Westminster >> Several candidates are running for the Westminster School Board and Selectboard in this year's local election.
There are three positions available on the school board, but there is no competition for the three-year term as town school director or the three-year term as Bellows Falls Union High School Director. However, two locals, Molly Banik and Cheryl Charles, are in the running for a two-year position as a town school director. This candidate will be selected at this year's March 1st election and will replace Ian Sbardellati whose term is expiring.
"I want to help all of Westminster's children to thrive, learn and grow with the support of their school and a caring, engaged community," said Charles in a press release. "I want to tackle our budget issues so that we can provide quality education with local control and without soaring costs."
Charles is a parent, a grandparent of two who will attend the Westminster schools in the future and a former teacher. In her professional life she was the founding national director of two acclaimed K-12 educational resources for teachers, Project Learning Tree and Project WILD. In addition she is co-founder, president and CEO Emerita of the international non-profit organization, Children & Nature Network, and she was recently named research scholar and founding executive director of the Nature Based Leadership Institute at Antioch University New England and earned her graduate degree in education.
"It's all about the kids," said Banik, who is running both for the school town director (two-year term) and BFUHS director (three-year term). Banik grew-up on a dairy farm in Walpole, N.H., and moved to Westminster when she and her husband Paul married 25 years ago. She has served on the Westminster School Board for four years and is currently a contractor sales person at LaValley Building Supply. Banik's 14-year-old daughter attends BFUHS and Banik hopes to reintegrate herself into the school system to make a positive impact for her daughter's future and for the school as a whole.
"I am very interested in being a community member, and a good community member gets involved in things," said Banik. "I just want to make sure we are doing the best we can to support every child we have and make sure the town is doing the best they can to provide a good education."
As for Tim Young, who is a candidate for the Westminster School Board at this year's March 1st election, he will be running for a three-year term as town school director.
"I believe that I can make a significant contribution to improving the educational experience of our children," said Young in a press release. "I will bring new eyes to the school budget in order to utilize those funds to make smart decisions that will support every child in our entire student body."
Young has 25 years in the corporate sector and responsibility for multi-million dollar budgets. He hopes to bring his experience and ability to the board to maximize the positive impact of each tax dollar.
Young was born and raised in Westminster, attended both elementary schools and the middle school. He and his wife have three children, all of whom have attended or are currently attending Westminster schools. Young has a business degree from the University of Vermont and has worked for large corporations, including Sears, Citibank, Metlife, Home Depot and Proctor & Gamble. In each of those settings, he says he has applied his business and finance skills to effectively manage complex budgets. Young, who is running uncontested, will replace David Ramos, who has held the position for the past three years.
In other news throughout Westminster, two Selectboard positions have opened up and Paul Banik and Susan J. Harlow are running for a three-year position as a Selectboard member and Francis (Nancy) Dalzell and Kevin Hughes will run for the two-year position on the Selectboard.
Paul Banik served on the Selectboard for the past three years and is the sole proprietor of a for-hire livestock hauling company called Windshire Trucking. He also served for about six months on the Planning Commission, which is in charge of rewriting the town plan. He was an original member of the recycling committee, which survived about two years and investigated ways to make recycling more available to Westminster residents.
"I have an interest in improving the community and using what I've learned the last three years along with outside training," said Paul. "You get a chance when you're reelected to apply what you've learned to the position."
Paul says he does not have an agenda, but that there were several "issues" that came up in front of the board over the past two years. He mentioned that the board tried to change the town charter, but voters denied it. He also noted the work that went into recycling. Overall, Paul Banik said Westminster did comply with the state for recycling laws and is compliant at this point, but more work lies ahead.
"We will be dealing with those issues still because some of those laws are not enacted yet, like composting and industrial waste," he said. "We have worked very hard to bring the Selectboard up to speed with the state laws and it has taken us several years from the time I was elected to last year."
Susan Harlow is the other candidate running for the three-year term on the Selectboard against Paul Banik. Harlow was born and raised in Westminster and went on to graduate from the University of Vermont where she earned a degree in journalism. She received her masters in journalism from the University of Wyoming and then was a reporter for some local papers in Wyoming. When she returned to Vermont she wrote for the Rutland Herald, the Department of Agriculture and was an editor for the American Agriculturist and Dairy Business East. For about the last 18 months she has worked as a communication manager at Holstine Association USA in Brattleboro, and has been a board member at Wesminster Cares for three years.
Now, Harlow hopes to wear another hat as a Selectboard member.
"I'm a big believer in small local government, but I don't think it works unless everyone steps in and volunteers to do their part," said Harlow. "Whether that's Selectboard, church or some part in town, you can't just let someone else do it."
Harlow feels that her experience on the board of directors, and living in town where she has met a lot of people will help her best serve on the Selectboard.
"I really feel like I can listen to people, you don't have to be a Republican or Democrat, it's about listening to the people in town and what they want," she said.
Harlow says she has no agenda, but hopes that more people in town will attend the Selectboard meetings. She noted that Westminster is divided geographically and she feels that if more people became engaged in town government, it may make for a more "cohesive town."
Hughes, running to the two-year Selectboard seat, is originally from New Jersey and was raised by two parents who were public school teachers. Hughes attended Fordham University in New York City where he studied history and political and science. He spent 27 years in financial services related industries, including 16 years with Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney.
"I ran the Great Neck New York branch of Morgan Stanley and was responsible for 40 people and $2 billion of capital responsibilities," said Hughes.
He commuted from Westminster to New York City from October 2001 through July of 2015, but recently came back to Vermont to start his own company from wealth advisory to wealth administration. Aside from the work that he does from home in Westminster, Hughes hopes to bring his experience to the Selectboard.
"I want to give back to the community, the community that gave us a place, this is a sanctuary for us," he said. "This was a special place for my child to grow up." Hughes daughter currently attends Vermont Academy and previously attended the Grammar School.
"The world is changing rapidly and has evolved in Vermont in the last 15 years. I'm very worried about finances in state and federal government and how they affect towns, especially ours," said Hughes. "I would like to see greater transparency in government and people need to be much more focused on the community such as Westminster Cares for the elderly and I would like to see our school's get stronger."
Running against Hughes is Frances (Nancy) Dalzell, who has lived in Westminster for the past 10 years after living in Stanford, Conn. She served as an accountant for 18 years with Ricoh Corporation in Connecticut, then retired and moved up to Westminster, where she says she grew to love the people and the atmosphere. She was on the board at Westminster Cares for three years and co-founded a weekly event at the Westminster Congregational Church, Souper Wednesday, where volunteers serve three different kinds of soup to the community throughout the winter season every Wednesday.
Dalzell was appointed to the Selectboard in December 2015 when Peter Barrett retired and left the board. Dalzell says she was one of the few people who attended the meetings and had an interest in the community conversations. Now that the elections will take place in March, she hopes to be selected for a two-year term.
"I want to serve the town and running for the Selectboard was the best way I could think to do that," said Dalzell. "I'd like to look at everything with common sense, I'd like to listen to every aspect to the question or problem and take a look at it, not go in with any preconceived notions or ideas."
She notes that she has no "political experience," but feels that through her current role on the Selectboard and other community engagement, she has had an opportunity to meet a lot of people and stay current with local issues and concerns.
"I like the opportunity to see what's going on. Many things are up in the air until town meeting ,many things are pending, not going to speak to those right now, but it's been opportunity to see what's going on," said Dalzell.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275