By RUSSELL JONES
Three of the four candidates in contested races showed up for a candidate Q and A forum held by the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night in the Town Hall basement. The candidates introduced themselves to voters and fielded questions from residents.
Selectboard candidates Dennis Reisenweaver and Tim Guiles were on hand as well as school board candidate Derek Larsen. Due to a death in his family, school board candidate Mike Lufkin had to rearrange his work schedule and could not be present for the event. Bill Moore was the moderator for the event.
Both candidates were given three minutes to introduce themselves before fielding questions from the dozen residents in attendance.
After introductions, which can be seen here; the meeting was then turned over to audience questions. Both candidates expressed being impressed with the current management of the town and stated they were not micro-managers and would look at the big picture.
Reisenweaver would like to see the town focus more on bringing more businesses into town to shift the tax burden away from citizens and more towards business.
Guiles sees the selectboard as a body that should set big goals for the town down the road and then work to steer the town in the direction it needs to go to achieve those goals.
Asked about the lack of qualified individuals to fill available jobs in the area, Reisenweaver said he would like to see a community college or trade school in Brandon using the high school as feeder.
“Right now there are a lot of jobs going unfilled,” Reisenweaver said. “But we’re not keeping our young people either. They’re not getting this work. Try to find a plumber; they are few and far between. I think Brandon should look towards developing some type of educational institution. I think that would help to keep young people in Brandon and possibly bring new businesses and industry into Brandon.”
Guiles felt that finding ways to tap into the state training fund to help residents get the education needed to get available jobs is a great idea and one he would be behind.
“When I did my door-knocking during my state campaign, I met several business owners that could not find employees, they had work but just had a hard time finding the people,” Guiles said. “I think part of that problem is a population issue of needing to get more people into our state. I was encouraged that the state is moving along with the minimum wage bill and I think that will help with employment opportunities in the sense of providing people with a livable wage so people can afford to live here.”
School board candidates
Due to the death in his father, Mike Lufkin had to rearrange his work schedule at the last minute and could not make it to the forum, but moderator Moore read a prepared statement on his behalf.
“I would like to apologize for not being able to be in attendance,” Moore read. “I have a degree from Castleton State College in business administration and have been working as a portfolio manager for the last 19 years. I feel my experience in the financial industry as well as the years I spent on the Neshobe board and planning committee would be beneficial to the school board in trying to manage the budget and the ebbs and flows of the economic markets.”
Lufkin has lived in Brandon for the past 19 years and his wife was raised in the Brandon community. He has children attending Otter Valley High School and said he was committed to offering his time and energy to the board.
Larsen has lived in the district for 10 years and has family all over the area. He received a bachelors in Elementary Education and a masters in Special Education from St. Joseph the Provider. He also has an advanced degree in Educational Systems Change from the University of Vermont.
Larsen was a teacher for 36 years in Vermont at private, state, and public schools including 3 years at Lothrop Elementary, as well as other elementary, middle and high school positions in the Champlain valley.
Larsen then answered tough questions from residents for nearly an hour. He said he was in favor of the current school bond, citing their seemed to be a good deal more thought and community interaction that went into this bond compared to the November bond.
Larsen was against closing the small schools just for efficiency reasons, stating he would like to see the community centers they are now stay that way in the future.
“As a servant leader I will work hard to ensure high quality and equitable educational opportunity for each of our communities,” Larsen said in his closing statement. “I view the OVUU Board, under the Policy Governance model that we now use, as the navigators of the ships in our fleet; the administrators and teachers as captains and crew that make things happen on the way to our destination.”
“The decision making in this district happens at many levels and is an ongoing responsibility of all the parties involved,” Larsen continued. “Interpretation of policies for their guidance needs to be discussed. Examination of procedures for their usefulness and equity needs to occur. Supervision of practices is essential for continuous quality teaching/learning experiences.”