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March 2011

Issue 1: Town Meeting Contenders

From the Staff: We hope you enjoy the very first issue of NewsINK, a digital magazine showcasing the best reporting from the Vermont Center for Community Journalism at Lyndon State College. The VCCJ is a multiplatform news operation that covers the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Students report for NewsINK and LSC’s award-winning News 7 newscast and NewsLINC website, Please direct suggestions and criticisms our way. NewsINK Staff: Nadine Grimley Sam Monroe Lindsey Profenno Suzanne Proulx Jared Richardson RJ Brownell Rene Thibault Madison Cox Phil Alexander Jeff Rusack Adviser: Dan Williams

INSIDE Lyndon: David Dill 4 St Johnsbury: Bernie Timson 6 Jim Rust 7 Alan Ruggles 8 Bill Merrow 9 Stacy Perkins 10 Werner Heidemann 11  NewsInk is a publication of the Vermont Center for Community Journalism at Lyndon State College. Find us online at Address queries to: NewsInk, Department of Electronic Journalism, Lyndon State College, P.O. Box 919, Lyndonville, Vt. 05849.

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March 2011

Bookseller on Board?

Photo by Sam Gaddess

Kimberly Crady-Smith selects a book from the children’s section of Green Mountain Books in Lyndonville.

Nadine Grimley NewsINK Kimberly Crady-Smith, owner of Green Mountain Books, casually sips her tea as customers enter the store with a jingle of the bell above the door. Although she works in Lyndonville, her thoughts are on Wheelock where she holds a seat on the Millers Run School Board. This is not the first time Crady-Smith has served on the six-person panel. She was formerly the chair of the board, but now is undecided if she would even accept a nomi-

March 2011

nation for a school board position on Town Meeting Day. "I ran again last year and I wasn't re-elected, so I kind of felt like the town wanted somebody else to do the job," she says. Not long after that election, she was appointed to the board to fill the unexpired term of a member who resigned. Sheffield and Wheelock share the Millers Run School. On Town Meeting Day, Wheelock will fill three seats on the board and Sheffield will fill one. Crady-Smith says chal-

lenging issues in the past have included bullying and classroom discipline. “The board and the community and the school have worked very hard to sort that out and move forward,” she says. Though undecided herself, Crady-Smith encourages others to run. “Being on a board is a great way to learn about it because I don’t think people in the community really understand how schools work anymore.”

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Photo by Jeff Rusack

Lyndon Selectboard candidate David Dill gets into his car behind the Lyndon Town Hall. Dill says he wants to stop an exodus of businesses from Lyndon.

Dill wants business back Page 4

Jeff Rusack NewsINK For sale signs adorn many shop windows along Depot Street in Lyndonville, signs of a business exodus David Dill says he wants to stop. Dill is challenging incumbent Kevin Calkins for a three-year seat on the Lyndon Selectboard. One of the latest businesses to leave was Paddy Cakes Candy Shop, which packed up its treats and moved to the Green Mountain Mall. Dill, 64, says he wants to “promote business in the town, including retail, and have a closer relationship with

March 2011

Window signs (above) tell customers of Paddy Cakes and Candy the shop has moved from Lyndonville to the Green Mountain Mall in St. Johnsbury Center (right). Lyndon Selectboard candidate David Dill says he wants to bring businesses back Photos by Jeff Rusack (above) Sam Monroe (right)

the Chamber of Commerce.” Dill says he is excited about a Chamber of Commerce project aimed at improving the facade of the town and making it more appealing for tourists. Plans include changing signs and sprucing up buildings while keeping the smalltown feel of Lyndon. He says he also wants to keep property taxes as low as possible. Dill was town administrator from 1990 until 1998 and served on the Selectboard from 1998 to 2004, resigning to become Vermont’s deputy secretary of transportation. Gov. Jim Douglas elevated him to transportation secretary in 2008, and he left that post in the changeover to the administration of Democrat Peter Shumlin.

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“I’m ready to throw my hat back in the ring,” Dill says, adding his experience as head of the Vermont Agency of Transportation would serve him well on the Selectboard. “When you have almost 1,300 people working for you, you pick up some management skills.” Dill has lived in Lyndon for almost 20 years. Before that he was pilot in the Air Force.

