Editor’s Note: Each Town Meeting Day UVM’s Community News Service sends student journalists to polling places to interview voters across Vermont. The students’ dispatches were published in a live blog on Town Meeting Day, and they are collected here, providing a window into the diverse views and concerns of voters in 15 Vermont communities. Most of the reporting comes from UVM students, but a handful of high school students were also able to participate this year: A special thank you to George Collette of Mount Abraham High School, Cooper O’Connell and Addison Charron of BFA St. Albans, Anna Hoppe of Essex High School and Evie Moore of U-32 High School.
Scenes from the polls: Vignettes from 15 Vermont towns
from UVM’s Community News Service, in collaboration with the Underground Workshop
New Americans excited to vote in Winooski
Buwani Kadariya gingerly tucked his new ‘I Voted’ sticker into his wallet, careful not to crease it.
This was an important moment for Kadariya, a refugee from Bhutan, and all of Winooski’s immigrant community: This election is the first to allow all residents to cast a ballot due to Winooski’s recent charter change that ensures the right to vote regardless of citizenship status.
Translated ballots were available at Winooski’s polling center in eight additional languages. Kadariya voted with a ballot translated into his native Nepali.
Though English is a challenge for him, Kadariya said that he would like to support the school, as he has a young daughter in the Winooski School District.
Ambar and Lachi Pradhan, a couple who also immigrated from Bhutan, also proudly brandished their ‘I Voted’ stickers on their jackets as they exited the polls.
They expressed great enthusiasm about being involved in Winooski’s voting process.
— Jenny Koppang
Burke town clerk says Selectboard race, trash, land acquisition top issues
Standing behind a couple of ballot boxes and a voting machine in the Burke Municipal Office Building, Town Clerk Linda Hackett-Corey said there are multiple standout issues on this year’s ballot.
There’s a three-way race for selectboard, and non-binding questions asking if the town should buy two parcels of land for public use and end curbside trash pick up.
“The rubbish truck keeps on breaking down, and so then we have to get a dumpster out here,” Hackett-Corey said. “That makes people very angry when they don’t have trash pickup that day.”
The town will have to buy a new truck if it decides to continue the service.
“I have a feeling people are going to want to keep what we have, but we’ll know tonight,” she said.
— Emmett Avery
St. Albans grandmother wants a school resource officer
The snow was flurrying this morning outside of City Hall in St. Albans. It was a brisk 17 degrees out, but that didn’t stop many people from coming out and casting their vote on Town Meeting Day.
Amid these determined voters was Claire Raymond, a 73-year-old St. Albans City resident. Prior to retiring, Raymond was a daycare provider.
Raymond’s main concern when voting this morning was in regard to electing a school board candidate who is in support of having a school resource officer present in the learning environment.
“I voted for someone who is for an SRO,” Raymond said.
Raymond’s reason for being concerned with an SRO is because she felt they make our schools and students safer.
“I have a grandson. I have grandchildren so that is my concern,” Raymond said.
— Cooper O’Connell and Addison Charron
Colchester Selectboard member, friends support a sewer project in Malletts Bay
Three Colchester residents braved the cold Tuesday morning to encourage voters to vote yes on article seven, the Malletts Bay Sewer Project.
Vice chair of the selectboard Tom Mulcahy, 81, who is running unopposed for reelection was joined by Jim Lovette, 72 and Peter Mongeon, 63 outside of Colchester High School equipped with signs, pamphlets and flyers providing information on the proposal.
The existing septic systems are allowing harmful bacteria to spread into Malletts Bay with town officials saying 8%-9% of water samples collected from the area contain human waste. Article seven would use funding from grants and user fees to create a sewer that would prevent pollutants from entering the Bay.
“It’s something that is drastically needed. Would you want to go swimming where there’s E. coli in the water?” said Mulcahy.
For fellow supporters Lovette and Mongeon, the Malletts Bay Sewer Project has a personal connection. Lovette is retired property owner of two houses on Malletts Bay while Mongeon and his family have lived In Malletts Bay for five generations.
Mongeon’s grandfather first purchased a home on Malletts Bay in 1912 and is passionate about preserving the area for future generations.
“It’s very important not only for fellow family members but future family members. We’ve been here for over 100 years so this has been an important topic for me,” said Mongeon.
If the article passes, the sewer system will service 289 properties around Malletts Bay.
— Sarah Blow
Milton voter irked by school board candidates running as a bloc
Flocks of cars enter and exit the Milton Municipal Building parking lot. In the midst of a voting rush hour, Manon Tenny, a 54-year-old pediatrician and Howard Center employee, returns to the busy lot after casting her ballot.
As a University of Vermont political science graduate, Tenny has a long history of political interest. She always votes, even in midterms, Tenny said.
“I also have a heightened interest this year in the school board race, because of the community debate that’s been going on,” Tenny said.
In Milton, three school board candidates are running as a coalition. They’ve released a list of common beliefs which represent their primary concerns. Tenny found this list disconcerting.
“I was more specific in my voting, just because of the choice of running as a united, exclusive bloc using ideological language that didn’t reference any local interests or investment in the local children,” Tenny said.
