3 running for 3-year Pownal seat

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POWNAL — Three candidates are vying for a three-year term on the Pownal Select Board, with incumbent Suzanne Caraman facing challengers Michael George and Bob Jarvis.

Each candidate responded to a series of questions in a Bennington Banner survey for local candidates.

The annual town election will be held on March 6, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with voting at the Pownal Center Firehouse. The annual floor meeting will be held March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the elementary school.

Michael George

"Controlling spending and keeping tax increases as low as possible" are among his top goals if elected, said George.

Others, he said, are "getting things done in a timely manner and keeping voters up to date on things happening in Pownal."

George, 55, who previously served on the Select Board, said he is a truck driver with Republic Services, of Cheshire, Mass., and a lifelong town resident.

He is a 20-year member of the Pownal Center Fire Department, past coach and president of the Pownal little league/farm league organization and past president of the Bennington Horseshoe Club.

George also served as emergency management coordinator in town for three years.

"I care a great deal for the town of Pownal and the people that live there," he said.

Bob Jarvis

Jarvis said a key goal for him is to "ensure that Pownal is business friendly. Economic opportunity is the primary need of Pownal residents, and I want to do all I can to help provide a stable, predictable business environment that treats all businesses fairly and equally."

In that regard, he said, "we will need to curb the rapid growth of town government and spending. Vermont's out-of-control spending has now earned us a 48 out of 50 ranking for economic outlook by Forbes [magazine]. A select board member is limited in what can be done about this, but this has to change. That change needs to start locally."

He added, "I am becoming increasingly concerned about a growing trend of separation and vilification of opposing political views. The divide is even greater along socio-economic lines. The local government has not been listening to the voices of locals. This has become most evident in the recently proposed town plan, which has as a majority of its vision geared towards creating an art community."

Jarvis said that "while the arts are important and always enriching, this lopsided focus as a primary need for Pownal shows a deep lack of connection with the true needs of Pownal citizens, especially those in financial stress. Our town needs elected officials who are willing to challenge the status quo, and to make sometimes very hard evaluations of policy, spending and municipal actions. This needs to happen now before we lose even more struggling families and workers to states that have more financial opportunity and less constrictive regulations on business and industry development.

Jarvis is a graduate of Mt. Anthony Union High School and holds a bachelor of arts degree from Skidmore College in math and business, and a master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in manufacturing systems engineering.

A Pownal native, Jarvis, 58, was director at a Supply Chain Software company and with the business for more than 20 years, and was a commissioned officer in the Navy from 1982-86.



Sue Caraman

"I would like to see Pownal move forward, not backwards," Caraman said. "The town needs to be sure that we follow the state statutes that apply to municipalities. We need to bring in more grant money to help us keep our taxes down and still take care of our infrastructure."

She added, "I would like to help finish up the search for a town administrator. The employment ad will be going out very soon, and we should be able to begin the interviewing process in late March or early April. The Select Board has decided to form a hiring committee of two board members, and three people from our community to interview the candidates and make a recommendation to the board. The Select Board will then interview the finalist and make the final choice."

An administrator position "will be great asset for the town and will take some of the burden off from an already overworked staff," Caraman said.

"We need to keep up with human resource issues: personnel records, employee benefits, training, evaluations, etc.," she said. "Policies and procedures are important to all employees, and we need to be sure we have a fair and current personnel policy for our employees. This is another important part of the town administrator's responsibilities."

On infrastructure, she said, "If we do not take care of our infrastructure now, it will cost us even more money later. Everything cost so much more these days, and as much as we try to keep the costs down, we can't let our bridges and roads fall apart."

Caraman said the "new town plan is very important. Everyone should read the plan and participate in the process. If there is something you do not agree with, let it be known. This is our town. Now is the time to speak up before the plan gets passed."

Caraman was elected to fill the remainder of an unexpired board term in 2016, and she was appointed the board clerk in 2016 and 2017.

She is a former town delinquent tax collector, serving from 1999 -2011.

"I am currently employed at Bennington College," she said. "I have been an administrative assistant here for the past 26 years."

Caraman is a town native and was raised in Pownal.

She is a past president of the American Legion Post 90 Auxiliary and a Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentor since 2010.

Her family has been involved in service to the town for many years, she said. Her father, Arthur E. George, was a Select Board member, the town constable for many years, and a member of Bennington County Sherriff's Department for 35 years.

Her partner, the late Alan Strobridge, was a member of Select Board from 1999-2002 before dying of cancer in 2002. He was instrumental in securing the former Pownal Tanning Co. lands for the town, and the Strobridge Recreation Area is named in his honor.

His father, Norman Strobridge, served as a select board member for many years.

Caraman said her children were raised in Pownal and attended local schools.


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