I have been elected to two 3-year-terms on the Cambridge selectboard. My second term ends at town meeting in March 2023. I am not seeking re-election.
When I retired from a career in business at the end of 2016, I had no intention of being involved in town government. But I was asked in February 2017 if I would be interested in running for an open seat on the selectboard, and I decided to give it a go. I was elected at town meeting in March 2017 and re-elected in March 2020 at the last town meeting before the pandemic lockdown.
Local government is more important than I had realized. There is much that goes on in local government that I didn’t know about before. Being on the selectboard has been a great adventure! Some of my journey into local government is recorded on this blog. For example, after I had been a selectboard member for about 16 months, I started a series of posts on Learning about town government.
Following are reflections on my two terms on the selectboard.
There was animated discussion at town meeting in 2017 when I was first elected. As a result of that discussion, the selectboard created the Community Engagement Team which was active through town meeting in 2018. The CET was a positive experience for me and for the town. See Community Engagement Team Report and Town Meeting Day 2018.
The CET brought two big items to the voters at town meeting in 2018: consider adding the position of town administrator to town government and consider expanding the selectboard from three to five members. The voters approved both measures.
The town hired its first town administrator, Marguerite Ladd, in July 2018. She left in 2021 and the town hired Jonathan DeLaBruere. The position of town administrator, with first Marguerite and now Jonathan, has proved immensely beneficial to the town.
Four great candidates ran for the two new selectboard positions at town meeting in 2019. Courtney Leitz and Cody Marsh were elected and remain selectboard members. Courtney served as chair from March 2021 to March 2022. Cody is the current chair. Both are excellent additions to the selectboard. The other two candidates in 2019 also serve the town. Jeff Coslett won election to an open seat on the selectboard in 2021. Mark Nash serves as justice of the peace, town service officer, and deputy town health officer.
Speaking of health matters, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hit Vermont at the beginning of my second term on the selectboard. Although the pandemic is not over, the situation is currently much improved, and the pandemic lockdown is, thankfully, over. The lockdown lasted in varying degrees from March 2020 to June 2021. Many thanks to the residents of the town for working together and weathering that trial. And yet, I think we are still seeing effects of the lockdown. The level of civility has declined in recent years, and I blame the lockdown in part.
The town made many infrastructure improvements during my two terms on the selectboard: Sidewalks on School Street and Carlton Avenue. The Greenway Path bridge over the Brewster River and other flood resiliency projects. An acceptable compromise solution, after years of discussion and consideration of various alternatives, to the problem of access to Bartlett Hill Road during a major flood, with said solution passing the test of the Halloween Flood of 2019. A second solar array, this one on the closed landfill, following the first town solar array in the town gravel pit before I became a selectboard member. The creation of the Peter A. Krusch Nature Preserve, a first for the town. Many road projects, continuing the town’s reputation for quality roads.
Other developments: The town plan was updated, a major project. The town took over the cemetery that had been managed by the Jeffersonville Cemetery Association for 119 years, nearly doubling the cemetery areas managed by the town. We discontinued a portion of a town road for the first time in recent memory. We started operating under the Municipal Roads General Permit, imposed by state government on all towns in Vermont. The town was a founding member of the Lamoille FiberNet Communications Union District. We improved the town’s management of reserve funds and capital budgeting.
More: We strengthened enforcement of dog issues. We dealt with the lease lands matter. We adopted a conflict of interest policy. We established a retirement plan for town employees. We improved the organization of town committees. We started creating packets for selectboard meetings and are now posting them on the town’s website.
Many of these developments, and others, are discussed in the annual town reports which can be found on the town’s website: in the left sidebar, click on Document Center / Agendas, Minutes; then click on Town Meetings / Hearings; then click on Town Reports. Major items are featured on the cover and inside the front cover. Details are included in the reports of committees and organizations inside the report. The annual Selectboard Report provides an overview.
Much of what happens in town government is the work of our dedicated employees. Thank you! And much of what happens in town government is the work of many equally dedicated volunteers. Thank you, also! Cambridge is blessed with both hardworking employees and many enthusiastic volunteers.
I especially want to thank the people with whom I served on the selectboard. In addition to the individuals named above, that includes Larry Wyckoff (first elected in 2012) and Dana Sweet (served 1989-2021). I also want to thank Jane Porter, who served as town clerk/treasurer 1974-2016. Jane nominated me for selectboard at the 2017 town meeting, and she has been an invaluable source of information and advice.
A note about the timing of this announcement: I decided in early May that I was not going to run for re-election after the completion of my second term. At the time, I told only my wife. I had intended to announce my decision late this fall, in plenty of time for candidates and voters to consider the open position before town meeting in March. So why am I announcing now?
Two reasons. First, I am also a director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. My current 2-year-term there ends next month at the VLCT’s annual meeting. If I am off the Cambridge selectboard next March, that also ends my position on the VLCT board. It is better for the VLCT to fill my position in the normal course of affairs at its annual meeting next month, instead of having to fill a vacancy in the middle of a term next March. Hence, I am not running for re-election to the VLCT board of directors.
The second reason is because of the current election for an open seat in the Vermont House of Representatives from Cambridge and Waterville. I am supporting one of the candidates in this election. See Supporting Rebecca Pitre. This campaign has become uncivil. See, for example, GOP House candidate threatened. Further, I have been warned that my support of Rebecca Pitre will affect my re-election prospects in March. I wish to make it known that I decided not to seek re-election before I had even heard of Rebecca. I first heard of her in late May. I first met Rebecca and her husband Tom on May 28th for breakfast at 158 Main. As I said in Supporting Rebecca Pitre, it has been a pleasure getting to know Rebecca and her family.
One of the best parts about serving on the selectboard has been getting to know so many wonderful people. That includes people whose roots in town are as deep as mine, but I didn’t know them all that well. Dana Sweet is an example. I could name many more. When I was growing up in town, I didn’t get off the farm much. And when I was working, I was mostly out of town. Dana is several years older than me; if people weren’t within a year or two of me in school, I likely didn’t know them well. Being retired and on the selectboard has given me time and reasons to get to know many wonderful people, including people like Rebecca & Tom Pitre and many more who have moved here in recent times. You have all enriched my life, and I thank you.
George, a wonderful entry by the switchel philosopher, congratulations on your hard work and positive benefits you have to your community! Such a wonderful gift you have given with all your time, hard work and thoughtful considerations of issues. I am so happy you have had a rich experience. Thank you for the ripple of positive energy I am sure you have provided that reaches corners you may not know of but brings good energy to the future.
Come visit soon! Love to you and Nancy.
Good morning George
I’m really glad you’ve been there during what must have been some tense times. I’ll also miss having the knowledgeable person with a cool head with an admittedly conservative viewpoint who can logic through to a good answer and present it well.
Wish you the best and look forward to talking. Best Stearns
Sent from my iPhone
Stearns, thank you for this and for discussions with you over the years. I especially thank you for the comments you made to me immediately after the 2017 town meeting. Those comments led me to the book “All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community” by Susan Clark and Professor Frank Bryan. I’ve mentioned that book and its authors many times on this blog. I purchased copies of that book for the CET and others in town government. Susan Clark met with the CET. I think those things were helpful.
Best to you and your family.
Stearns Allen sadly died last November. The obituary was posted online this week:
We did have a chance to visit before he died. I’ll miss the thoughtful discussions we had.