Brattleboro Selectboard candidates: Above, left to right: Franz Reischmann, Oscar Heller, and Peter “Fish” Case. Below: Richard Davis and Jaki Reis.
Courtesy photos
Brattleboro Selectboard candidates: Above, left to right: Franz Reischmann, Oscar Heller, and Peter “Fish” Case. Below: Richard Davis and Jaki Reis.

Races are on for three seats on Brattleboro Selectboard

Two one-year incumbents face challenges March 5

All three open seats on the Selectboard will see races, and both current board members are facing challenges in the March 5 election.

Running for the three-year seat being vacated by Selectboard Chair Ian Goodnow are Peter "Fish" Case, who is completing his first one-year term on the board, and challenger Oscar Heller, who ran for a seat unsuccessfully in 2020.

Incumbent Vice Chair Franz Reichsman is vying with Richard Davis and Jaki Reis for two one-year seats on the board.

As to his decision not to seek another term, Goodnow tells The Commons that "it has been a pleasure serving on the board for the last four years."

"I'm excited to give some new people an opportunity and to look for other ways to serve my community," he says.

Peter "Fish" Case

A longtime radio personality and columnist for the Brattleboro Reformer, Case is general manager of the Great Eastern Radio group.

The creator and host of Vermontitude, a podcast that focuses on issues being discussed in southern Vermont and the tri-state region, he recently became the proprietor of Burrows Specialized Sports on Main Street.

Case moved to Brattleboro from Wilmington about 35 years ago. He says he "got involved right away," organizing a fundraiser for new scoreboards and backboards for the Brattleboro Union High School gymnasium.

He is a Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member for District 8 and has served on many nonprofit boards.

The past vice-president of Groundworks Collaborative, Case has chaired the Windham County American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, and he also served on the boards of Girls on the Run, the Brattleboro Area Drop-in Center, and the Boys' & Girls' Club.

He is president of Black Mountain Assisted Family Living, a nonprofit that, as described on its website, provides "stable, quality housing for people who have developmental disabilities."

He has raised money for the then-Morningside Shelter and served on a committee of the Windham Solid Waste Management District to explore a better recycling program.

Case also works with the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce on its annual Jingle Bell Jog fundraiser.

"I'm immersed in nearly every facet of this community," he says, adding that he joined the Selectboard a year ago "so I could have a more direct impact on how we shape Brattleboro, based on the thousands of conversations I've had with its citizens and business owners."

"There was an opening and thought I could make a difference and be the voice that would represent our downtown and surrounding community," Case said.

He's now seeking the three-year seat "first and foremost" because he can "commit myself to the job for a longer period of time," and secondly, because "running for a public seat is a fairly big professional disruption for me; I have to stop doing some of the things I love that serve the community, like Vermontitude and writing my column, and a three-year seat would give me a little reprieve on that."

Asked why he's running for a second term on the board, Case says, "there is unfinished business that I want to resolve."

For Case, that includes questions around panhandling, a drug problem he feels "is the Selectboard's responsibility to help craft a solution for," housing issues, and public safety.

He also hopes "to be a big part of" the conversation about the project to rebuild the town swimming pool at Living Memorial Park.

The pool, he says, "will serve this community for years to come and provide an outstanding place for our families to gather."

"While these are defined goals, I understand that they can be derailed easily because of circumstances that can pop up, so it's important that we are able to have people on the board that can bring the focus back to these defined goals," says Case.

"I'm hoping that I can be a part of the agenda-setting committee so that I can keep these things moving forward and continue to be a voice for the community," he adds.

Case says running for this seat "requires a commitment to community service and a deep understanding of local issues."

He says a candidate should possess "strong leadership skills, effective communication abilities, dedication to improving the town, knowledge of municipal policies and budgetary matters, and the ability to collaborate with diverse opinions on any given issue."

"Engaging with residents, addressing concerns, and proposing solutions to enhance the town's well-being are key responsibilities," Case says. "As a Selectboard member, I've been transparent, approachable, and capable of making informed decisions for the betterment of Brattleboro. For me, this is an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to local governance and foster positive change. It's just not one issue, it's all the issues, which is why I'm running for a three-year seat."

What he's not, says Case, is "a fan of red tape" or "a politician."

"I'm an outspoken member of this community who is not afraid to speak and, in turn, is not afraid to listen," he says. "I'm also fully capable of walking something back when I've been wrong and doubling down on something when I feel it's the right thing to do.

