Gov. appoints Barnett as Windham County side judge
BELLOWS FALLS -- Gov. Peter Shumlin recently appointed a local businessman and longtime public servant as a Windham County side judge following the resignation of Joseph S. Spano.
Shumlin selected Lamont Barnett, co-owner of The Rock and Hammer, from the two names recommended by the Windham County Democratic Committee. The other suggestion was Elliott Greenblott of Brattleboro. The governor called Barnett to inform him of his appointment earlier this month.
Spano was elected to the position in 2010 but had to step down in June due to health issues. Side judges typically serve four-year terms but there are just two and a half years remaining in Spano's term.
Barnett said on Friday he is looking forward to serving as a side judge. He said the position entails developing the county budget, sitting with presiding judges and serving as a fact-finder in Superior Court and sitting in on traffic court as well as small claims and uncontested divorces.
Each of the 14 counties in Vermont have two side judges. Windham County's other side judge is Patricia Duff, of Brattleboro.
"I am very much looking forward to this," he said in a telephone interview, mentioning he has not yet performed any duties. "It's a new challenge. I thought years ago it would be a unique position to have."
Johnson said he and the committee recommended Barnett and Greenblott because they both expressed interest in holding the position and are highly qualified. He said, however, Shumlin was not limited to the recommendations and could have chosen anyone else he wanted.
He said Barnett's time as county chairman has prepared him to be a side judge.
"I think he'll do very well. He's a fair-minded person," Johnson said. "I think the county will be very happy with his tenure."
Barnett said his experience in local government likely made him the stand-out candidate.
He was on the Rockingham Selectboard for 14 years and served as its chairman for eight. He is also the Old Home Days Committee's fundraising chairman, a justice of the peace and serves on the Rockingham Board of Civil Authority.
As a member of the BCA's site visit committee, Barnett and two others recently toured the Bellows Falls hydroelectric dam after owner TransCanada filed a grievance about its assessed value by a state-hired appraiser. The BCA ultimately raised its appraisal, which is bound to disappoint TransCanada. The North American energy giant will have to pay more taxes for a higher property assessment.
Barnett has also worked with many municipal budgets, which he said are actually bigger than county budgets because they have more departments and line items.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.
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