With the deadline to apply and withdraw now passed, only two names will be on the 2021 Essex Town Meeting Day ballot for the open one-year seat on the selectboard.
Dawn Hill-Fleury, who currently sits on the board, is running to finish the three-year term vacated by Annie Cooper last April. Hill-Fleury was chosen by a unanimous selectboard decision in June to complete the second year of the term, being picked from a pool of eight applicants.
Challenging Hill-Fleury on the ballot for the one-year seat is Mark Nadeau who had not responded to requests for an interview as of this story’s publication.
A graduate of Johnson State College, Hill-Fleury has been an Essex resident for 61 years. She spent 40 years in school transportation before retiring but has continued to serve on various boards and committees since then. She’s been both a justice of the peace and on the board of civil authority for 49 years, and she served on the Essex Town School Board for 10 years. Hill-Fleury was also an active contributor to the Boy Scouts when her son was younger.
Hill-Fleury says part of why she’s given back to her community so much is because her parents raised her to do so. Another part, however, is her gratitude for how much people in the town assisted a widowed mother and contributed to her son’s education.
She said she’s running for the one-year seat because it was part of the commitment she made to the selectboard during her interview last June, but she also wants to finish the work that the board has started.
Q&A with Essex Selectboard candidate Dawn Hill-Fleury
Q: Are there any items or issues that you’re more eager to finish than others?
A: “I want to see where the merger’s going to go. I'm not opposed to merger; I think it would be a great thing. But I don't think we're quite there yet as far as all our facts and figures. So I really want to see it through and to see where it goes.
“I want to contribute to the future of Essex now that we're moving on. I want to do more with the racial justice movement here in the town, and I want to work on keeping our taxes manageable, also.”
Q: Is there anything surrounding the pandemic that you think you, as a selectboard member, could accomplish and help the town and its residents with?
A: “I want to be here to help these small businesses start recovering, because our small businesses have taken an awful hit here and I don't want to lose any. I want to do whatever I can to keep them here.
“I think because of COVID, we're going to see a larger increase in our school tax. So it makes it more important to keep the town tax manageable.”
Q: What is it that you really love about Essex and has kept you here all these years?
A: “I like it because it's a close-knit family and a close-knit feeling. When we first came here, it was so small, because we arrived here before IBM. But as it's grown and more people have come in, it’s been more like a family. It's not like you're in a city and you don't even know your neighbors. Here, you get to know your neighbors, and if somebody needs something, people are more than willing to step up and help.
“And this is even before the pandemic. You've seen it more during the pandemic, but even beforehand -- people were just neighborly and kind and caring. And I think it's a great place to raise the kids and have a family and be involved in the community.”