VERNON — Two new Vernon residents and a fifth-generation farmer are vying for a two-year position on the Vernon Select Board.
Jeff Dunklee, who has been on the board for the past nine years, is being challenged by Ken Bloom and Katherine Baldwin.
Baldwin and her family moved to Vernon in 2019. Bloom has also been a resident since 2019. Dunklee and his wife and daughter own and operate the 650-cow Vern-Mont Farm on Fort Bridgman Road.
“I am originally from across the river in Winchester, N.H.,” wrote Baldwin in a candidate statement posted to the Vernon website. “After graduating from the University of Maine at Farmington with a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education I moved to Kentucky to start a long career in mental health and developmental disability services.”
After 15 years in North Carolina, and after her husband, Chad, retired from the U.S. Army, they decided to return to New England with their three children.
“Before moving to Vernon, we started to speak to and get to know the people here,” wrote Baldwin. “We learned of the friendliness and helping spirit that is the heart of Vernon and of course fell in love with the beauty of this majestic location. For these reasons we decided that we would call Vernon our forever home. Since settling here we have met many of our Vernon neighbors, talked to many more and developed what will be lifelong relationships. Our initial impressions have proven to be accurate and so much more. There is always a helping hand even from a stranger, a needed item quickly available, errands run, and encouragement shared.”
Baldwin told the Reformer she hopes to focus on expanding Vernon’s business community.
“Future growth of Vernon is best accomplished by attracting industries similar to those already in our area, such as lumber and construction in the industrialized portion of Vernon, to assist with tax revenue,” she said. “For the growth of businesses in Vernon, encouraging entrepreneurs interested in starting small businesses like so many other small towns enjoy is imperative.”
But, said Baldwin, Vernon needs to attract the right kind of businesses that are in line with the town’s rural character.
“Big box stores and chains will never be what Vernon residents want, but rather small family-run businesses that benefit the existing community,” she said. “The people here choose to live in a small town for our quality of life. In turn, attracting small businesses to invest in our community will produce loyal clientele from their neighbors within and around Vernon. What I have learned prior to and from living here is that loyalty and support are the qualities exhibited by my fellow Vernon neighbors, qualities that should be expected for incoming businesses that wish to put down roots in Vernon.”
Baldwin works as an investigator for the Disability Law Center and her husband works part time at the Vernon Town Office.
“As Vernon rebuilds and looks to a future beyond Vermont Yankee there is also a desire to maintain the close knit small town community that we all love,” wrote Baldwin in her statement. “Supporting our neighbors in their endeavors while also growing the town revenue is a fine balance that is at the heart of the future planning for Vernon. This growth will take a dedicated effort of support for our current infrastructure while also attracting the type of growth that will enhance the beauty and attraction of Vernon without commercialization.”
Bloom, who recently started Bloomin’ Italian, a catering service, wrote in his statement to the town that he hopes to bring his leadership skills and business experience to the Select Board.
“I have over 40 years experience in business and leadership, including successfully shouldering the responsibility for managing large teams working in retail and real estate,” he wrote. “To that end, I have a great deal of experience as a negotiator. As a team player, I can get the job done.”
According to Bloom’s Linked In page, he worked in the leisure, travel and tourism industry, as a contact center manager for Men’s Wearhouse and as a regional manager for Zale’s Jewelers.
Bloom, who did not respond an email request from the Reformer, wrote in his statement that he is single parent with young children.
“We have immersed ourselves in all that Vernon has to offer, including events and activities promoted by the town,” he wrote. “What we have found is a vibrant community with a lot going on, including many recreational and educational activities not found in other towns.”
Bloom wrote that being a member of the board is mostly about taking the tax dollar resources that the residents provide and managing those resources efficiently to deliver government services for mutual benefit.
“Effective leadership requires openness and transparency,” he wrote. “True representation means listening to the concerns of townspeople and addressing those concerns while also openly sharing information concerning projects and issues. I am running on these values and, should I be elected, am determined to be a voice for the people.”
Dunklee wrote in his statement that he is a fiscal conservative who, over his decade in town service, has tried to act “in a respectful and thoughtful manner in all my interactions with others during the course of my service. I’ve felt that my efforts have contributed positively to our community.”
Dunklee told the Reformer there is value in having someone on a board or committee who has experience “or has seen a thing or two and is able to provide institutional memory.”
Dunklee said his main concern is on the long-term future of the community.
“The Town of Vernon is in a solid financial position thanks to funds that were saved due to (and thanks to) the largess of Vermont Yankee taxes and the foresight of previous generations of town residents,” he said. “It’s not a secret this community has enjoyed services and assets over the years that other towns would consider luxuries. By continuing to support every ‘nice-to-have’ but unnecessary service as they currently exist will only place an ever increasing burden on our taxpayers.”
Dunklee wrote that over the past decade he has worked hard to ensure the town’s tax dollars are spent “wisely, prudently and with transparent accountability.”
“I’ve always tried to balance this frugality with supporting the services that residents desire and need while at a price we as a community can afford,” he wrote.
Polls will be open at the Vernon Town Hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 2.