Bahan challenges incumbents for clerk, treasurer jobs

SHAFTSBURY — This year Shaftsbury's treasurer and town clerk will defend their positions against a single challenger.

Holly Snow Bahan, who has run for both positions in the past and previously served on the Shaftsbury School Board, will challenge both incumbent Town Clerk Marlene Hall and incumbent Treasurer Melanie Dexter. Hall was elected last year to fill the last year of Judy Stratton's three-year term, while Dexter was elected in 2015 to her first three-year term.

All three candidates responded to a series of questions about their backgrounds, their goals should they be elected, and what they view to be the most pressing issues facing the town.

Candidate Backgrounds

"For over 30 years I have provided bookkeeping, tax preparation, and office management services to individuals and area businesses," said Bahan. "Also I have spent over 20 years mentoring under Delinquent Tax Collector Mert Snow as his assistant. I have a good understanding of the responsibilities of town officials as I served as assistant to past treasurer Henrietta Billow for three years. My tenure on the Shaftsbury and SVSU school boards provided valuable experience with budgets, policy, negotiating and their financial obligations and can only benefit the needs of the community."

"I was born here 54 years ago and have always lived in Shaftsbury," she continued. "I worked at SVMC for 7 years and I provided a daycare center for 10 years. I have been employed for 17 years by a local Plumbing and Heating Company. I was a member of the Taconic Community Grange for over 25 years. Community service has always been a part of my life. Parent Teacher Offices, spear heading dinners and community service for sports and music for eight years, soup kitchen volunteering and many countless hours serving others needs."

"I have served as town treasurer for three years, since stepping up as a write-in candidate when no one was on the ballot," said Dexter. "I hold an MBA from Cornell University, with concentrations in economics and marketing. I am 56 years old, and, with my husband David Durfee, have brought up three sons, MAU classes of '14, '16 and '21. I have 25 years' experience as a marketing manager and consultant. I am also a classically trained violinist, and play orchestral and chamber music with the Vermont Symphony and many other ensembles around the tri-state area."

"I was born at Putnam Memorial Hospital in Bennington," said Hall. "I grew up on the family farm on Reservoir Road here in Shaftsbury and attended local schools. I am in my 50's (never ask a lady her age). I was a graphic designer for a local printer before starting my own business which I worked at for more than 20 years. I am a Disaster Action Team member for the American Red Cross and a proud member of the NorShaft Lions Club. I was the Assistant Town Clerk under Judy Stratton and have attended several training opportunities around the state in the last year, something I will continue to do in the future to keep up with the ever-changing statues we must follow. It's no coincidence that most town clerks have served as assistant town clerk, as you really need to work with an experienced clerk to learn the job."

Candidate Goals

Bahan is running on a platform based on savings for the taxpayers of Shaftsbury. "My eyes are focused on saving taxpayer dollars. At present the treasurer is in the office for three hours a day. I will be able to adjust my hours to better serve the public. In several towns the same person holds these two offices as they are compatible. Contrary to what the select board is saying the best definition for an employee that I can find is that the employer controls the work to be done, how it will be done and when it will be done as they want to manage the offices. These elected offices are defined as independent and they set their own hours and what they do and how they do it. They answer to the taxpayers not other officials. Of course they have to cooperate with the select board but not be controlled by them. I will save taxpayers at least $17,298 the first year as I will work at the salaries fully disclosed at last year's Town Meeting. This year's budget increase is caused by health insurance and a proposed increase to the two positions. In my first term it will be a savings of over $51,000, and in three terms over $153,000."

The Shaftsbury Select Board, which is made up of Joe Barber, Ken Harrington, Tony Krulikowski, Tim Scoggins, and Art Whitman, earlier this week released a statement objecting to Bahan's claim. "In a recent letter to the editor, Holly Snow Bahan, candidate for Shaftsbury Town Clerk and Treasurer, made some misleading statements regarding compensation for the two offices she hopes to fill," they wrote. "Here are the facts: Treasurer salary is scheduled to increase modestly from $18,000 to $20,000; Town clerk salary is scheduled to increase from $28,000 to $32,760 due to an increase in scheduled work hours; The town clerk is now offered health insurance, as is appropriate for a 35 hour/week employee, at a cost of $10,538 ($4,000 of that amount is for a health savings account to offset deductibles, although no employee has ever needed the full amount); Last year the voters approved paying the town clerk a salary, rather than a fee based compensation; Based on 2017 receipts, clerk fees, which are now Town revenue, are estimated at $41,640 for next year, largely offsetting the increase in compensation. Ms. Bahan's claim of $17,298 increased taxpayer cost ignores the revenue the town now collects in clerk fees."

"The role of treasurer is crucial to protecting the town's resources," said Dexter. "Working with elected auditors, the treasurer must reconcile several bank accounts every month, to the penny. He or she must put in place internal control systems that ensure there is not room for the kind of financial mismanagement and malfeasance that, unfortunately, makes the headlines every year in far too many Vermont towns. The Treasurer must be able — preferably in plain English — to discuss financial matters in twice-monthly select board meetings. Perhaps most important, the Treasurer must treat every individual resident with discretion and tact when questions and problems arise."

"In the three years that I have served the Town of Shaftsbury in the role of treasurer, I have continued the work of my predecessor, Bill Fisk, in modernizing and professionalizing the office," she continued. "The treasurer is now required to master several modules of a sophisticated fund accounting computer program. In addition, the Town has now instituted a regime of annual professional external audits, which it falls largely on the Treasurer to facilitate. In the past year, I worked with the town administrator to acquire the $1.1 million bond for the Town garage. I am currently finalizing a plan to provide a service to allow residents to pay fees and taxes by credit card, at no cost to the town. My top goals if I am re-elected include continuing the ongoing process of tightening internal controls and seeing through the big projects currently in the works."

Hall said that the town clerk's most pressing duties depend on the time of year. "Around the election cycles the most pressing issues are always related to the upcoming election. Making sure all deadlines are met, producing ballots, sending out absentee ballots, keeping on top of voter registrations, etc. This time of year dog licenses are also a priority, scheduling the rabies clinic, sending out reminders and keeping up with the licenses when people renew in person or by mail. Throughout the year, a top priority is recording deeds accurately and in a timely manner. Later in the year the priority will be scheduling BCA meetings for anyone who would like to grieve their assessments (there are strict deadlines related to these meetings). This job is different every day and I love it."

"My top goal would be to keep this office organized and running smoothly," she said. "Long term, I have the goal of digitizing our land records (this has been started) so that we don't have to take the books in and out of the vault as often as we do now. This will protect the books for generations to come. I don't ever want to do away with land records books, as I think it's very important that we have the written records, but having them digitized is important."

There is also one race for the Shaftsbury Select Board in which Ed Corey is challenging incumbent and current chairman Tim Scoggins. Interviews with both those candidates will be presented before Town Meeting. Polls will be open Tuesday, March 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Shaftsbury Fire Station. The floor meeting will be held the previous night at Shaftsbury Elementary School, with the School Board meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the Town Meeting scheduled for 7:30.

Derek Carson can be reached at, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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