"It has to make sense for our whole town, not just the folks that are the loudest," he says. "And sometimes, cutting through that can be tough."

"I like to say I'm 20% of a mayor; I need at least two others to agree with me on an issue, and that doesn't always happen. It takes a community to build a community, and public participation is critical in that process.

"I'm not talking about a few loudmouths like myself, I'm talking about everyone weighing in. That is something I want to encourage more of.

"Whether it's reaching out to myself or any member of the board, we need to hear from you and we, as a board, need to ask more questions of this community as well."

Oscar Heller

Heller, who is the youngest candidate at 35, was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island, then found Vermont through Camp Waubanong when he was 14.

"Coming to Brattleboro was the highlight of my summer and, when I was too old to come as a camper, I worked as a counselor," he says. "In the meantime, I graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a major in political science and moved to California to play guitar. In 2014, the band I was in was falling apart and I wanted a change. I packed up my little Hyundai - the same one I drive today - and drove back across the country to Brattleboro. I've lived here ever since."

Heller has created two small businesses here, 10F Design, which builds websites, and Winterland Marketing, a digital marketing company.

He first got involved in the community when State Rep. Mollie Burke, D-Brattleboro, visited his home while she was campaigning.

Their subsequent conversation, he says, "reawakened a lifetime interest in politics and public service."

"Mollie recommended I apply to the Energy Committee, and I was appointed and served for five years. In 2019 I joined Representative Town Meeting and was appointed to its Finance Committee," he says.

Heller says he joined the Finance Committee "to learn."

"The job of the Finance Committee is to research, understand, and explain the town budget," he says. "In practice, that means complete immersion in the business of the Selectboard, and an apprenticeship in the workings of the town's government and departments."

Heller says he spent four years "learning from my colleagues, watching meetings, researching questions with town staff, analyzing policy, and reporting our findings to Representative Town Meeting. Those four years taught me how the town works."

Heller still serves on the RTM Finance Committee, which is in the process of writing its report for this year's RTM.

He believes younger representation on the board is vital, "especially in an era when so many are worried about the population of the town and aging."

"I think it's important to represent younger generations, especially with [Chair] Ian [Goodnow] not running for re-election," he says.

"If we want to attract young people to our town and our state, we need to give their values - my values - a voice," Heller says.

"Let's start with affordable housing: how can you work here if you can't find an apartment? From there, it's climate resilience - who wants to buy a moldy house with a 10/10 flood risk? - and public transit, downtown beautification, community safety, and a dozen other things," he says.

Heller points out that many residents and business owners here have been his clients, and he knows "the struggles of the small business life and the satisfaction of building something of your own, protecting it, and nurturing it, until suddenly it's a substantial thing with clients across Vermont.

"I also know how, when you're struggling, a tiny act of generosity or encouragement can be meaningful. That's what Brattleboro businesses need - not a firehose of money the town can't afford, but thoughtful gestures that say, 'We know it's hard and, because we value you, we thought we'd do this for you.'"

Heller has lived in the same Elliot Street building for seven years, first renting, then buying it when the building went on the market.

"When I saw out-of-state buyers touring the apartments, I crunched some numbers and managed to buy it myself," he says.

"I've tried to keep my life as a renter vivid in my mind," Heller says, "so while I understand the pains and stresses of being a landlord - and believe me, they exist - I also remember the uncertainty and powerlessness of renting. I do my best to be decent and understanding."

Richard Davis

A retired nurse, writer, and political activist, Davis is a Boston-area native who has lived in Windham County for 45 years, 41 of them in Guilford. For the past 2½ years, he and his wife, Roberta Levy, have lived in Brattleboro.

With Daryl Pillsbury, Davis created the Windham County Heat Fund in 2005 and they have raised almost $1 million locally while providing more than 2,000 allotments to local families and individuals to pay heating fuel bills.

He served on the Morningside Shelter board of directors for 13 years, four as president, and was a co-founder of Guilford Cares.

Davis writes a weekly blog on current events and posts it on He was a weekly columnist for the Brattleboro Reformer for 25 years, writing mostly about health care issues.

As executive director of the Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health, he lobbied for the creation of a single-payer health care system in Vermont and worked for more than 25 years with local and national health care activists to promote a universal health care system.

In 1994, Davis was appointed by then-Gov. Howard Dean to the Commission on Public Health Care Values and Priorities and served until 2002, for two years as chair.

