POWNAL — Six candidates for the Select Board participated in a forum sponsored by the Friends of Pownal, answering questions and offering their views on key issues before the town.
One candidate on the town ballot did not participate, while another made a surprise announcement at the end of the forum saying she was ending her candidacy.
The forum was held Feb. 7 as a videoconference and was recorded by the Catamount Access Television network. It is being shown in replays on CAT-TV’s Channel 1085, including Thursday, Feb. 18, at 9:30 p.m., and also can be streamed through the network’s Facebook page.
Rose-Marie Pelletier, the moderator and president of Friends of Pownal, said one candidate listed on the ballot, John Wallner, who is seeking a three-year board seat on the board in the March 2 election, did not respond to the group’s messages about the forum.
And in an announcement at the end of the end of the forum, Joyce Held, on the ballot as a candidate for a one-year seat on the board, said she was ending her candidacy.
Held said she became a candidate because she thought there were too few incumbents running to continue the work of the current board, and that she was now dropping out and endorsing incumbents Angie Rawling, Robert Jarvis and Ronald Bisson for re-election.
Candidates listed on the ballot for the two one-year seats are Bisson, Jenny Dewar, Held and Jarvis.
The candidates for a three-year board seat are Rawling, Mike Slattery and Wallner.
Some of the comments of each candidate follow:
Rawling is the current Select Board chairwoman. She is a past longtime Pownal School Board member, a member of the Oak Hill Children’s Center board, and has been active in a number of local groups and organizations. She has lived in town for 50 years and has worked in retail and customer service as a clerk and manager.
“I’m really committed to Pownal, and Pownal is a passion of my life,” Rawling said.
“I’d like to thank everybody who has supported me,” she said. “If I am elected again, I would like to finish the town hall project. I’d like to see the economic growth of the town, and hope to get access to our [forest] land in North Pownal and develop it. I would also like to bring back community togetherness at our annual picnics. There used to be an annual picnic and it hasn’t happened for many years, and I’d like to bring that back … And [working on] the development of the town green, I would also like to work with the Historical Society, and the tree lighting festival, the Pownal Community Center Church and any project that comes along that would be beneficial to the town and to the residents.”
Slattery is a retired financial planner who has lived in town for 42 years. He has served on the Planning Commission and the Development Review Board in Pownal, and said he was involved with “every youth sport you can imagine” over the years.
“There was never any doubt that Pownal, North Pownal to be exact, would be our home for a very long time,” he said.
Slattery said he is running “because I feel I can make a significant impact on the future of this great little town. I believe everybody has a civic duty, and one cannot just sit on the sidelines and hope for change. Change comes from hard work, listening with an open mind and patience.”
He added, “I believe I have demonstrated these qualities through the years during my long tenure on the Planning Commission, and more recently the DRB.”
“Putting Pownal first is my campaign slogan,” he said. “This means that ideology must be left at home while governing. Doing what is right for Pownal should be the guiding principle.”
Slattery added, “There is work to be done in Pownal, as there is in most towns, but it is hardly insurmountable. Let’s start by listening to people, being patient, rolling up or sleeves, getting to work, and above all, remembering to put Pownal first.”
Candidates seeking one of two open one-year board seats are:
Bisson is an incumbent and has also served on other town boards. He is an independent plumbing and water system contractor.
“I’m a lifelong resident of the town of Pownal. I like the town, I never left,” Bisson said.
On town issues, he said, “I do believe that everyone should have their say. I can listen. I don’t make snap decisions … I want to see us move along in a nice, smooth manner. I think it’s been pretty good this past year … I try to do for the good for the town, and I’m a logical person; I think things out. I’m not afraid to speak. I like to have an answer prepared when we are discussing something.”
Bisson added, “I think my experience in life has given me a lot of knowledge as far as understanding people.”
Dewar is a former select board member who has been active on several town issues, and has produced or worked on Pownal-related newsletters and a business website. She operates Karin’s Place, a resort and retreat serving large groups. She has lived in town for 15 years, and her late parents bought their house here 25 years ago.
