ESSEX — Brian Shelden is running for the one-year seat on the Essex selectboard.
Shelden launched a write-in campaign for the position after friends and community members asked him to step up. He faces competition from Ethan Lawrence, whose name is on the ballot.
A near life-long Essex resident, Shelden is a software developer and the chair of the Essex Economic Development Commission.
He spoke with the Reporter about why he's running and what he hopes to achieve if elected. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why are you running for this position?
A: Many people I respect actually asked me to run a write-in campaign. This happened after the after, there was only one person who filed paperwork to get on the ballot. There were a lot of people who were concerned [about that person], and I was one of them.
When 10s of people in the community said that it had to be me, I took that to heart and stood up a political campaign as fast as I knew how.
Q: What do you think makes you qualified to serve on the board?
A: Essex is my hometown, and I believe in a strong Essex. I've been very involved in the community, including as a Saxon Hill Advisory Board member and chair of the Economic Development Commission. I give back to the community as treasurer of the Essex Rotary Club.
Another thing that I think gives me qualifications here is my temperament. I'm very proud of the merger campaign that we ran. It was a team. It was positive. And it was fact-based. And our goal was to reduce the tensions and reduce the rancor whenever we could. We tried to stay above the fray whenever possible. There were times we didn’t succeed, no question, but those were our goals.
Q: What do you believe the selectboard’s biggest priorities should be this year?
A: I'm an engineer by training and a consultant by training, so one of the things you need to be careful of when you do consulting is it's better to under promise and over deliver. This is only a one-year seat. So there's a lot that I would love to do for Essex, but I’m hesitant to over promise and under deliver.
With that caveat, to me, our number one priority is emerging from the pandemic in a strong position. Number two is separation. We need to continue our positive relationship with our neighbors as we both navigate the pulling apart of our shared services and finances. Number three, climate change. Let's support the work of the Energy Committee. Four: housing. We need to increase our housing stock and plan for smart growth. Our goal here should be to build housing that allows people who work in Essex to live in Essex if that's what they want.
And last, sooner as opposed to later, we need to work to retain the key staff that we have and hire to replace. On the selectboard, I'm going to work to replace those losses with effective hires. I call on our community to treat the hardworking staff with the kindness and respect that they deserve.