BELLOWS FALLS -- Tuesday will be the ultimate test for the five residents vying for two available seats on the village board of trustees.
Trustee Stefan Golec is running for re-election and faces competition from Evelyn Weeks, Sanford "Sandy" Martin, Kathryn "Kate" Aldrich and former Village Trustee Deborah Wright. Polls at the Masonic Temple will open at 9 p.m. and close at 7 p.m.
Golec has served in elected roles for at least 20 years and said he wants another term to try to tackle some of the pressing problems facing the village he loves. Bellows Falls has long tried to bring more industry into the village and often struggles keeping young people who choose to leave to start their careers.
Golec said in a statement he wants to "continue to work closely with fellow board members and the business leaders in our community to facilitate and formulate new ways to encourage and attract businesses to locate in the village of Bellows Falls while strengthening the support for the village's existing businesses.
He also believes the village must continue to support the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance (BFDDA) and help the Green Island Project, an attempt by the Sustainable Valley Group to revitalize The Island in Bellows Falls and bring green businesses into the village.
Part of the mission to strengthen the village's commerce, Golec said, is the fight to reopen the Vilas Bridge. An estimated 4,600 vehicles crossed the 635-foot span on an average day before it was closed in 2009, and village residents say businesses are suffering because traffic from New Hampshire has been severed. The issue is a passionate one for each trustee candidate.
Golec also expressed concern over the community heroin and opiate abuse, which has been described as being at epidemic proportions. Various law enforcement agencies, including the Bellows Falls Police Department and the Vermont State Police, collaborated to arrest at least 10 people for drug crimes Friday morning. Golec said curbing the drug problem is a quality-of-life issue facing the village and a clear message must be sent that poisoning the community with illegal drugs is not welcomed. He also voiced his support for a potential new K9 program at the BFPD.
Evelyn Weeks, the assistant executive director of the Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce, moved to the village about 35 years ago and raised her children here. Though she has never served as a trustee, she was the village clerk in the mid-1990s and feels she has the experience to join the board.
"I just thought, ‘It's time to give back to the community and to get more involved,'" she said, adding that she works in finance at the Chamber and does some bookkeeping.
Weeks said she is running as a unified slate of candidates with Nancy Switzer McAuliffe, who is running for village president, and fellow trustee candidate Sandy Martin. Weeks, who also is the treasurer of Greater Rockingham Area Services, said the three are like-minded and have similar goals for the village. She also would love to see the Vilas Bridge reopened.
Martin told the Reformer the woman that would later become his wife introduced him to Bellows Falls in 1992 and the couple moved to the village in 2004.
"The people in the village have been very, very good to us and I really feel like it's time to give back a bit," he said. "I would really like to be involved in getting more people to Village Meeting and to the trustees' meetings.
Martin, who is now retired, said he worked for many years as a regional credit manager in the electrical supply business and feels his experience equipped him with "a real opportunity to understand the insides of cost control and to assess the performance of personnel."
Aldrich, the daughter of Rockingham Town Clerk Doreen Aldrich, has called the village her home for her entire life. She attended St. Michael's College in Colchester and now works as a staff accountant in the Vermont Academy business office.
"I always sort of felt the urge to serve, so this seemed like the opportune moment," she said. "I just think I can take the skills I have from my job and my education and apply them and make some positive changes in the village.
"We need to bring businesses in and give incentives to the businesses already here to stay and to thrive," she continued, adding that she wants to improve the village's infrastructure, specifically the roads and sidewalks. "I need to get involved. I've been here long enough - it's time to pay my dues."
Deborah Wright, who is also running for village auditor, wants to continue the work she started when she served a two-year trustee term a few years ago. She told the Reformer she wants to empower people and clean up a lot of the messes in the village.
"We have to be concerned about our community, our kids and our grandkids," she said. "We need to put more jobs in and grow current businesses."
Wright, who is the owner and president of Green Mountain Traffic Control, said she got to see the inside of local government during her time as a trustee and knows the jobs that need to get done. She also is very concerned about the village's drug problem and has expressed support for the police K9 unit. She even drafted a letter stating her business is willing to provide as much as $800 for a bulletproof vest for the drug-sniffing dog, a 1-year-old Belgian Malinois donated to the BFPD by the Vermont State Police Canine Association in September 2013.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. Follow Domenic on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.