiehle said that local municipalities have little say, especially now that Vermont, Entergy, and the federal government are duking it out in court.

Unfortunately, emotions on both sides of the VY issue on whether to close the plant have shut down communication between people on either side of these issues, he said.

Kiehle served on the board of directors for Brattleboro Community Television for six years, with three of those years as board president.

He describes his tenure as “trying,” as the community television station searched for a qualified executive director. While serving on the board, he also started negotiating a multi-year contract with Comcast.

He said he is steadily building his videography career in anticipation of being able to devote more time to it after his children start school. His clients include the Vermont Jazz Center and BCTV.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #190 (Wednesday, February 13, 2013).

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