ARLINGTON - The voters have spoken: Arlington is getting a town administrator.
Residents voted 391 to 114 by Australian ballot Tuesday in favor of creating the position, an idea local leaders pitched as a way to help the town grow and improve.
The administrator would handle most of the municipality's day-to-day operational affairs, allowing the Select Board to focus on long-term strategic planning.
Select Board member Cynthia Browning welcomed the news, which came around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, describing it as an "important next step" for Arlington.
"I'm happy, but I'm also nervous because now it's on the Select Board to manage this process and hire somebody really good," said Browning, who concurrently serves on the Vermont House of Representatives.
Todd Wilkins, chairman of the Arlington Area Renewal Project's governance committee that recommended hiring a town administrator, was pleased with the huge margin of victory.
"It was a very clear message that our townspeople and voters are in favor of this," he said in a phone interview. "I'm very excited to get this implemented and underway."
The outcome of the administrator proposal, among 42 articles on Arlington's town meeting warning, was one of the most-anticipated this election.
Now, local voters may be faced with another question: if the job that starts in January should be full time or part time.
For the sake of fiscal responsibility, the Select Board intends to establish it as a part-time position with a maximum annual pay of $45,000 and no benefits. The Area Renewal Project, however, recommended the job be full time to attract qualified candidates. This would mean a salary of about $65,000 a year besides family health care benefits valued at nearly $25,000.
At public meetings in the lead-up to the polling Tuesday, some Arlington voters lobbied officials for a full-time administrator.
Select Board Chairman Keith Squires had said that if a significant number of voters believe the administrator should be a full-time job, they can call for a special election on the issue. The petition would need to be endorsed by at least 5 percent of Arlington's 1,900 voters, or 95 people.
When asked whether he would spearhead such a motion, Wilkins said he hasn't made that decision and would first consult the Area Renewal Project and Arlington's Select Board. Wilkins said he wanted to maintain the collaborative relationship with the Select Board.
The next steps in the hiring process would include creating a search committee to pick a short list of candidates, then the Select Board would make the final decision. The administrator's salary would be included in the town budget for 2020.
Tuesday's town polls also unveiled a new Select Board member. Matthew Bykowski edged out incumbent Reginald Jennings, 236-228, for a three-year seat.
On the Arlington School Board, incumbent school director Nicol Whalen was elected to another three years, prevailing over challenger Jessica Bachiochi.
Linda Crosby, who retired as town treasurer Tuesday, retained her title as delinquent tax collector for another one-year term over challenger Kendell Jennings.
Crosby received a standing ovation during town meeting Monday night when she announced her retirement after 30 years as both treasurer and assistant treasurer.
"I have a confession to make," Crosby told the crowd of around 130 people gathered at Arlington Memorial High School's Mack Performing Arts Center. "I've never had a bookkeeping course in my life ... But I do love numbers, I love puzzles and I love people."
Voters have also approved Arlington's proposed budget for this year, amounting to about $1.49 million. At the meeting Monday, a motion was approved adding $15,000 to the local fire department fund.
The money will be used to buy emergency medical equipment under a new program that would allow firefighters to double as first responders, said Jamie Paustian, the fire department chief.
"We'd like to thank everybody for supporting us," he told the assembly. "We hope to be there to support you."
Tiffany Tan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.