Elaine Haney will be an incumbent in the upcoming race for the Town of Essex Selectboard as she’s announced that she will be seeking a second term.
Haney, who has been the chair of the selectboard for the last two years, will be running for the only three-year seat open for election. There is also a one-year seat available which will complete the three-year term vacated by Annie Cooper last April and taken over by Dawn Hill-Fleury in June for the remainder of its second year.
Since moving to Essex in 2000, Haney has served on the Village of Essex Junction Board of Trustees, on the Brownell Library Board of Trustees, as a village planning commissioner, on the Town and Village Public Works Review Committee, and as the town and village’s representative to Channel 17 Town Meeting Television while being a chair of its board for several years.
Haney works for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, now serving as the director of partnerships & community engagement, where she leads projects involving community and economic development and is part of a team disbursing emergency economic recovery grants to Vermont businesses and communities dealing with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I'm running again because I want to continue doing so many of the things that our board is doing right now,” said Haney. “I am deeply invested in the racial equity and inclusion work we're doing, and I want to continue doing that. I want to see merger through -- if it passes, or if it doesn't pass to continue doing the work of consolidating and bringing tax equity to our community.
“I see other things that I want to do for our community, like exploring a local options tax, pandemic recovery, definitely building up the strengths of our Economic Development Commission, and increasing our relationships with local businesses. And there’s also a conversation about cannabis that the community is going to have to have, and I'm eager to do that as well. Our town has a lot going on, and I'm very excited about the future of the town. So I want to continue to be a part of that.”
Q: Outside of what you just mentioned, is there anything else you would like to accomplish if you were to get re-elected for another term?
A: “I definitely want to continue building relationships with the community and bringing them together: exploring the possibility of neighborhood assemblies, building a relationship between all of us so that we can continue to get along and get along better. The merger discussion always makes our community struggle with the differing opinions, and I'm really hopeful that our equity work that we're taking on will help us deal with that and we'll continue to move on as a stronger community. So I want to be there to help that happen.”
Q: Do you have any ideas as to how you would get that done?
A: “Like I said, exploring the idea of neighborhood assemblies, which was recommended to the selectboard back in 2015 or ‘16 with the Essex Governance group: giving individual neighborhoods the ability to communicate amongst themselves and with their town government in a more-effective way. This is something that our interim community development director, Owiso Makuku, is interested in exploring, too. And just continuing dialogues; involving the community in our equity work has already started, and we're getting some very valuable feedback. Those community conversations are going to keep going on, and the more we talk, the better it will be.”
Q: How long have you been thinking about running for re-election? Was there any doubt over the last three years that you wouldn’t?
A: “I thought about it in terms of the level of work and the amount of difficult conversations to come. This is not an easy job at all, and it has gotten more complicated as time goes on. I want to do it. And if you want to be all in, it's a lot of work. So I just needed to confirm with myself that I was still up to that challenge and still willing to take on that workload, and I absolutely am. I wanted to make sure that I was ready to continue with the level of commitment that I have right now.”
Q: What is it about Essex that you love and keeps you here?
A: “When I first moved to Vermont, I lived in St. Albans. When I started having a family, I was looking around Vermont for the best school system I could find, and Essex was the one that I discovered. Researching it further, I found that we had an outstanding [recreation] system, we have two fantastic libraries, we were close enough to my job and my husband's job -- so commuting and that kind of stuff was important, too. But we wanted to be in a place that was good for families, and Essex fit the bill in every respect. And I'm so glad we moved here.”
Haney added that she’s excited about how differently campaigning will look this year as she won’t be going door-to-door or holding public gatherings because of the pandemic. Instead, she’s planning to hold virtual house parties and take advantage of videoconferencing technology that has become increasingly popular since last spring. Haney will be contested on the March ballot as at least one challenger, Tracey Delphia, has also announced her candidacy for the three-year seat.