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St. Johnsbury incumbent Rene Thibault NewsINK Bernie Timson says running a town is like running a business. “Selectboard members are like the CEOs of a company,” says Timson who is an incumbent selectboard member running for one of the one-year seats. Timson is up against three other candidates: Tim Persons, Bill Merrow, and Alan Ruggles. Timson has been on the board for several years now, and he says his dedication to board meetings and the town is what earned him a spot on the board. “I didn’t miss a single board meeting in four years. I believe that if you want the job, you have to be at the table, and I was for two years.” He is a St. Johnsbury native who owns several businesses in the area. Timson has been a self employed contractor since 1973. He owns two apartment buildings and Junction 2 &18 Self Storage. Timson’s business experience is what led him to the St. Johnsbury selectboard. “I feel like my real life experience is a valuable asset to the board.” Timson is hopeful he will be re-elected beacuse there are still projects that he wants to see completed. “We want to move town offices to the welcome center. Doing so would make the welcome center the unofficial hub of the city,” he says. Timson also wants to get rid of a personal property and business tax in St. Johnsbury. This would save businesses close to $500 and attract more companies

to the area, he says. “We have a great, open-minded board, I’ve helped improve the town of St. J. and I hope voters realize this.”

Bernie Timson (left) and Jim Rust speak at a public meeting in

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March 2011

ts vying to stay on board Jared Richardson NewsINK Jim Rust says he is running for the St. Johnsbury Board of Selectmen to make the town run more efficiently.

Photo courtesy Todd Wellington/Caledonian-Record

“Do voters want to go back to sketchy votes in smoking rooms and back room meetings, or do they want to go ahead with the future of St. Johnsbury and the prosperity of the town?” he asked. Rust is challenging Daniel Kimbell for a three-year seat on the board. Both are incumbents and Rust is the chairman. Kimbell declined comment for this article. “There are several issues that need to be finished up,” Rust said, “like the bike path, the town offices being integrated with the welcome center, and to fix public safety.” Rust feels that he has a lot of supporters and he is confident he will win. “I think it’s the best position for me,” he said. “If voters want good dynamics and want a change, vote for me, and I feel like that’s up for the voters to decide.” Rust lost to Kimbell at the St. Johnsbury annual caucus, which nominates candidates for the election on Town Meeting Day. Rust challenged the town’s use of a generic petition, which was photocopied onto individual petitions for each winning caucus candidate. “I contacted the Secretary of State and they said that the petitions were accepted wrong,” he said. “My main concern was that I wanted every candidate to have an equal chance.” The office told him that the town’s caucus was “improper” and voters should have been provided with individual ballots. The candidates were required to submit new petitions to qualify for the March 1 race. Rust was planning to submit a petition after his caucus loss. “I wanted it to get fixed,” he said.

n this file photo.

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Contender cites skills

Photo by Phil Alexander

St. Johnsbury Selectboard candidate Alan Ruggles wants to focus on the town’s infrastructure.

Phil Alexander NewsINK Alan Ruggles has his work cut out for him in the race for selectman for the town of St. Johnsbury. Ruggles is competing against Tim Persons, Bill Merrow, and Bernie Timson for one of two one-year seats. However, Ruggles says that he is more focused on his own campaign rather than competing with the other candidates. “I think with my background and the personal skills that I’ve acquired, I can help the community move forward and make it better,” he says.

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Ruggles says he originally was not interested in the position but realized St. Johnsbury had problems that needed to be fixed. He says that was when he decided to start discussing town issues with others. “Most of my life here, I guess I was a firm believer in if you say something you should back it up,” Ruggles says. “After hearing some favorable comments from the people around me, I started to become interested in the town’s issues. I realized that I believed in what I said, and talking to other people, I got a lot of encouragement to run for the Selectboard.”

If elected, Ruggles says he has an idea which issues he would address. “I think some of the focus needs to be on the town’s infrastructure, making sure that everything is up to date. We need to focus on the budget and keep it on a manageable level, but I think that focusing on the revenue is more important than cutting expenses,” Ruggles says. Ruggles has served as chairman of the Development Review Board for the past three years. The board is in charge of planning and zoning developments in St. Johnsbury.