“I’d rather have people running as individuals and then hashing it out at the school board meetings so that the best interests of the students surfaces. And if you bring in a coalition with a stated agenda, I think that goes out the window,” Tenny said.
Milton’s 2023 Fiscal Year budget vote was also important to Tenny. Some voters are worried that the budget may cause an increase in property taxes, Tenny said.
“There’s no increase in property taxes, per se, there. There may be a budget increase but a lot of work has gone into deciding where to spend the money and I feel like a lot of people just have a knee-jerk ‘No!’ response because they feel economically strapped,” Tenny said.
“Since I wasn’t part of creating the budget, I’m going to support the budget and not criticize the hard and conscientious work that people have done to create that,” Tenny said.
— Noah Lafaso
Co-founder of the Waterbury Area Anti-Racism Coalition speaks on Selectboard members in Waterbury
Waterbury resident and voter, Maroni Minter, has been campaigning outside Brookside Primary School all morning in support of selectboard candidate Roger Clapp.
Clapp is a write-in on the ballot who announced his candidacy late in the game.
“I begged Roger to do this in the last minute,” Minter said. “And that’s why am I here, because I know that, historically, nobody’s ever won office as a write-in candidate, but I’m going all out.”
Minter expressed his support of Waterbury’s inclusion efforts, and how he hoped that the winning candidates would uphold these principles.
According to Minter, some candidates are not running in support of these ideas of inclusion.
“It’s not that they actually care about serving,” he said, “they’re just mad.”
Minter said that he instead hoped someone like Clapp was put in this position of importance for the town of Waterbury.
— Abbie Kopelowitz
Retired UPS driver says no to town budget for the first time
A gray blanket of clouds hovered over the National Guard Armory in Williston this Town Meeting Day.
The dense cloud cover weighed on John Shook, a retired UPS driver and Williston resident of 32 years. He couldn’t bring himself to say yes to the new town budget.
“For the first time, I voted it down,” he said.
The new town budget calls for an additional $1.6 million in spending; including salaries for nine steady firefighters and a new energy coordinator.
But it wasn’t that the budget increase was too high for Shook. He was unhappy with the current direction of town development.
Shook thinks the main builders of Williston over the past 30 years have done an okay job.
“But everybody else is sort of getting the shaft,” he said, “it’s just not equitable at all.”
Shook felt his responsibility as a Williston resident to give input on town development, but admitted to not attending many town meetings.
“I need to go to those meetings,” he said.
— Karson Petty
New voters take to the polls
Making their way through the heavy snowfall, Kimberly Meeks and Gina Jenkins approached the doors of East Montpelier Elementary School.
As new residents to the town, they expressed favor of safety measures and services to support a growing population.
“We’re very supportive of a new fire truck,” said Jenkins.
The two are accountants, and believe voting is their civic duty, they said.
— Stephen Looke
Essex resident says bring retail cannabis to town
Michael Millette, a longtime resident of Essex, came to the polls with an optimistic look on the retail sale of Cannabis and was supportive of the Essex-Essex Junction split.
Millette, grew up in Essex Junction and is now a resident of Essex Town. He voted not to merge in the past and was supportive of the decision for Essex Junction to leave the municipality.
“I voted on this back like the seven times we had to vote on it. I voted to not merge together, but if they want to run independently, I’m fine with that,” Millette said.
Millette believes that the retail sale of Cannabis will positively impact the town.
“I mean of you look across the US and about how much money that’s bringing in for those states, I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to approve it,” Millette said.
— Alex Wehr
Local teacher brings daughters to vote
As snow fell steadily on East Montpelier Elementary School, Colleen Purcell approached the voting entrance doors with her two young daughters in tow.
“Honestly it just feels like my responsibility to vote,” said Colleen.
She stated that there was no particularly pressing article to vote on. As a teacher with kids in the school program, she felt that the school budget was the most important article to vote on.
“I think East Montpelier has done an amazing job weathering these last two years as a community and I do feel like the school is a central part to that,” she said.
Her daughters were looking forward to seeing their friends in school tomorrow.
— Stephen Looke
Current Winooski councilor weighs in on the election
Michael Myers, 47, is a master electrician and current member of Winooski’s City Council. His three-year term expires on March 3rd and the seat he will leave behind is one of two that is contested in this election.
Myers said he hopes that his successor will share some of his political views to maintain a diverse set of beliefs on the City Council.
“I think that having a one-sided government at any level doesn’t serve the city. Opposing views are an opportunity for great debate,” he said. “I often had a different opinion than my fellow councilors, but that resulted in good conversations and let us look at the full scope of issues.”
Myers also hopes that the person who takes his seat will pay attention to the city’s Tax Increment Financing policy and advocate for the lowering of property taxes.
“Taxes are high here and a lot of people that live on fixed budgets are feeling the effects of the growth of our city government and all its social programming. This progress is good, but not at the expense of a raised cost of living,” he said.