Davis believes he has "a proven track record of being able to solve problems efficiently while creating a climate of collegial collaboration."

He notes that, in 1989, he helped to organize a medical relief team to help health care workers suffering the aftereffects of Hurricane Hugo on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The group had acquired $500,000 in medical equipment donations but was unable to get the supplies to St. Croix.

Davis says he then negotiated with generals from the Pentagon, "who were ruling the island under martial law."

"I was able to convince them to send a cargo transport from Westover Air Force Base to the Virgin Islands," he says.

During his nursing career, Davis worked at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (BMH) as a staff nurse and evening nursing supervisor for 10 years and was also director of nursing at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend.

He ended his formal nursing career as a nurse case manager, helping to establish the Vermont Blueprint for Health Community Health Team at BMH.

In 2007, he received the Community Person of the Month prize awarded by Brattleboro Savings & Loan and WKVT, and in 2008 he received the Community Catalyst Award from Southeastern Vermont Community Action.

In 2023, Davis self-published his book, The Village, drawing on stories from his clients in his health care career to craft a fictional account of small-town Vermont life told by a narrator whose family bought a country store that became the center of their new life after leaving New York City.

Davis says he's running because he feels the current Selectboard "needs new blood to provide a different perspective on issues important to the people of Brattleboro."

"Many people have been frustrated at the appearance of a lack of transparency that has surrounded the actions of the current board, especially in relation to the decision to end a longstanding relationship with Rescue Inc.," he says, adding he believes "any new board member should be prepared to promote as much transparency as possible while asking difficult questions and demanding clear and relevant answers."

Davis says some current issues of concern to residents are high property taxes, lack of affordable housing, viability of downtown businesses, and public safety.

"While it is clear that one person cannot change the course of local politics, a thoughtful and creative voice can go a long way to moving local government in new directions," Davis says.

Jaki Reis

Reis was born and grew up in Queens, N.Y. She attended Queens College, where she earned a paralegal certificate. She then worked in accounting for a large Park Avenue law firm in New York City, at which point she moved to several smaller firms, working as a paralegal and in office management.

As Reis has said, she then "ran away to join the circus" after meeting her then-husband, Tony Duncan, a world-champion juggler. Reis also learned to juggle to travel with her husband to Japan.

The couple has a grown daughter.

Reis moved to Vermont 20 years ago.

"I always like to remember that where I grew up, we were a little enclave with about 10,000 or 12,000 people, and that's a major reason I moved here," Reis says.

There, "you could go to a store and have a conversation without the people behind you champing at the bit. And I do think that is still a hallmark in Brattleboro. You can sit at any light that's turned green, or a stop sign, for an extra 20 seconds - or maybe 30 or 40 seconds - and nobody behind you is going to honk.

"It's an important part of living in a community; patience and understanding," Reis says.

After moving here, Reis worked part-time for the Winston Prouty Center, "clowning and face painting," and she also did so with disabled kids in Brattleboro schools.

She then started working at the Latchis Theatre and ultimately took a full-time day job at the Latchis Hotel, where she is hospitality coordinator.

Reis is also a residential landlord in town, owning a four-family home and managing three other buildings for her niece.

Around 2009, she started volunteering with the Women's Film Festival on the Film Selection Committee. Reis is a founding member of the Brattleboro Film Festival.

She is also a founding member of the nonprofit Housing Providers Alliance of Southern Vermont Inc., whose mission is "to impart information, education, and alliance between housing providers/landlords and tenants."

"A lot of times the public image is stacked against landlords, but there is a plethora of reasons why we're needed and [shouldn't] get replaced by big corporations," Reis says.

She is a member of Representative Town Meeting for District 7 and served on the town's "now-defunct" housing commission.

"We really need it," she says. "But we had 10 people on that, and they all had their own agendas. One day I asked if we could please find one thing to agree on, and people actually said, 'No.' That was very disturbing."

Reis is running for Selectboard now because she believes she can help bridge gaps and "find traction."

"The whole country is being stalled because of divisiveness," she says. "We can't get anywhere, and problems can't get solved. I think it's come down to that also here. More and more issues that are important to take care of, and people that are important to take care of - I think we need to be more supportive of our first responders and the Selectboard itself - and people are so caught up in their own agendas that nobody can hear the other side.

