By Sheri Duff
In a packed Town Office meeting room on Tuesday, Feb. 18, six candidates for Selectboard were given the opportunity to talk face-to-face with Shelburne voters before Town Meeting on March 4.
Tim Pudvar currently fills the two-year Selectboard position and is running for re-election against Dick Elkins and Steve Walkerman. A resident of 20 years, Pudvar says it has been an honor to serve the Town of Shelburne and would like the opportunity to serve for two more years. A salesman for Nortrax Equipment, Pudvar feels the No. 1 issue for the Selectboard is the ramifications of Environmental Protection Agency stormwater regulations. “This is not optional,” he says. “We will have to address it … figure out how to pay for it, who will pay for it, and then how to maintain it. The costs are unknown but certainly over a million dollars. It’s unavoidable.”
Elkins, a real estate broker who served in the Navy and the Army Reserve, likes participating in town government. A Shelburne resident since age 2, Elkins is a Planning Commissioner of seven years (two as Chair), and has served for six years on the Shelburne Zoning Board and three years on the Development Review Board (DRB). He also has experience on the former Sewer Commission and serves as an alternate on the DRB. Elkins considers Route 7 a challenge for the Selectboard. “It’s where development should go. If we set up the right types of zoning, we can bring in some things possibly, my favorite, a conference center,” he shares. “A large hotel would bring people to Shelburne for a few days to enjoy its assets and would be a magnet for other businesses. It’s an exciting challenge and one that I would look forward to being a part of.”
Walkerman, a principal in the manufacturing company KneeBinding in Stowe with a background in engineering, is invested in the community of Shelburne and wants to give back. He previously served on the Underhill Selectboard for six years, five as Chair. “The most important thing the Selectboard has to do is to follow process. It’s really important that people’s voices are heard, that their concerns are expressed well and taken into consideration, so the process of coming to a conclusion meets everyone’s best interest,” he states. “When the process is followed correctly, even when citizens don’t agree with the result, they can accept the decision because the process was followed.”
Colleen Parker, Tom Koerner, and Randy Rowland are running for the three-year Selectboard seat. Eight-year resident Colleen Parker, a part-time board certified anesthesiologist and medical director of a local clinic, loves Shelburne, wants to help it stay healthy, and feels she has important skills and a fresh perspective to bring to the table. She has served on local athletic boards, hospital based ethics committees, as well as professional boards. “The Selectboard will need to focus on the new Town Manager’s transition because it will potentially set the stage for the next 13-15 years,” she explains. “If the town is running smoothly, all these other issues can be attacked.”
Born and raised in Shelburne, Koerner, who owns a local architectural design company, is “coming out of retirement.” After serving on the former Zoning Board for 19 or 20 years, 10 as Chair, and the Historic Preservation and Design Review Commission for 11 years, Koerner feels like he owes it to the town to use his knowledge and experience to help the town go forward. His primary concern is for Selectboard to focus some energy on maintaining the town’s rural character, which involves the development on Route 7 and its ripple effect on traffic. He says, “There’s no silver bullet to solve what happens on Route 7, but if there is a way to deal with some of these issue…it hinges on a dialogue between the Selectboard, Planning, and DRB. Those conversations will be really important.”
A Shelburnite since 1992, Rowland would like to give back to the town because it has given so much to his family. He has owned or operated several businesses and has served on 16 profit, non-profit, and governmental boards and feels he has the skills to serve the town well. He said the biggest challenge the Selectboard faces is the Town Plan. “There’s been a great deal of re-write on the part of the Selectboard and dissension on the Planning Commission about whether the changes should be returned to the Planning Commission,” he reminds, “but is not before the public hearings on Feb. 20 and 25. The process has been erupted, and we are rushing the Town Plan approval this month. I would like to see it more thoroughly examined in combined meetings between the Selectboard and Planning.”
Four candidates support passing Article X with Pudvar and Walkerman opposing. “Article 10 is striking out at volunteerism” Pudvar states, among other reasons for his opposition. “It’s a mistake to throw out the process [of how we vote for the Town Plan] just because people are dissatisfied with that process. It will delay updating the Plan and special elections cost money.”
As to how the Selectboard should respond to through traffic, all agree that Shelburne should take the lead in developing a solution before the State does, but their solutions to alleviating traffic vary. The group also disagree slightly in their answers to what the town has done well. “The highway department should be commended,” offers Walkerman. Elkins suggests the development of Shelburne Green, while volunteerism is the overwhelming response from the other contenders.
Candidates come to a consensus on such issues as a town 1 percent sales tax and the paving of Pond Road (“Definitely no, not at this time.”), ways of engaging community in town business, “Communication, communication, communication,” and development of the Route 7 North corridor – a resounding, “Yes.”
Community members who were unable to attend the Forum but are still interested in meeting the candidates can watch its rebroadcast on Burlington Telecom and Comcast channel 15 on Friday, Feb. 21 at 8:30pm and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 5:30pm.