— Jenny Koppang
First-time Winooski voter expresses candidate support
Samantha Brewer, 23, bundled against the bitter cold to cast her first ballot in Winooski since moving there last year. She is a master’s student at UVM in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
She admired that City Council candidates Aurora Hurd and Thomas Renner were prepared to address the $2 million American Rescue Plan Funding for COVID relief.
Brewer said she would like to see that money go back into the community in the form of financial relief for businesses and more affordable housing.
Brewer said that she is happy to exercise her constitutional right to vote, and is excited that this right has been extended to more Winooski residents this year.
“I think it’s groundbreaking that Winooski and Montpelier are allowing non-citizens to vote,” she said. “It’s really important representation for a population where a big percentage of people aren’t necessarily U.S. citizens.”
— Jenny Koppang
Former physician celebrates Winooski’s welcoming atmosphere
Jean Szilva voted bright and early at 7 a.m., but ventured back out to bring provisions to her partner who was volunteering at the polls.
Szilva, 71, is a retired physician and former assistant professor at the University of Vermont.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, she said she faced a lot of discrimination when she first moved to Winooski in 1995. But she has watched the city evolve into an accepting and warm environment.
“The overwhelming majority of Winooski residents love this community. And that makes us strong,” she said.
Szilva said that she is supporting Aurora Hurd and Thomas Renner in the election for City Council candidates because they reflect her beliefs about keeping Winooski a welcoming and accessible city.
“No matter who you are or what you look like, you have a place here in Winooski,” Szilva said.
— Jenny Koppang
One Winooski voter’s support for early childhood education
When Winooski resident Audrey Phillips came to vote at the Winooski Senior Center, budgets and education were the main issues on her mind.
“I think it’s really important to pass budgets,” said Phillips. “I think education is important, especially for local municipalities.”
She said she voted yes on Article 7, which allows the School Board to lease space on Elm Street through 2025 for the District’s Preschool or Early Head Start program.
“I don’t really know what the big deal is. If they need more space, they need more space,” said Phillips. “It’s for preschoolers.”
— Mal Flynn
Two Winooski voters back education initiatives
George Cross has been attending town meetings for years. “Thirty-plus years,” he said. And for him the big issue this year was the importance of education. He supported all the education-related articles on the ballot.
“I voted for the school budget,” said Cross. “And I voted for all three of the articles in the school district.”
Another strong supporter of education was Zoe Bishop.
Said Bishop: “Increasing the budget for the school — schools can always use that.” She said it was especially important to support Article 7, which would allow the Winooski schools to lease new properties for early childhood education.
“I always support any early childhood education, whether that’s funding or new buildings,” she said. “Whatever we need to get our little kids taken care of.”
— Mal Flynn
One Winooski voter’s support for property tax
Winooski resident Aaron Lipman came to town meeting with city and school budgets on his mind. “I was voting for the school budget,” said Lipman, “and to make sure that, you know, Winooski public had access to facilities.”
As a property owner, Lipman noted the importance of property taxes’ role in the city budget and voted yes on Article 3, which would use additional funding from sources other than property taxes.
“That kind of seems like a no-brainer,” said Lipman. “Why would I not want an additional source of revenue outside of you know, when I’m paying?”
— Mal Flynn
Former Brighton town moderator says no to cannabis
Tom Donnellan, 73, a former town moderator, said he is opposed to allowing cannabis sales in Brighton.
“I’m not suggesting there should be criminal penalties, but I don’t think it should be legalized. I think it’s a bad idea in our society.”
He said he first saw weed in Vietnam, and unlike Bill Clinton, he had inhaled it.
“I suppose for medical purposes it’s fine.” But, he said, “I think it hurts us just like alcohol has hurt us.”
Donnellan said it felt “good” to not be town moderator after 35 years in the post.
— Emmett Avery
Erickson makes a case for the school board
Reier Erickson is a candidate for the Maple Run Unified School District city school board seat. Erickson is a 39-year-old Dad of two and has been standing outside the polls entrance since 7:30 this morning on this frigid day.
Erickson said he wants to keep parents involved in the district.
“I think a big thing for me is parent involvement. I would love to see parents have the opportunity to be more involved with how our district runs and the things the superintendent and school board decide upon,” Erickson said.
Erickson said he would like parents to not only be involved directly in the education portion but the district as a whole.
“I would also like to see an active push to get parents involved in not just the active education of children but the direction the school district is going,” Erickson said. “Such as forums, which means more questions and answers for parents and also means being more open and transparent about what we as a board are doing. This will also help the way in which the district operates.”
Erickson has continued to stand outside with no breaks in the freezing weather in order to interact with the residents of St. Albans. Erickson was offering to buy warm hot cocoa or a warm coffee for his fellow local politicians.
— Cooper O’Connell
Movement of concerned voters pushes for direct democracy in Burlington
Making change at Town Meeting Day doesn’t always involve voting.
Annie Lawson, a social worker and concerned resident of Ward 4 in Burlington, stood outside the polling building armed with a clipboard to ask passersby to sign her petition.
Lawson is a part of a campaign called Proposition Zero, which aims to change the Charter of Burlington to allow for regular citizens to put forth ballots to a city-wide vote without needing the approval of the mayor and city council, she said.
“Right now, we’re a step removed from the decision making process because city council and the mayor can act as gatekeepers,” Lawson said.
Citizens of Burlington on Town Meeting Day vote on questions on the ballot that have been approved by city council and the mayor, but those that have questions that are not approved have no way of getting onto the ballot, Lawson said.
She described how Burlington is an outlier in this sense, as other towns do not have this rule in their charter.
“Every other Vermont municipality lets voters bring a question to the ballot if they can show that it has traction,” Lawson said.
Proposition Zero is a collection of concerned citizens of Burlington looking for more direct involvement in the decision-making process.
“It’s a group of voters who have had different interests and concerns that we haven’t been able to really bring to a vote,” Lawson said. “We’re joining together to just bring the power back to the people and increase direct democracy here.”
The group aims to collect 2,500 in-person signatures to get this issue to a vote to change the city charter in the next election, Lawson said. This would allow for voters to bring local-based ordinances and laws directly to the ballot in the future.
The website for this movement can be found here.
— Dom Minadeo
Brighton voter says the town is doing well
Just after voting, Virginia Wing, a gray-haired woman in a black coat, said she is happy with the way the town is going, but that she still wanted to vote.
“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” she said.
— Emmett Avery
Winooski voter says schools need all the help they can get
Lauren Read, 34, has voted in Town Meeting Day since she was 18 years old.
To her, Town meeting day is “an opportunity for the community to raise their voice on issues and ensure the community is going in the direction that they want,” said Read.
She voted to pass the town and school budgets, pointing to the importance of providing support as the pandemic subsists.
“I always vote to pass the school budget,” said Read, “I feel especially recently, schools can use all of the help they can get with all of the issues surrounding COVID and they need to make sure they have the money to support the students as best they can .”
She voted for Thomas Renner and Aurora Hurd for City Council, saying she paid attention to the candidates and “wanted to vote for the two [I] felt most appropriate.”
Over the next term, she hopes to see more discussions on diversity and inclusion and fostering strong community engagement locally.
— Jack Pitblado
UVM student votes yes on Prop 5
Moses Delane, a UVM student, voted today at the Mater Christi school, the Ward 1 polling place in Burlington.
Delane voted yes on Proposition 5, which would remove language from the Burlington City Charter that gives City Council the power to regulate sex workers.
Delane thought a lot about the implications of the change. He said that it might lead to “some open ends and some new questions,” but Prop 5 would make it possible to change the system for the better.
“So we can kind of add on to a new system and a way to make this a safe thing that is happening legally rather than making it illegal and making it more dangerous for sex workers,” he said.
— Eleanor Lowen
Hightower’s progressive principles won over this Burlington voter
Below-freezing temperatures and frigid wind did not deter stay-at-home parent Andy Murphy from voting today.
He voted for Zoraya Hightower for Ward 1 city councilor.
“I appreciate her progressive principles. I also feel like I don’t agree with everything she says, but I want someone who makes me think and feel a little bit more uncomfortable,” he said.
Murphy also voted yes on Proposition 5, which would remove language from Burlington’s city charter that gives City Council the power to regulate sex workers.
He said that watching a recent John Oliver episode about sex work made him better informed on the issue.
— Eleanor Lowen
First-time voter casts a ballot in Winooski
Danielle Cook, a Winooski voter, participated in her first town meeting day today.
Having moved from North Carolina last year, she feels the tradition is remarkable.
“I’ve never done this before, but I think it’s a really good thing because I heard about it on the radio, I got stuff in the mail, and it seems like people are pretty involved.”
She continued, “I’ve never been somewhere where local politics are a big deal.”
She hopes to see Winooski continue to become more diverse, and agreed with efforts to allow all residents to participate in the tradition.
“They’re here, they live here, they pay taxes, and they’re effected by the issues that are being voted on.”
— Jack Pitblado
Enthusiastic support for Erickson in St. Albans
James Galloway is a 35-year-old educational consultant and a St. Albans City resident. Galloway was on his way walking into the polls when Reier Erickson, a school board candidate, introduced him to student reporters.
When Galloway was asked about who he supported for school board he said none other than Erickson.
“I voted for Erickson. It was a really easy choice for the first thing I agree with is his stances,” Galloway said. “But what really stands out is Erickson is communicative, he is willing to engage with anyone in the community, he is open and transparent about what he believes in, and he will communicate with anyone.”
Other candidates don’t speak up in the same way that Erickson does, Galloways said.
“So I can’t personally vote for anyone if I don’t know what they truly stand for, and I understand that there are people that do support him and say what he stands for but I don’t want secondhand information,” Galloway said. “I want a candidate in my community to be able to speak to me about what they believe in”
— Cooper O’Connell and Addison Charron
Infrastructure on the mind of this Burlington voter
With freezing temperatures and strong winds outside, citizens of Burlington cast their votes inside the H.O. Wheeler School.
Anna, who moved to Burlington six years ago, has voted in every Town Meeting Day election since then.
“I do want to see the infrastructure in Burlington change a little bit more for the better,” she said. “That was my main concern voting today,”
Anna feels that voting is valuable because it is important to express your opinion and make sure your voice is heard.
— Carly Trider
Former Williston Selectboard member votes no on town budget
A chilly, overcast sky greeted Tony O’Rourke as he exited the National Guard Armory in Williston.
O’Rourke voted against Williston proposed budget for the next fiscal year because he felt that there were some expenses that could be reconsidered.
“I fully support the expansion of the fire department staffing,” he said, “but I think the budget as a whole could be looked at for some cost savings to the taxpayers.”
The addition of nine steady positions at the Williston fire department, and a new town energy coordinator position, contribute to a budget increase of $1.6 million.
That means an estimated tax increase of about 15 percent, roughly $115 on a $300,000 home, according to an Observer article.
“My vote is not a complete ‘no’,” O’Rourke said, “there are some aspects that I support. It’s just a ‘no’ as [the budget] stands.”
O’Rourke also said he voted yes for the Champlain Valley School District budget proposal.
The district called for a $4.1 million budget increase for the ‘22-‘23 school year. New administrative and staff positions, along with improvements to buildings and school grounds, would be paid for with the new funding.
“I thought it was a reasonable budget considering the constraints and the obstacles that the school district is faced with,” O’Rourke said.
— Karson Petty
City Council member aims to take on housing issues and school funding in second term
City council and school board candidates arm themselves with puffy coats and thermoses to battle the freezing temperatures and biting winds this Town Meeting Day.
Sarah Carpenter, running unopposed for city council for her second term, described the biggest issues she aims to tackle this year.
“My concern still is dealing a lot with housing issues in the city of Burlington,” she said. “We don’t have enough of it. We have a significant problem with the houseless.”
Carpenter also expressed the need for school funding.
“How we fund our schools is a critical issue,” she said. “We’re not getting adequate support from the state, and 70% of our taxes go to the school system.”
Carpenter outlined the five main issues on the ballot for today, noting that four out of the five are about affordability and livability, while the last concerns amending the Charter of the City of Burlington to remove a clause giving the council the ability to regulate sex work, according to The City of Burlington Website.
Carpenter clarified that sex work is covered under state law, so this ballot item is solely to take this antiquated language out of the charter, and does not decriminalize sex work.
However, she noted that could be something the state of Vermont might look at in the future.
“There certainly is a bunch of people that would like to decriminalize sex work and I think that’s a fair game conversation to have statewide,” Carpenter said.
— Dom Minadeo
Burlington voter looking for change on City Council
Mike Abler, a retired teacher, voted for Rob Gutman for Ward 1 city councilor.
“We need a change in city council,” said Abler. He thinks Rob Gutman can provide that change.
Abler also voted for Proposition 5, which would delete part of the Burlington City Charter to “remove city council authority to regulate sex workers.”
“It’s taking out some old ugly language,” said Abler.
— Eleanor Lowen
Charlotte resident has never missed a chance to vote
Joan Weed, 83, has been coming out to vote her entire life, and this year’s town meeting day was no different.
Weed even put on an old pair of dazzling blue-stoned earrings for the event, highlighting the importance of the occasion in terms of coming out to vote today during the COVID pandemic.
Weed grew up in Connecticut, doing most of her voting there where the voting is “far more political, believe it or not,” she said.
“Up here, at least locally, it doesn’t matter, at least to me, what party you’re in. We don’t think about what ticket you write, we think of who’s running and if they’re worthy of the office,” Weed said as she left Charlotte Town Hall.
“I’ve been reading about the fire department budget, and the potential for the new community center issue, and also the library, which was pulled out of the budget and put in a different category,” Weed said.
“The budget was very high for the Charlotte fire department, much higher than surrounding towns and much higher than usual. I voted for supporting the fire department mostly because I read a lot about it and I know what they do for us,” Weed said.
Weed was unsure, however, how to vote regarding the community center, wavering back and forth regarding supporting the study for the potential new building, ultimately deciding to vote against the idea.
“The first president I was able to vote for was John Kennedy, it was a wonderful thing, and you wouldn’t believe how excited we were to vote,” said Weed.
“I’ve been voting my whole life and I believe we should, and that we should read up before we vote, and be responsible for what we say,” Weed said before leaving town hall until she returns for her next chance to vote.
— Halle Segal
Volunteer seeks signatures for affordable child care petition
Wendy Rice, 44, stands holding a clipboard, volunteering with Let’s Grow Kids.
“It’s a nonprofit that’s trying to advocate for high quality and affordable child care. So I’m trying to get signers for the petition to push some important initiatives through the state legislature,” she said.
She voted earlier in the day, to be able to spend more time volunteering.
“I voted for all the requested city improvements that were there. I did take into consideration the bonds and the TIFs and even the tax increases because I think they’re necessary to build a strong, vibrant community that’s well governed and well managed.
— Ben Keil
Burke voter says town is doing a good job
Lisa Paquette, 62, stopped by the polls on the way to go skiing.
“I’ve lived in larger areas where you feel like you have no say in anything that goes on, and I think town meeting is really important, even by zoom,” she said.
She said no single topic held partIcular interest this year, but that making sure the school budget passes is always a priority.
“I think our town is doing a really good job in everything they are trying to accomplish,” she said.
— Emmett Avery
Young voters here for House
Burke School Board candidate says voting in Selectboard race is important
Dan Tanner, 38, said he made sure to vote because he is running for school board.
“There was a seat available and I thought it was a good time to put my hat in the race,” he said.
Tanner said all the other issues were easy, and that voting in the town’s three-way contested select board race was important.
As Tanner walked out, he gestured to a stack of covid tests. “We’re sick of seeing these,” he said.
— Emmett Avery
Council candidate connects with voters
Standing outside the Burlington Ward 7 polling location was one of the candidates on the ballot for City Councilor, Olivia Taylor. She was holding a sign with her name on it, along with some companions.
“I came out here to talk to people, to be social. It’s been really rough in COVID and winter in Vermont to get to know people. This is one of the few times I actually get to see people,” Taylor said.
She offered her thoughts on the voters she’s encountered.
“There’s a lot of concern about cost of living in Burlington and a lot of the ballot items have a lot to do with that. So I think a lot of people are here because they’ve been through hardships and they want to make decisions about where their money goes,” she said.
— Ben Keil
Hardwick mom finds inspiration in daughter
It’s just beginning to snow when Jesse Upson exits the polling station at the Hardwick Fire Department. Upson, a small business owner, a nurse and a mother voiced her opinion on Articles 20 and 21, which would allow retailers and licensing for cannabis in the area.
“I don’t think we’re quite ready for cannabis in our town,” she says.
As more people pull into the parking lot, she expresses her enthusiasm about being active on town meeting day.
“It feels great, especially now it feels like something I can do.” She says
Upson is married to the town manager, David Upson. Their daughter attended the polls with him earlier that morning.
“She came home asking all these questions,” Jesse says, “Just sharing the experience of what voting means with your kid really helps it come back home that this is important.”
— Sophie Oehler
Resident votes in her second Town Meeting Day
Local Charlotte resident, Madison Denton, aged 22, works as a bookkeeper in Charlotte and bared the cold on this Tuesday morning to come out and vote.
Denton came to vote regarding the idea for the community center building, voting against the construction of the building, saying she thinks it will negatively affect her and Charlotte residents alike with higher taxes.
“They’re trying to put in the building for the swimming pool and basketball courts, and I voted against it for property tax reasons,” Denton said.
Denton said it’s an unnecessary use of time, money, and space.
“That was my main reason for coming to vote today,” Denton said, regarding her second Town Meeting Day experience.
— Halle Segal
Charlotte resident votes against community center study
Charlotte Town Hall was busy and moving on town meeting day, as this cold and cloudy Tuesday didn’t keep voters away from coming to speak their truth regarding Charlotte town issues.
One of these voters was Kristen L’Esperance, 42, who works as a designer.
“I feel like there was an exploratory budget for a potential community center that I don’t feel like we need,” L’Esperance said.
“I don’t have children in school so the CVU budget stuff doesn’t really make sense to me. Everything else seemed reasonable,” said L’Esperance, voting against the research to see the feasibility of a community center in Charlotte, feeling that it is necessary.
“I just felt it was my obligation,” said L’Esperance regarding her reasoning for coming out to vote today, voting on the issues that were pertinent to her, and leaving the others blank.
— Halle Segal
Williston voter says yes to town spending increase
Snow whipping off the roof of the National Guard Armory in Williston did not deter David Howell from casting his vote in person.
Howell, 40, voted yes to both the town and the Champlain Valley School District budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.
“I support the energy coordinator role and I want to make sure we’re adequately covered for our fire safety staff,” he said.
The new town budget calls for $1.6 million in additional spending compared to the current budget, while the new CVSD budget would add $4.1 million for new staff and school upgrades.
Howell thought it made sense that both budgets are seeing an increase since the cost of everything else seems to be rising.
“All the expenses requested seemed reasonable to me,” he said.
As a father, Howell wanted the best possible education for his child.
“I want to see the school thrive and be able to educate all our children there,” he said.
— Karson Petty
Montpelier voter concerned about affordability
Charles Stephens, 50, steps down the snowy granite steps of Montpelier City Clerk’s Office. His purple bandana pulled back his long curly brown hair and made his presence known as fellow voters exited the building around him.
This is Stephens’s third Town Meeting Day in Montpelier since he moved from the South. Stephens said he’s grown a strong appreciation for the open civic engagement in this community. He said voting in his hometown was sometimes dangerous and unwelcoming. People would often sit in trucks outside the voting halls and attempt to intimidate others.
However, as much as Stephens commends Montpelier’s safe civic engagement, he says the system is far from fair here.
Today, Stephen voted a budget that he says targets extraneous matters rather than what needs to be focused on.
“The rich people make all the decisions and they’re pricing the middle class out of this town,” he said.
