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Levy not seeking reelection after 12 years on Essex Selectboard

With town votes right around the corner, the Town and Village board races are starting to take shape.

In March 2020, two seats on the Essex Selectboard will be up for election--those currently being held by Max Levy and Andy Watts.

Watts has announced his plan to run once again while Levy will be stepping away after spending 12 years on the board.

Levy will be finishing his fourth three-year term over the next few months. During his tenure, he spent five years as the selectboard’s chair and another five as its vice chair.

“It is time for new energy on the board and for me to move on to other opportunities,” Levy said. “It has been an honor and pleasure to serve the entire community of Essex as a Selectboard member for the past 12 years.”

Levy said he plans to do more traveling with his wife, Alison--a sixth-grade English teacher at Essex Middle School who is set to retire this summer. Levy is also going to spend time volunteering nationally with the Red Cross and locally in the community. He is already stepping into the latter--being on the Essex Rotary’s board as the president elect for 2021.

“Max Levy has been a strong and dedicated member of the selectboard for 12 years,” said Elaine Haney--selectboard chair. “He staunchly supported the needs and wants of the residents of the entire town and consistently worked hard to protect their interests. Max is a role model for us board members, and he led us through some challenging times. We will miss his leadership, thoughtfulness, long memory, and quiet humor. We thank Max for being a true public servant as well as a mentor and friend.”

For the Village’s Board of Trustees, three seats are open for election this year. Two of those--currently being held by George Tyler and Daniel Kerin--are for three-year terms. The third is just a one-year term--currently being held by Amber Thibeault--which will complete the three-year cycle that Haney had won in 2018 before stepping down last year; that full, three-year seat will once again be up for election in 2021.

Tyler and Kerin have both stated that they plan to run for reelection, while Thibeault was still contemplating the idea as of Jan. 16.

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Founders Memorial fourth graders bring concerns about homelessness to Vermont State House

Fourth-grade students from Founders Memorial School (FMS) recently had the amazing opportunity to visit the Vermont State House and speak with legislators about an issue they deemed extremely important.

The trip to Montpelier coincided with the state’s Jan. 15 Homelessness Awareness Day with the fourth graders advocating for increased funding and support for Vermont’s homeless population.

“We believe that if we can stop homelessness in Vermont, we might be able to stop homelessness everywhere,” said Oliver, a Founders Memorial student.

Fellow student Emma said, “We believe everyone deserves a home.”

“Anytime we can make a learning experience come alive for students in an authentic way, we give students the message that: the things they learn in school are relevant, important, and transferable,” said FMS fourth-grade teacher Melanie Savio. “This opportunity for our students to lead an initiative and get floor time from high-level stakeholders is a life-changing event. Through Service Learning Project, students are empowered to take an active role in being the change they wish to see. It doesn’t get any better than this!”

The students had been working since October with Service Learning Project (SLP)--a Brooklyn-based student-driven civic engagement program which has recently expanded into Vermont. SLP is organized around a founding principle that: children and teens of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can use their powerful voices to make positive change in their schools and neighborhoods.

“We were devastated to learn that one-third of all homeless adults and children in New England are here in Vermont. We feel terrible that not every person can have a comfortable and safe home--a place to make memories. It’s hard to think about how there are so many homeless people in our state, and it’s even harder to think about them trying to survive the winter,” said Lizzy, one of the students involved in the project.

“We feel upset because homeless people are not getting the services they need and are not treated equally. We would like to help stop that,” added Lael.

During school-day and after-school programs, youth in grades K-12 work together to help solve social problems of their choice. Driving every step of the process, SLP students have tackled issues ranging from child nutrition to bullying to homelessness to the environment.

Nearly 40 FMS fourth graders met weekly with SLP faculty member Allie Cashel to establish the focus of their project, research it, and develop their action plan. After brainstorming and considering more than 30 issues to tackle, the group chose to address the homelessness crisis in Vermont. They took a deep dive into the causes, impact, and extent of homelessness throughout the state while also meeting with Reagan Murphy, a representative from the Committee on Temporary Shelter, to learn about potential solutions.

The students then went into the action plan phase of the project and prepared for their visit to the State House. They set up individual meetings and prepared detailed advocacy presentations for six state representatives (Tim Ashe, Linda Myers, Christopher Pearson, Phillip Baruth, Marybeth Redmond, and Robert Bancroft) and spoke directly to Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman about their passion for this issue.

“We are so proud of our young advocates and the work they are doing to help create tangible change in our community and beyond,” Cashel said. “It was wonderful to see the students’ knowledge on this issue evolve over the past couple of months and to see their commitment to ending homelessness in Vermont continue to grow. Working with Melanie Savio, Colleen Legris, and the whole team at FMS has been a joy. I am so excited that these students have set the tone for future SLP student groups here in Vermont.”

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Essex Rotary selects 2020 ‘Service above Self’ honorees

The Essex Rotary Club has made the 2020 selections for its annual awards which honor individuals for community service and their dedication to living the Rotary motto of “Service above self.”

Four of the accolades go to representatives from public service organizations while the last goes to another model member of the community. All 5 will be recognized at the Rotary’s dinner--set to take place Feb. 12 at The Essex.

Receiving the club’s coveted Essex Rotary Service above Self award is Valerie Gabert, coordinator of the Heavenly Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church. Public service honorees are Lt. Ken Beaulieu (Essex Police Department, ret.), Assistant Chief Tim Wear (Essex Junction Fire Department), senior paramedic Mike O’Keefe (Essex Rescue), and Lt. James Marshall (Essex Town Fire Department).

Gabert is being honored for her leadership and vision for the food pantry as a volunteer over the last 18 years. She works to help with food insecurities in Vermont--looking to expand the reach of services to include schools, senior centers, and other organizations. Gabert, who has been the pantry’s coordinator for the last 8 years, has worked with local schools to have food available during vacation breaks for children who qualify for free breakfast and lunch.

For the public service laurels, each recipient must exemplify the Rotary’s “Service above self” criteria and demonstrate exemplary humanitarian service with an emphasis on personal service and helping others.

Beaulieu is recently-retired after serving 30 years in the community. During his career, he worked his way up through the ranks to become a lieutenant, and he was involved in many of the major cases in Essex during his tenure.

Wear is a fourth-generation firefighter--starting his fire service career in Canaan, N.Y. before moving to Richmond, Vt. where he spent 8.5 years. Wear rose to the rank of captain before joining Essex Junction Fire in 1998. Since then, he has held positions of lieutenant, captain, and--most recently--assistant chief.

O’Keefe has spent 43 years as a provider of pre-hospital emergency medical care. During his extensive career, he climbed the ladder of EMS education and licensure to become a senior paramedic--serving as the EMS command officer during the 1984 Amtrak train derailment. O’Keefe has co-authored 9 EMS books and currently serves as the chair of the Vermont EMS District 3 Paramedic Committee.

In his tenure of four years, Marshall has quickly distinguished himself as the No. 1 in call response and attendance at fire training, and he is always the first to volunteer for any assignment. Marshall coordinates the Fire Prevention Week activities where station tours are hosted and visits to local schools and daycares are made.

Tickets to the February dinner are $35 and are available by contacting Amy Jackman, before Feb. 7, at amy.marie.jackman@gmail.com.