BELLOWS FALLS -- This year's bid for village president will feature two citizens determined to get their beloved community back on track.
Nancy Switzer McAuliffe and Bellows Falls Village Trustee Andrew Smith told the Reformer they are vying for the one-year position as president in an attempt to help steer the village in the right direction. Both are long-time residents of Bellows Falls with public service experience and both say the want their home to reach the potential they know it has. Current Village President Roger Riccio is not running for re-election.
Village officials will be elected via Australian ballot on May 20, the day after residents have their voices heard on the village's warrant.
McAuliffe, a fifth-generation Vermonter, said she was born and raised in Bellows Falls and remembers when it was a strong, vibrant community. She said she and husband Jim "Jiggs" McAuliffe, chairman of the Rockingham School Board, lived in Michigan for a while before moving in 2005 to the house she grew up in. McAuliffe told the Reformer she has been discouraged by the increased taxes, loss of industry and the economic downturn she has seen since moving back. She also wants to improve the relationship between the trustees and the Rockingham Selectboard and the municipal manager, adding that there have been six managers since 2005.
"I would like to look at getting more efficiency in the village's departments. There is always room for improvement," she said. "I want to give back to my community."
McAuliffe said she has been the board president of the Parks Place Community Resource Center for two and a half years and has volunteered with several other community organizations over the years.
Smith, who was elected to the village trustee board two years ago, said he is running for president to bring strong leadership to it. He said he will offer a fair, thoughtful and progressive approach to village issues.
"I'll lead our local government in being transparent and responsive," he said in a statement. "Careful consideration will be given to our budget, our village departments, and I'll also leading our board in prudent and fair administration of our ordinances."
Smith said any village president needs to work with the entire trustee board to keep watch over all village departments, as well as their respective budgets.
"Chairing village meetings that are efficient, civilized, and welcoming of citizen input must always be a priority," he added. "The citizens having an approachable local government is very important. A lot can be learned from taking time to carefully listen to the public. I'll actively encourage more public attendance at our meetings."
Smith said he also wants to focus on quality of life issues, such as economic development and housing. He said the opiate epidemic must also be addressed through both the prevention and treatment efforts of local agencies and the work of the Bellows Falls Police Department. Smith said the department's commitment to the public good "is essential to keeping our Village an excellent place to live, work, and raise kids."
The other contested positions up for a vote on May 20 are the race for a two-year trustee seat (which features Kathryn "Kate" Aldrich, Sanford "Sandy" Martin, Evelyn Weeks and Deborah Wright) and the one for a three-year auditor position (featuring Pat Fowler, Tim Powers, Michael "Mickey" Tolaro and Deborah Wright).
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.