"I can hear all of the sides, and I actually have a pretty good way of taking the emotion out of it and bringing it down to the facts," she says, and she believes she does so "in a way people can understand, so I'm hoping to be able to help find the middle ground where you get a lot of traction."

"You can only make progress if you have traction and, if everybody's spinning their own wheels, you're not going to go anywhere," Reis says. "And we need everybody to help. We need everybody to be on the same page."

Franz Reichsman

A retired internal medicine specialist with Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, New Hampshire, Reichsman served as medical director of emergency service providers and ambulance crews in Cheshire County for seven years.

An emergency room doctor for 30 years, Reichsman has a medical degree as well as a master's degree in public health, with a focus on epidemiology and biostatistics.

He first came to Brattleboro in 1970, spending summers until he moved here permanently in 1986.

Reichsman also has years of experience as a Representative Town Meeting member, including chairing its Finance Committee for five years.

As he finishes his first, one-year term on the Selectboard, Reichsman says the experience has been "very interesting, very challenging, and really enjoyable."

"It's brought me into much closer touch with affairs, with events in town, and with lots of interesting, smart people who have a lot to offer and are engaged in a lot of different ways with what's happening in our community."

Reichsman is unique on his board in that he holds "office hours" twice weekly at The Works Cafe on Main Street: from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Fridays.

"Whoever wants to can come in and tell me whatever is on their minds," he says.

"Although sometimes I sit there by myself, I think it's picking up," Reischman says. "I've heard amazing stories and very defined thoughts about where Brattleboro's going and how we should get there.

"I'm really looking forward to the next year, if I'm elected, and sitting down and hearing from more people. People want to express their thoughts and feelings about the town, so I've been taking advantage of that to be physically available to talk with."

Reichsman notes the "predictable" - and the not-so-much - as issues the Selectboard faces.

"There are some very interesting things ongoing," he says. "Some of what the board does is very predictable and some, very unpredictable. Things come up and it's, 'Whoa, how did that happen?' Being on the board for those things, it's an opportunity for me to learn more and be involved in really interesting things."

As to the "predictable" issues the board addresses, Reichsman says they include "rekindling the public safety discussions that were actively part of town dialogue for three or four years and part of the Community Safety Review Committee. That effort was deliberately focused on a subset of the community - those most in contact with the police force and marginalized people in town, whether based on substance use, or race, or gender nonconformity."

He says the committee report focused on those groups more than the overall public safety structure in town.

"I think the task before us now is to take the information gathered and take it to the community as a whole," Reichsman says. "A big part of that discussion, I think, is going to be the bill in the [state] Senate, passed by the Vermont House of Representatives, creating the possibility of safe injection sites. How that works out in practice is a big question."

Saying he was "very active as an observer of the Community Safety Review process in 2020 and has read the committee's report three times," Reichsman says he recognizes that while people want drug users to "be safe," he sees, too, that they want "to discourage drug use."

"I'm motivated and dedicated to advance that process further," he says.

Not shy to disagree with his colleagues in his first term, Reichsman - who ran for office as a critic of the Selectboard's decision to drop Rescue Inc. as the provider of the town's EMS services - has said publicly that he changed his mind about a municipal emergency services model after receiving all information possible.

He now says follow-up on the board's decision to place the service within the town fire department is keen for him.

"So now we're in the process of doing that and making sure the system functions properly and is structured properly," Reichsman says, noting the board will be looking at charging, billing, and collection policies at its next meeting.

Housing options are also on his mind, although Reichsman notes the board "is limited in what it can do."

Regarding the proposed fiscal year 2025 budget, Reichsman notes "a difficult balance" between budgetary responsibility and issues of service to taxpayers and their tax bills.

He did challenge the proposed budget, suggesting several adjustments to it about which his board colleagues did not agree.

"I think we adopted a good budget […] I engaged in the discussion to get issues on the table," he says.

Reichsman is also interested in pending pedestrian and bicycling paths in town, particularly along Whetstone Brook.

"I'd like to see one from downtown to Living Memorial Park and the farmers' market for people to get in and out of town without having to get in their automobiles, or fight with automobiles," he says.

Reichsman is clear in his wish to continue to learn and connect with the community.

"I think we still have a lot to do on that and with communications with the public, the media, and our state legislators," he says.

Serving as board vice chair, Reichsman says, has helped him feel "more connected to the process" in setting agendas with the town manager and chair.

"This has made it easy to have the level of involvement that I enjoy," he says.

This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates