By Juliann Phelps
Tuesday’s Meet the Candidates night at the Grange hosted five candidates from the list of nine names on this year’s ballot. Four are running unopposed and one candidate, Matt Krasnow, is the sole candidate who attended who is vying for the only contested race: a three year Selectboard term. Candidates gave a brief background and took questions from the audience of approximately 25 people. The event was co-sponsored by the Charlotte Grange and The Charlotte News, moderated by News Editor Chea Waters Evans. Grange President Margaret Woodruff and committee member Dorothy Hill opened the event, welcoming attendees and candidates. The first candidate to speak was Anne Marie Andriola, who is running unopposed for library trustee, a five-year term. Andriola said she’d like to continue “to foster a sense of community in Charlotte” as trustee.
The most questions of the night went to Jr Lewis, who is running unopposed as Road Commissioner. “I haven’t had any competition yet – I guess you’ll have to put up with me again this year.” Questions focused on road maintenance, including salt usage during winter weather, paving, and grading dirt roads. Lewis talked about his vision for the department, noting he’d like to see the town own some highway equipment and put up a salt shed. “Where the sand pile is now, is really a poor spot,” he said.
Amelie Fairweather, a student at Charlotte Central School, asked Lewis, “How do you prevent wildlife from being hit on the road?” Lewis responded, “It’s all our job to slow down. People like yourself need to get the word out the wildlife need a place to live and we are infringing on their habitat.” Lewis talked about some of the initiatives other Charlotters have come up with including signs for turtle and salamander crossings.
James Faulkner spoke next. He’s running unopposed for the two year Selectboard term and currently serves on the Planning Commission and as a volunteer EMT with CVFRS. Patrice Machavern asked, “What do you see as challenges, when you are elected to the Selectboard, in holding this role and the other position?” He said he did not forsee any challenges. He spoke of his experience on town commissions in Maine and Massachusetts. When asked what he wanted to achieve while on the Selectboard, Faulkner responded, “I’d like to stabilize taxes and keep our open vistas.”
The most discussion of the night went to Lynne Jaunich, who is running unopposed as CVSD School Director. She addressed questions about the recent agreement among the district and Charlotte Central School regarding security during town elections. “We wish we didn’t have to do it. The best practice is to lock all the doors [during school hours]. In order for us to open them for town elections, we need to provide security.” She talked about the upcoming bond vote for improvements to CCS, noting the decisions to divide the bond monies are based on needs. “It will go to improving the building envelope. It’s pretty cold in the classrooms and the walls are an R-value of 1. There really is no insulation and a good chunk of the bond will go to improve thermal efficiency,” she said. “The needs [at CCS] are the most extreme at this point.”
Christina Asquith asked Jaunich about the quality of education and the board’s efforts to improve it. Jaunich cited outcomes driven by the district’s mission, academic instructional priorities, and their continuous improvement plan. Tony Federico asked about the co-principal roles at CCS and trends in enrollment. Jaunich said enrollments are flat, “but it’s hard to predict how many kindergartners we will have in the fall.” Chea Waters Evans asked about the transition to proficiency-based grading. “How do you find that translating, with kids applying to college and needing actual grades to get into college”? Januich said that transcripts currently have both proficiency-based grades and letter grades. “We are kind of in the middle, half the old system, half the new,” she said.
Amelie Fairweather and Dorothy Hill both asked about the recent cancellation of the Pumpkin Man and Halloween parade. Fairweather said, “It should have been up to the students to decide.”
Matt Krasnow was the final candidate to speak. He said, “I started to realize during my last term, I thought I was giving back to the town, but I realized I got an incredible education [from the public] in civics, engagement, and policy–as well as thinking in a judicial way.” He cited recent accomplishments of the Selectboard, including the new playground at the beach, the Charlotte Library expansion, and the recently passed West Charlotte Village Wastewater ordinances.
“Moving forward in the next three years, I’d like to focus on more engagement from people my age,” said Krasnow. “There’s a bimodal demographic in Charlotte. My parents’ generation, who want to continue living in a place they love. The other piece is a great school system and we need young families to populate our public school system. We need to have a way to have affordable way to live in Charlotte to attract young families to live here. It’s not an easy task.”
Federico asked Krasnow how the town could support the Selectboard, to which Krasnow responded he’d like to see people attend Selectboard meetings or communicate through local channels like the town newspaper or Front Porch Forum. Machavern asked Krasnow, “Your opponents also have historical perspective and institutional memory, what differentiates you from the other two?” Krasnow said, “I’ve spent time investing in our community and in the town to try and figure out what the needs are. I’ve built up six years of experience and feel like my relationship with committees have been productive.”
The event wrapped up after about two hours. One of the quotes of the evening appeared to summarize some of the sentiments expressed by other attendees. Resident Peter Richardson said, “I applaud those who showed up tonight, especially those running unopposed. Those who did not show up, did they indicate why? There’s a message there somehow.”