Incumbent ready for longer term

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BRATTLEBORO — Tim Wessel has enjoyed his two one-year terms on the Select Board so much that he's running for a three-year seat.

"I think I'm good at listening to multiple sides of an issue and making what I like to call evidence-based decisions that are pretty solid for the town," he said. "I can hold conservatives and progressives in the same two hands, and I can look at both sides of an issue. I hope people can recognize that."

Having won the last two elections, Wessel is tired of campaigning every year. He said he feels he has enough knowledge and skills to ask the voters for a three-year term.

Wessel is running against newcomer Ben Coplan for the seat during the March 5 election.

"I think we've been doing some pretty good work," Wessel said. "I'd like to continue, as a board, to be very responsive to the community."

Serving as chairman of the board is not out of the question, he said, although it is not yet being discussed. Current Select Board Chairwoman Kate O'Connor is not running again.

Wessel was planning to go to Montpelier this week with the town manager to start lobbying the Vermont Legislature to create a limited self-governance pilot program modeled after one in West Virginia. The idea is to allow certain municipalities to operate under Home Rule rather than Dillon's Rule.

Towns under Dillon's Rule are prohibited from doing things unless specifically allowed by the state, Wessel said.

"So in Vermont, we basically have to have an approved charter change any time we want to do something like the 1 percent option tax or somehow adjust the tax structure or adjust how we do something as simple as apply for road funding," he said. "It all has to go through the state in a very set way. So it ties our hands when it comes to many things."

As a hub town, Wessel said, "our taxpayers are burdened more than other taxpayers in the surrounding communities." His hope is to find ways to lessen the property tax burden.

The Select Board and Vermont League of Cities and Towns are proponents of the self-governance program. Town Meeting representatives will be asked to join the board in expressing strong support at their annual meeting on March 23.

Another item coming up at the meeting is the local 1 percent option tax. Wessel was responsible for proposing its adoption.

"It's the last way we're allowed currently to raise funds for our revenue," he said, "charging that one extra penny on the sales tax."

Wessel said he loves serving on the town's Traffic Safety Committee and would like to see budgeting increased for things it looks at.

"Because I think we're in a sad state of affairs and it really says something about your town when you can't bring everything up to [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance and have your sidewalks looking good and be safe for everybody," he said, while acknowledging "there's always limitations."

Another concern for Wessel is the "stratification" of Brattleboro. He worries the grand list will collapse if it does not include enough middle income earners.

Wessel wants more emphasis put on getting former residents to return.

"I would love to see Vermonters be better able to afford living here," he said.

Not wanting to share too many details on an idea he has for improving the housing situation in Brattleboro until after the election, Wessel said it would be a program to help people feel confident about purchasing an older home. As a landlord, he had a vacancy at one of his apartments about eight months ago and saw the need firsthand.

"I just thought to myself, wow, 30 applicants who filled out an initial application and got it to me within 24 hours," he said. "So that tells you something about the desperate demand for reasonably priced apartments in town."

Wessel also owns Vermont Films, which specializes in video production. He works for house hunters nationwide and local clients such as C&S Wholesale.

Wanting to do the "back to the land thing," Wessel built an off-grid home in Putney in 2001 and another one there in 2005 after living in New Jersey. He moved to Brattleboro in 2007.

His Select Board page can be found at facebook.com/BrattleboroTim.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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