Stephens’ main concern with the budget stems from his worry for the people of Montpelier.
“We don’t take care of people here,” he said. “We spend money on things like a new park when we have a park right here that’s become a homeless shelter.”
Stephens said the money is better spent taking care of the people who need and fixing necessities like roads which he mentioned were given very little money from the budget.
Soon, Stephens is planning to move to Northfield in which he says he’s found a better less divisive community.
— Evie Moore
School budget on the mind of this Winooski voter
Zoe Bishop was one of the many Winooski residents who showed up to vote at the Winooski Senior Center on town meeting day.
School budgets were the main issue on Bishop’s mind when she voted today.
“Increasing the budget for the school” said Bishop, “schools can always use that.”
With education on her mind, Bishop also noted the importance of article 7, which would allow the Winooksi schools to lease new properties for early childhood education.
“I always support any, any early childhood education,” said Bishop. “Whether that’s funding or new buildings, whatever we need to get our little kids taken care of.”
— Mal Flynn
Mayor Weinberger votes for downtown projects
At the polls as a voter, Burlington mayor Miro Weinberger, a resident of Ward 6, stressed the importance of Town Meeting Day and cast his votes in favor of three municipal financial items that he is “strongly supporting”.
Weinberger expressed his support for the continued funding of city services to avoid cuts, as well as money going to city infrastructure. His focus, like many of those voting in Ward 6, lay on the proposed project to overhaul Main Street.
“I think, in years to come, people will think of it as somewhat comparable to what we did on Church Street. Just a real overhaul and transformation,” Weinberger said.
The proposal would turn the stretch of Main Street from South Union to Battery streets into an attraction in itself, seeing sidewalks widened and bike lanes protected, as well as infrastructure such as seating and wooden swings similar to those seen at the city’s waterfront park. Supporters of the plan have pointed out that the construction would not add to property taxes.
“I’m voting yes on all three, and I’m hoping my neighbors are considering voting yes too,” Weinberger said.
— Jared Pap
Ward 6 voters passionate about sustainable transportation
Burlington Ward 6 voter Jake Nicholson and friend Hannah Fleming are at the polls for a cause they feel strongly about.
Fleming, who runs the Instagram account “Sustainable Transportation VT” (@sustainableVT), was focused on ballot questions 3 and 4.
Question 3 will allocate funds for transportation infrastructure such as sidewalk and street repair, replacement fire trucks, emergency communications systems.
Question 4 is Burlington’s TIF bond to provide the funding for Burlington’s Main Street “Great Streets” project.
Fleming herself created an infographic with this information, posting it on the @sustainableVT account several days ago to reach Burlington voters and encourage support for “yes” votes on questions 3 and 4.
— Jared Pap
Unopposed School Board candidate brings personal and career experience
Lucia Canpriello, the chief engagement officer at Let’s Grow Kids and candidate for Ward 5 School Board Commissioner, stood under a pair of oak trees waving to voters.
When asked about her inspiration for running for office she noted her children, and her views on education.
“I’m really excited to run,” she said. “ I have two very young children who are early on in their public school careers. I am committed to Burlington to our community and I believe education is the cornerstone of the healthy community.”
She notes that Town Meeting Day is an important tradition.
“I’ve been a Vermonter now for about seven years and always vote in person myself,” she said. “ I feel especially excited to be here to welcome voters who are exercising their right to vote.”
While she is running for office, she also made sure to vote.
“I voted to approve the school budget, which I think is really important, especially given all that our schools are contending with right now and all of the services that they provide to children in addition to education,” she said.
Capriello, who is running unopposed is excited by the advent of joining the school board, and looks forward to getting to work.
“I look forward to joining the team and continuing to continue the good work that I think that the team has been doing,” she said.
— Dylan Streb
For this Burlington voter, democracy is a verb
Christine Beall, 42, a financial adviser and a mom spoke to the importance of voting to our democracy.
“You just got to vote,” she said, “I mean democracy doesn’t exist without democrats and without people practicing democracy.”
She said that she is friends with candidates Ben Traverse and Lucia Campriello, who are running for city council and school board respectively.
Beall said she came out to support them and hopes that they will win. Beall voted by mail before Town Meeting Day, and says she still values the ability to vote in person.
“I love that that is still an option that we can come in and vote in person. I kind of miss ceremonious-ness of it,” she said.
— Dylan Streb
Parents want to send money back to schools
The shuffling of papers and muttered voices of town officials were seldom interrupted by the occasional voter at the Monkton town office.
Andrew Baker braved the chilly spring air to exercise his right to vote.
Andrew felt strongly about the school budget and believes that “money needs to go back to the schools,” he said.
With a child on the way, Andrew and his wife are betting on their kids future.
— George Collette
Local doctor supports write-in candidate
Dr. Jan Ferris, a 60-year-old family practitioner, stood outside in the cold holding a Brian Shelden sign. Since Shelden is a write-in candidate, she said that she felt that it was even more important to show support at the polling places and remind voters of his name.
Ferris voted for Shelden because she believes he will bring maturity and community-mindedness to the selectboard.