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Merrow seeks end to clashes Madison Cox NewsINK Clashes on the St. Johnsbury Selectboard need to stop, according to candidate Bill Merrow, who says he’s the one to do it. “There is a very defined division amongst the board members,” Merrow says, blaming the tensions on different philosophies and views on issues. “I’m hoping I can possibly service as a voice of reason to help bridge that divide.” He is campaigning for one of two one-year selectboard seats. The other candidates are Tim Persons, Alan Ruggles, and Bernie Timson. “I’ve been on a number of committees and boards,” Merrow says, including the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Finance Committee, the Building Committee, the Planning Commission, as well as participating in putting together the town plan. He was the chairman of the Planning Commission for eight years. Merrow says he knows that being on the Se-

lectboard requires dedication and a lot of time. “I’m retired now so I have the time for it,” he says. Merrow says the town needs to decide what to do with the recreation center on Main Street. According to Merrow, the building has fallen into disrepair, and would be expensive to renovate. “The bottom line is what do we do with it?” he says. “It’s sort of a white elephant.” Other issues Merrow wants to address include the proposed movement of the town offices to the St. Johnsbury Welcome Center, as well as what will become of the current location of the offices, near the fire station. Merrow also says the merger of the water and highway departments is an important issue for the town. Challenges include cross-training employees from both departments, assigning workloads, and storing equipment. Merrow, who is originally from Lancaster, N.H., moved to St. Johnsbury in 1974, after three years in the military. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Southern New Hampshire University. He worked at the St. Johnsbury Trucking Company as the accounts receivable supervisor, and later at Timberland Machine as the finance director. “I’ve been involved with finance all my life.” Bill Merrow goes through land records at the St. Johnsbury town clerk’s office.

Photo by Madi Cox

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Town clerk candidate looks to shake up St. Johnsbury

Photo by Dan Williams

Above: An original railroad station bench sits in the St J. welcome center, which could house the town offices if voters approve on Town Meeting Day. Below: an old railroad sign at the welcome center.

RJ Brownell NewsINK Stacy Perkins says she is determined to take over as town clerk in St. Johnsbury because “a change needs to be made.” Perkins is running against incumbent Sandy Grenier for town clerk and town treasurer in the election on Town Meeting Day March 1. As qualifications, Perkins cites experience in accounting, customer service and working with large groups of people. She says she has been involved by attending Selectboard and budget meetings on a regular basis. Perkins says she has concerns about the way the town has been run for the past 30 years and wants to see St. Johnsbury update its policies and procedures. “Things have been done the same way for years and years and years,” she says. “It’s 2011. We can’t be doing the same things we’ve been doing since 1990, 1980.” Perkins says she would emphasize teamwork if elected, and wants to see a full town audit. She says she also favors installation of a new computer system to make employees’ jobs easier. Efforts to contact Sandy Grenier for this article were unsuccessful.

Photo by Sam Monroe

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March 2011

Heidemann: not in it to win, just to give back Sam Monroe NewsINK To hear Werner Heidemann tell it, he wouldn’t mind losing his campaign to hang on to his seat on the St. Johnsbury School Board. “I’m not interested in calling this a race,” he says of the contest against Tony Greenwood. “I’m doing this simply because I feel as though I have something to contribute. And if the people want someone new, that is fine with me.” Heidemann and Greenwood are vying for the threeyear seat that Heidemann currently holds. Repeated efforts to contact Greenwood Photo by Sam Monroe were unsuccesful. “I got on the school board St. Johnsbury residents will vote on a school board seat and a proposed $15 million school budget at Town Meeting. when no one was running,” Heidemann says. “I ran a to a different school. But now the students write-in campaign because I believe we all in the school system have known nothing have an obligation to be involved.” but the school they are in now. Heidemann says the school’s biggest Heidemann says other challenges are problem is one of culture, stemming from St. Johnsbury’s poverty rate and the varied the decision a decade ago to build the St. backgrounds of families. Johnsbury School and send all of the stu“Education has changed,” he says. “We dents to the same building. have to take care of all the students now.” “We are just getting over the culture change,” Heidemann says. He says it was difficult for parents to see their children go

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NewsINK: a digital magazine showcasing the best reporting from the Vermont Center for Community Journalism at Lyndon State College. The VCCJ...