“When my Dad died four years ago, we realized we were here purely by choice and not held here by familial obligations,” Dewar said. “We found our lives enriched by the incredible community that we’ve seen all along. I could not be more grateful for the wonderful friends who live next door, down the road, around the bend or across Route 7.”
Speaking of her prior experience on the select board, Dewar said, “When I sat on the board previously, I was a total layman — woman. I went through a crash course on being an elected official while I was sitting in the seat.”
While she resigned partway through her term, she said she was proud her initial goals of getting more people involved in town government, launching a newsletter, expanding the town website and seeing the passage of the new Town Plan realized.
“I made some mistakes along the way — as we all do,” she said. “If elected this time, I promise the town I will serve my entire term. I never stopped paying attention and being involved. As a result, I feel immensely more prepared as the processes of how to govern are no longer mysteries.”
She added, “It is time to move Pownal forward, to work together as a community. Pownal has the potential to be a flourishing town as the gateway to Vermont … We need to re-establish the Economic Development Committee. We clearly need more trails and areas of parking for our [all-terrain vehicle riders] to get to safely and legally to ride … We are still in a woefully inadequate town office.”
“We will not always agree on solutions,” she said. “It is impossible for everyone to think the same way. It is one of the beautiful parts of being human ... I promise to always listen. Those are my goals if elected.”
Held co-founded the day care facility now known as the Oak Hill Children’s Center, where she served as a head teacher and director for many years, and has been on the board of the Pownal Historical Society for 25 years. She participated in the Pownal candidate forum but then announced her withdrawal as a candidate in her closing remarks.
“The Select Board has demonstrated its ability to work well together in a positive way in the best interests of Pownal, and I personally want to recognize and thank them,” she said. “I stepped up to run when I thought only one member was going to be running, and I wanted to keep Pownal moving forward. All of the candidates have talent, but I feel only three have the talent to keep us moving forward at this time. There are times to step up and there are times to step down. And after listening to all of you today, I find myself knowing that in order to see Pownal moving forward it is time for me to step down and put my full support behind Ron, Bob and Angie so they can continue their good work … I am no longer a candidate, but I will always be Pownal’s cheerleader.”
Jarvis was elected to the Select Board three years ago.
“I had a lot of preconceived notions of what it would be like to serve on the Select Board,” he said. “And like all new board members, I learned a lot very quickly. Some of that learning was by trial and error and other times it was by doing the hard work and research to solve problems and find solutions to problems facing our town.”
He added, “I am really proud of this select board and of previous select boards, and of the work that we’ve done during my tenure … Most notable during the past year, we have moved to town hall project to a place where it is shovel-ready; we have strengthened our [town] accounting system by bringing in professional services from NEMRC [New England Municipal Resource Center] to fill the gaps common in small towns like ours. We have brought a stronger spirit of cooperation and mutual respect to the town office; we created two new [town office] positions who are serving our town very well, and we have secured tens of thousands of dollars in grant funding and resources; navigated a pandemic, suffered through a fire at the race track; developed a vision for our town green village designation, and most importantly improved our outreach and education with not only the public but also state and county officials.”
Of his term on the board, Jarvis said, “The most important thing I’ve learned, and that I have stressed throughout my tenure, is that collaborative and cooperative work with fellow board members, other town staff and officials, and the public, is key to efficient and smooth working town government. Learning how to slow down, finding places of agreement and cooperation and treating others with respect even when you disagree, and keeping your mind open to alternative viewpoints, is key to making the best decisions for the good of Pownal as a whole.”
Consensus on the board “is not a requirement” and shouldn’t be the goal, he said, adding, “Engaging in respectful dialogue, keeping an open mind and hearing diverse opinions results in better decision making than staunchly defending anyone’s personal positions.”
That approach “is the path that Pownal has found itself on over the past year, with our current board,” Jarvis said. “This current board is the most productive and positive I have seen in my tenure and in many years of living in Pownal. I think it will benefit Pownal to keep the momentum that was created into next year.”
Voting on election day, March 2, will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pownal Center Firehouse.