Vote for DeGray
Editor of the Reformer:
Both Dick DeGray and David Gartenstein bring strengths to the contest for Brattleboro's one-year Selectboard term. Having worked alongside both of them for two years as a Selectboard member myself, I would like to dip my oar into the issue to endorse Mr. DeGray.
But first, let me articulate the strengths both candidates offer:
• Years of committed service to the town.
• Skills accredited in careers loaded with responsibilities.
• Local knowledge gained from decades of residence in Brattleboro; and
• Records of difficult decision-making based on rigorous analysis and thorough attention to detail.
In short, each has amply demonstrated skill and intelligence in local governance leadership.
However, I believe that Mr. DeGray is the superior candidate. The qualities that make the difference have to do with open-mindedness to new ideas and simple personal approachability. Consider these two examples:
• Mr. DeGray supported the pay-as-you-throw initiative, which was a new, comprehensively conceived way to handle the town's growing waste management expenses. Mr. Gartenstein opposed it. He was in a leadership position on the Selectboard when PAYT was implemented, but he spoke against it until the program was mandated by the Legislature. The program has been much more successful than the town administration had anticipated.
• Early on in my career on the board, I suggested an idea to the town's traffic committee for a new traffic pattern to deal with a constantly clogged intersection on Main Street. In response, Mr. Gartenstein shot back in an e-mail, "I am completely, unalterably opposed" to the idea. When I appeared before the committee to bring up the matter, his contribution was a quip, "It is a terrible idea." Being the Selectboard's representative to the traffic committee, and using his signature approach to debate, he essentially shut down the discussion. I asked again later what his reasons were, and his answer was twofold: that implementing such an idea would be "a nightmare" and that the strategy has not been done before. The town has since dealt with the matter with tweaks to lane striping and to traffic light timing. I wonder if others who drive through town would agree that Main Street's traffic status quo is fine.
My concern is that merely tweaking the status quo – doing the same things as before – whether for better waste management, dealing with traffic, or enhancing town revenue, has demonstrably been inadequate for years. Mr. DeGray has long shown a receptiveness to at least entertaining ideas intended to address the spectrum of problems that challenge municipal management and consume its financial and human resources. In contrast, I have unfortunately witnessed stiff-armed responses from Mr. Gartenstein to ideas and a domineering form of conduct on the Selectboard itself.
The difficulties that challenge the Selectboard really do need strong personalities. I can vouch for the need of a stiff spine and thick skin. However, the way in which a Selectboard member deals with the public and its ideas is critical to any success in actually solving the complex problems confronting the town.
Regarding the third candidate for the one-year term, Mr. Avery Schwenk, I have a great deal of respect for his business sense and diligence in helping build the increasingly popular Hermit Thrush Brewery. That on-the-ground experience would bring an excellent perspective to the Selectboard along with his ability to connect with the person in the street.
My recommendation to fellow voters is to put Dick DeGray back in office for an eighth year regardless of the merits of his two competitors. I have been impressed by his sense of fairness, open-mindedness, experience, attention to detail, and his resolve, and hence I believe he is the best candidate of the three.
Christopher G. Chapman Brattleboro, Feb. 19