Mostly though, she voted for Shelden because she is strongly against his opponent, Ethan Lawerence, because of misinformative and divisive statements he has made on social media, she said.
She said she would have even voted for her cat, had he been on the ballot, over Lawrence.
— Anna Hoppe
Wormser looks poised for a win in Shelburne
At the Old Town Gymnasium, Shelburne residents turned out in droves to vote in the annual Town Meeting election.
Voters polled showed overwhelming support for Matt Wormser for the open selectboard position.
“We live in the mixed residential district,” said Monica Lelaine. “So we voted for Matt because at the forum he said that he is for making decisions based on residents and not for the developers.”
Another Wormser voter, Sean Diehl, said “I voted for the candidate who I thought had a wide range of experience and support for all issues of town governance going back for many years.”
Nigel Wormser, Matt Wormser’s son, said that he made the choice that he did in the voting booth, because Matt “Said he’d do the dishes tonight if I voted for him.”
— Pax Logiodice
Burlington voter weighs infrastructure costs, sex work regulations at the polls
The glass facade of the Burlington Electric building shone dark under the cloudy sky as Emily “Stem” Raymond, 47, exited the polls into the cold morning air.
The two issues she was most concerned about were the city improvements downtown and the wording on a charter change proposal that would effectively strip the city council of authority to regulate sex work.
“I wanted to make sure that people who are being sex trafficked, not just people who are voluntarily hooking up for cash, can have protection,” she said, “I think that it is a very big problem in Burlington and in Vermont that so many people are just not aware of because they just don’t see it in typical ways.”
The charter is rarely, if ever used and proponents say the language is outdated, according to a VTDigger article.
While she was in support of the infrastructure support, Raymond said, she wasn’t necessarily for all of it.
“I voted for charter stuff for all like infrastructure support, but not necessarily improvements to Main St. downtown,” she said. “There’s no way I could with all the failed projects, that humongous hole, no retail anchors, housing crisis, no grocery stores.”
Before heading back home to her children she said that it was important for her to come out and vote in person, as it is what she grew up doing and what she felt most secure in.
— Dylan Streb
Voters are against retail cannabis in Essex
George May, 67, a retired engineer, and Donna May, 69, a retired teacher, came to the polls to bring their ballots in person.
They both voted against approving retail cannabis in Essex.
“We are old enough to see the damage it’s done over time,” George May said.
Donna May added that they are concerned that cannabis usage would lead to increases in usage of other, stronger drugs.
“[Approval of retail cannabis] would be detrimental to health and society,” she said.
— Anna Hoppe
Taxes are on the mind of this Milton voter
It’s an overcast morning at the Milton Municipal Office Building. A chill bites through gloves and boots, causing voters to quicken their pace. Elaine Metzger exits the polling station in just this way.
Metzger has been a Vermont resident for 14 years. She moved to Milton to live with her husband who grew up in the town. Having lived most of her life out-of-state, she sees local taxation as abnormally high, she said.
“The cost of living is just getting worse and worse. Prices are going up and then taxes are going up and, you know, we just need some relief,” Metzger said.
To Metzger, division on Milton’s school board was another important issue.
“Parent involvement and awareness about what’s happening in the schools. And having all points of view represented on the school board,” Metzger said.
— Noah Lafaso
Shelburne candidates talk issues on voting day
Selectboard candidate Sean Moran and two of his supporters, Peggy Coutu and Susan MacLaren, gathered to electioneer outside of the Old Town Gymnasium. They were soon joined by Matt Wormser, another Selectboard candidate.
“We love our town,” said Moran, referring to Wormser and himself. “You know, Matt and I actually agree on most stuff. And it’s gonna be one or the other, but we will still each be there. If we’re not sitting in the chair, we’ll be in front of the microphone, bringing up things the selectboard should be dealing with.”
He joked, “I’m gonna give Matt acting lessons and he’s gonna give me ice skating lessons!”
Matt Wormser said, “It’s a win-win for the town. It’ll either be Sean or me, and we’re both very dedicated to the town. You know, we both are working hard, and have a lot of thoughts about how to make our town better.”
Peggy Coutu, who is the chair of the Parks & Rec Committee, was also holding a sign encouraging voters to vote yes on Article 10, which would authorize the construction of a new beach house at Shelburne Beach.
“We need to have a new beach house, because the one we have right now was built in the fifties, and it’s just not working. I mean, we have pipes that break, and it’s cracked, we have to do a whole rebuild, to make it safe for everybody, and you know, make it nice,” Coutu said.
— Pax Logiodice
All quiet at the polling place
Just after the polls opened at seven in the morning, the only people at Essex High School other than the poll workers were two men holding signs for candidates Dawn Hill-Fleury and Brian Shelden.
Dennis Thibeault, a middle-aged, self-employed man, came out to support Brian Shelden in the single-digit temperatures, even though he had already voted by mail.
“I just believe that he has a lot of commitment to this community. He is involved with so many things that are important to this community. Whether it be the schools or the civic activities… [and] equity in the schools,” Thibeault said of Shelden.
— Anna Hoppe
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