Longtime selectwoman Irene Wrenner has filed a petition to seek re-election this Town Meeting Day while two other officials – selectman Michael Plageman and trustee Lori Houghton – confirmed they will step down at the end of their terms.
Plageman, the current selectboard vice-chairman, said he wants to spend more time with family after 17 years serving the town of Essex, the last six on the selectboard. His other roles include stints on the planning commission, development review board and the police station committee.
“That’s a pretty good run,” he said. “It’s been my privilege to serve the town of Essex as a selectboard member.”
Naming several of his proudest achievements, Plageman pointed to last year’s hiring of municipal manager Evan Teich and the onboarding of several other municipal employees to replace retirees (though he noted staff deserve all the credit for the latter). And he highlighted the ongoing consolidation efforts between the town and village, which he said have made great strides over the last five years as a handful of departments now operate under a single employee or have aligned practices across the municipalities.
“Ultimately, that’s just going to be great for Essex to level out the tax burden in both of those municipalities and to get some economics of scale to the taxpayers,” Plageman said.
Explaining her decision, Houghton also cited consolidation and said it’s a good time for someone new to join the trustees before the governance discussions advance too far. And, after just starting her second term in Montpelier, she said she eventually decided to step back and “admit that I’m not superwoman.”
“I just need to get something off my plate to focus on the state level, and it’s easy to do with the trustees because it’s still my responsibility to stay in touch,” she said.
Asked for some of her proudest accomplishments, Houghton highlighted her role in helping to create a handful of local events, initiatives or committees, including the Five Corners Farmers’ Market, the bike/walk committee, the tree committee, the capital project ranking system and the Heart & Soul process. She also pointed to the trustees’ decision to cap building heights downtown at four stories, preserve Whitcomb Farms through the Vermont Land Trust and building a working relationship between the trustees and selectboard.
For Wrenner, the decision to seek re-election means she will again look to continue her run as the longest tenured board member, dating back to her first election in 2007. Citing her dozen-plus years working on municipal issues in town, she said she hopes to continue helping the town and village work together and communicate better.
“I’m no longer learning the ropes but am instead listening for new information, putting it into context, and making what I hope are substantive contributions based on years of wrestling with many of the same issues,” she said.
A campaign website outlines Wrenner’s platform for re-election, noting a focus on equal representation, fair taxation and trustworthy policymakers, among others.
“I frequently speak up for the marginalized, the powerless, the under-informed,” she wrote. “I’m known for calling out behavior that doesn’t serve the greater good. I’ve been a scapegoat for people who have tried and failed to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.”
Petitions to run for one of the selectboard’s two three-year seats are due in the town clerk’s office by 5 p.m. January 28. Petitions to run for a seat on the trustees are due by 5 p.m. on March 4. Town elections are held on Town Meeting Day, March 5, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m, while village elections are held April 9.