Sunderland finds write-in candidate for Select Board

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SUNDERLAND —At least one write-in candidate has been found amid the town's three open Select Board seats, heading off the possibility of a municipal government shutdown.

A man named Connor Stewart has agreed to run for the position at the town election March 5, Select Board member Jon French said at a board meeting Monday night.

French said there might be a second candidate for Select Board, but the person has not yet confirmed.

One winning candidate is "enough to have a functioning Select Board," board chairman Mark Hyde said in an interview after the meeting.

The news of a Select Board write-in candidate is significant because three seats on the board will become vacant on election day, yet not one candidate filed a petition as of the deadline Jan. 29.

The Sunderland Select Board, which has five members, needs at least three members to meet; otherwise, the municipal government won't be able to fulfill important functions like paying vendors and resolving issues brought by residents, town officials earlier said.

Hyde, who holds a three-year term, is stepping down when his term expires March 5, along with Select Board members Steven Bendix and Melanie Virgilio, who hold one-year terms.

At the meeting Monday, Select Board members said also that a Sunderland resident had emailed a suggestion to hire a part-time town administrator to share with neighboring town Arlington.

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Arlington officials want to hire a town administrator, and they're bringing the proposal before voters next month. Sunderland can start publicly discussing the matter, but Hyde said it's a decision for a future Town Meeting Day.

"We can start the process, but we can't hire anybody till we have a budget for it," he told the Journal.

In an earlier interview, Hyde said Sunderland residents should seriously consider having a town administrator as people's personal and work lives become busier, leaving them little time to commit to elected office.

At least two elected seats in Sunderland — lister and cemetery commissioner — are occupied by someone the Select Board appointed because nobody ran for the positions.

Besides the three Select Board seats, Sunderland also doesn't have candidate petitions for seven other open positions: town agent, town grand juror, town moderator, another lister, another cemetery commissioner and two auditors.

The town clerk and treasurer, Rose Keough, said Sunderland has had at least one Select Board candidate every election since she assumed her current positions in 1991.

Sunderland's ballot voting will run 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 5 in the town office at 104 Mountain View Road.

Any write-in candidate needs at least seven votes, then it's a matter of who gets the most votes if there's more than one write-in candidate for each position.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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