Meet the Candidates for City Council and School Board

For City Council, District 1

Thomas J. Golonka

I want to thank the residents of District 1 for entrusting me with another two-year term as their city councilor. Over the past eight years I have been honored to assist the successive councils and city manager in making Montpelier a better place to live, work and raise a family. I have enjoyed my time on the council and look forward to bringing my expertise and experience in helping move us forward on many of the issues that have come before us.

Over the next two years, I would like to concentrate on developing a strategy to increase the grand list and work better with our regional partners. We have significant excess capacity in our city. Utilizing this capacity more efficiently can help all of us by alleviating the significant burden associated with our high tax rate.

For City Council, District 2

Anne Watson

I have been delighted to serve on City Council since August of 2012 as a way to give back to my community. I was appointed to fill the remainder of a vacant seat, and I look forward to continuing for a full term. As a science teacher at Montpelier High School, I have the unique perspective of participating both in city government and in our public school system. I understand how hard our city and school staff work to provide quality education and services to our residents.

In my next two years as a city councilor, I will work toward addressing goals laid out in the city’s master plan. This is a highly vetted document with a wide range of goals. One goal, for example, is for City Council to review and eliminate unnecessary regulatory obstacles to development. Making affordable and mixed-income housing accessible to young families will alleviate the tax burden and fill our schools. This is just one example, but I would really like to assess our progress as a city toward all of these goals, celebrate our successes and take next steps toward making our city an even better place to live.

For City Council, District 3

Steve Cook

In 2002, my children and I relocated to Montpelier after having worked in the capital city for two years, and shortly after we purchased our home. I have three sons; two are currently in the Montpelier school system. In 2006, I was appointed as the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing where I currently serve. I am a graduate of both Champlain College and Johnson State College. Over the years, I have served on a number of boards, including a term on Montpelier’s Mountaineers baseball team.

To ensure continued sustainability of the community and working families, both in terms of economic and social viability, my highest priority if elected to City Council is supporting economic development and measures to ease the tax burden on residents. I hope to implement a strategy to grow both resident and visitor spending in the capital city and support local business. Economic growth in our community will encourage expansion and improvement of existing businesses and quality development of both business and residential sectors in this community and aid in the recruitment and establishment of new businesses and residents. I have worked on these efforts in other Vermont communities and witnessed great success.

Jessica Edgerly Walsh 

I started my career in the nonprofit world working with Vermont communities and municipalities to clean up and prevent pollution. In the role of state director, I was responsible for managing staff and budget. Last year, I left the nonprofit world to help launch a successful 50-person solar company.

My primary interest, if elected, is to expand housing opportunities in the city, particularly housing accessible to young families and retirees. Montpelier’s population has been on the decline, meaning fewer families are footing the bill to maintain the city’s infrastructure and services. I am interested in working to reverse that trend: broadening the tax base, filling the schools and adding more to the bustle of the downtown.  In addition, I am interested in better connecting District 3 to the downtown business district, parks and other resources on the other side of the river. Whether it’s changes to zoning; plans for expanded sidewalk, road or bike path infrastructure; or a review of the circulator bus route, I want to make sure folks in every District 3 neighborhood can safely get into town.

Zack Hughes

My priority platform items are to (1) encourage a discussion around public safety in this community; (2) explore outside options for funding, such as grants; and (3) encourage wider use of public transportation. I am 35, a Montpelier resident for 22 years, single and a graduate of Montpelier High School, class of 1998. I studied one year of general business at Barre Vocational Technical Center. My additional education and training includes Community Leadership Training (2003); Board Governance Training (2005); Peer Support Respite Crises Training (2005); and Intentional Peer Support Training (November  2012 to February 2013).

I am currently employed as a peer support worker and peer line facilitator and serve on the boards of the Central Vermont Community Land Trust and Washington County Mental Health Services. I am interested in virtual flight, travel, reading and writing. I can be reached at zackforcouncil2013@aol.com.

Ron Wild

As a 20-year Montpelier resident and developer of inspiring community projects, I’m devoted to a vibrant downtown, healthy neighborhoods and a growing tax base. More housing—for a variety of income levels—means more taxpayers and greater vitality for our community and schools. Montpelier should be at the forefront of finding ways to rehabilitate its older homes and develop unoccupied spaces. Our streets and sidewalks need immediate attention. The council should foster a civic climate that makes Montpelier the most desirable place to work and live in central Vermont.

As director of Kids Fest, cofounder of First Night and director of the Vermont Alliance for Arts Education, I have helped enhance Montpelier’s reputation as a home for the arts. As marketing manager for Wheels Transportation, I worked vigorously to keep Montpelier accessible and livable. Today, as program assistant for Everybody Wins! Vermont, I work to bring caring reading mentors to our schools. Community engagement defines my life.

I’m running for the District 3 seat because I love Montpelier. I want to improve our district’s access to city services and facilities and to help make our city a place where we work creatively and positively toward the future. Reach me at ron.district3@gmail.com.

For School Board

Sue Aldrich

I am chair of the Board of School Commissioners and have children in the Montpelier school system. One of the many great things about the Montpelier community is the inclusion of our students in work-based projects. I know that our schools, teachers and students want to and do give back to the wonderful, tax-paying citizens who recognize the value of investing in the education of the community’s children. This already pays us back in terms of property value because as a realtor, I can tell you that many people both local and from out of state want to buy homes in Montpelier because of our schools. Buyers do the research, and the fact that we have a large number of students accepted to Ivy League schools as well as other highly competitive schools is extremely impressive. I could go on and on about the extraordinary education delivered by Montpelier schools. I will take all calls and questions on my cell phone: 839-0213.

Michele Witten Braun

In serving on the school board, I want to look for ways to develop and contribute to a decision-making process that is as transparent, constructive and creative as we can make it. I hope to hear from teachers, administrators and fellow parents about their ideas for maintaining high-quality education in Montpelier. My kids are in third and sixth grade: old enough to tolerate a few more night meetings. Working as the planner for Northfield means a lot of night meetings, working with boards and budgets, the public, state and federal agencies, and having many of the same challenges I expect to face on the school board. With my husband, Dave Braun, I have owned our home in Montpelier for 14 years, and I have been volunteering for the past seven years in the schools’ math, science, nature and snack programs, as well as serving on the board of the Union School Parents Group. I have a BA from Bowdoin College in government and romance languages and an MS from the University of Vermont in natural resources planning.

Lowell Vanderlip

I have lived in the central Vermont community for the past 40 years. For 20 of those years, I taught at Union Elementary School and so have a long history with the school system and the changes it has seen over the years. Following my teaching career at Union, I served for an additional 16 years as an elementary school administrator in Waterbury and Berlin. Three of my children attended Washington Central Supervisory Union schools from K–12, and my three stepchildren have attended Montpelier schools. The last will graduate in June! If elected, this will be my third term on the Montpelier School Board.

Some areas I think the board needs to give attention to over the next few years include the following: (1) Reviewing the scope and services offered through our preschool program; (2) focusing on the development of key literacy, numeracy and social skills in the lower elementary grades; (3) reviewing a proposal to move grade five from Union to Main Street School; (4) considering the implementation of foreign language instruction beginning in kindergarten; (5) continuing and expanding support for art, music and drama as integral parts of our school curriculum; (6) investigating creative uses of technology at the middle and high school as a means of expanding learning opportunities; and (7) maintaining quality buildings so that they may continue to serve as safe and inviting learning environments for our students into the future.

 

—compiled by Richard Sheir