Sunderland ballot: 3 seats, 0 candidates

Left to right, Sunderland road agent Marc Johnson explains a map to Select Board members Mark Hyde, Steven Bendix and Melanie Virgilio in this file photo. Hyde, Bendix and Virgilio are all stepping down from the board.

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SUNDERLAND — For the first time in at least 28 years, Sunderland has no select board candidates in the upcoming elections. And three of the board seats will then be vacant.

The Select Board can't meet with only two of five members, meaning the town won't be able to fulfill important functions like pay vendors, apply for grants from the state or federal government and resolve issues brought by residents, town officials said.

"The town basically comes to a halt," said Rose Keough, Sunderland's town clerk and treasurer. It's the first time since she became town clerk in 1991 that nobody is running for a Select Board seat, Keough said.

Mark Hyde, the current select board chairman, said he hoped some candidates would come forward after the town put up announcements online and sent feelers to residents.

"I had really hoped somebody would apply. That is disturbing that no one has applied," said Hyde, whose three-year term expires March 5. Board members Steven Bendix and Melanie Virgilio, who hold one-year terms, also stepped down on the same day.

Hyde, 49, chose not to seek re-election after eight years on the board because his schedule has become more hectic after he got promoted at his IT job last year.

"I just don't have the time to devote to it anymore," he said. "As chair, it takes more time than some of the other positions generally."

Hyde believes Sunderland residents should seriously consider hiring a town administrator, an idea that he said the select board has been discussing internally in the past three years. It's a step that neighboring town Arlington would take if its voters approve the proposal to hire a town administrator.

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Over the last several years, Hyde said, it's been a challenge finding people in Sunderland willing to run for elected office and agree to be appointed to town boards. The trend, he said, is related to the increasing responsibility expected of public servants coupled with the faster pace of life at home and at work.

"People have busy lives, and they don't have time to really volunteer for the town or do something that's minimally compensated," Hyde said. "It's not seen as glamorous. You have to do it 'cause you're really interested in it and you like it."

Besides the three select board seats, Sunderland also doesn't have candidates for seven other open positions: town agent, town grand juror, town moderator, a lister, a cemetery commissioner and two auditors.

Since Sunderland needs at least three select board members to conduct business, the town needs at least one person willing to be a write-in candidate at Town Meeting Day on March 5. 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, Keough said.

If no write-in select board candidate emerges, Sunderland may need to call a special election within weeks, Hyde said.

"I sure hope someone wants to be written in," he said.

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

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


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