Scooter MacMillan, Editor
With Town Meeting Day fast approaching, the races for town offices are heating up — or maybe just warming up.
It’s unlikely that races for volunteer positions, that require a lot of dedication, extracurricular study and attendance at often long, drawn-out board meetings, will get much hotter than the weather is this wacky winter. Particularly with only one position contested.
There are two open seats on the Charlotte Selectboard and one of Charlotte’s two seats on the Champlain Valley School District board is open.
Incumbent selectboard member Lewis Mudge is running uncontested for a three-year term on the board. An open two-year term on the selectboard does provide some lukewarmth to the voting with two candidates vying for that position — Kelly Devine and Patrice Machavern.
Lynne Jaunich’s school board term will end after the Australian ballot voting 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, because she is not running for reelection.
Meghan Metzler is Charlotte’s other representative to the school board, but her term doesn’t end until next year.
The lone bit of excitement in the school board contest is that, after the deadline for submitting a petition to be included on the ballot, no one had thrown their hat in the ring to run replace Jaunich. But Mike Abbott has announced he is running. People will need to pencil in his name, and he will have to get the minimum 30 write-in votes, required of all such candidates.
The Charlotte Grange and the Charlotte Library are holding a virtual candidates forum via Zoom on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6:30 p.m. This is an opportunity for people to find out about the candidates and their points of view.
Devine is the executive director of the Burlington Business Association which, as its name suggests, is a business advocacy organization in Burlington. In Charlotte, Devine is the vice chair of the planning commission, a position she will resign from if she is elected to the selectboard.
Devine believes her 15 years of experience working on some major projects in Burlington will serve her in good stead in helping with a lot of transitions coming to Charlotte. Among those transitions are the fire and rescue service moving from a separate nonprofit organization to a town-managed department, adapting to town administrator Dean Bloch’s retirement at the end of October, a town plan being updated and land-use regulation changes.
“It seemed like a good time to try to bring some of those skills to the table, listen to the voters and try to represent what Charlotte wants,” Devine said.
She doesn’t think the town will ever have big development, but she thinks it should consider increasing the building density allowed in Charlotte’s two villages.
“Charlotte, in its future, has to work very hard to balance the amazing job that’s been done to conserve land with the need to potentially make more what I call ‘the missing middle housing’ available for folks who want to be here,” she said.
She doesn’t know if she would support things like sidewalks in the villages, town sewage or water system without hearing from residents and learning what the impacts on the environment would be.
“I do think it’s interesting that the state is making some more money available to do that kind of examination,” Devine said. “I think we’ve got to look at it and understand it. The best way to answer any question is to understand the variables.”
She has had experience working on municipal, state and federal projects, so she is confident in her abilities of working on a budget. Given the rise in Charlotte’s employee payroll, she was not surprised by the increase in the budget that the selectboard has proposed for town approval on Town Meeting Day.
One of her proudest accomplishments is the work she did with the Champlain Cohousing Community off Greenbush Road.
Although she no longer lives there, she was the president and owner-developer of the project that clustered housing on 10 acres while conserving 116 acres of land, including an area of rare clayplain forest and providing a route for the Town Link Trail, helping to connect Greenbush Road with Mount Philo State Park.
Machavern thinks one of the reasons she would be a good fit for the Charlotte Selectboard at this time is because of how her 10 years as secretary for the Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service will help as it transitions to a town-run service. As a taxpayer, she doesn’t think it is a conflict of interest but rather a confluence of interest.
“I can definitely compartmentalize my life. I think one of the benefits of me running for selectboard now with the transition, slated to occur in July, would be the wealth of knowledge I have from my position at CVFRS,” Machavern said. “I’m fine with finding economies of scale and looking at how can we do things smarter and better and still end up with the same outcome.”
She brings a wealth of volunteering experience from her 37 years in Charlotte. Among her volunteer positions, Machavern served on the board of the Charlotte Children’s Center, on the finance committee of Vermont’s Children’s Miracle Network, two years as town auditor, 10 years on the school board and five years as president of the Charlotte Little League board. During her tenure, the baseball team won its first state championship.
In the interest of full disclosure, it is important to note that Machavern was treasurer on the board of The Charlotte News several years ago.
There’s an old saying dating back until at least the early 1800s that, if you want something done, find a busy person and ask them to do it. She said she is that busy person: “I am the type of person that when presented with things that need to be accomplished, tasks that need to be handled, research that needs to be done, I manufacture time to make sure it happens.”
In addition to all of this, for several years, Machavern managed a race team. Her youngest son races sportscars and she handled the finances, the logistics of travel and making sure the crews and drivers made it to the tracks and got fed.
Running for the selectboard is something that she has contemplated for a few years. With Matt Krasnow not running for reelection, both of her sons grown and her primary responsibilities reduced to her part-time work for the fire and rescue service and filling in with daycare for her grandchildren, this seems like a good time.
Machavern is certain that this year’s budget process would “most definitely” would have been less confused if she had been on the selectboard. This is exemplified by the budget that she brings to the selectboard every year which gives a narrative with multiple views to see what department or personnel expenses are or what’s driving budget increases.
After describing various volunteer positions she has had, Machavern remembers one more: “I just finished my two years on the board of civil authority as justice of the peace, so as I said, volunteerism runs deep in my veins.”
Town clerk Mary Mead said she doesn’t know if anyone else is running for the school board as a write-in candidate, but if there are others interested, they should consider declaring their candidacy at the candidates forum.
Other town positions without a candidate on the ballot for which someone could declare their candidacy as a write-in candidate are auditor (three-year term), cemetery commissioner (three-year term), cemetery commissioner (two years of a three-year term) and trustee of public funds (two years of a three-year term).
Running unopposed are Hugh “Junior” Lewis for road commissioner (one-year term), Mudge for selectboard (three-year term), Lindsay W. Smith for library trustee (five-year term), Charlie Russell for town moderator (one-year term), Mead for delinquent tax collector (one-year term) and Krasnow for trustee of public funds (three-year term).
People who would like to serve in a town office can show up at the candidates forum to seek write-in votes for any of these positions, even for positions where there is candidate on the ballot.