ENOSBURG FALLS – A handful of community leaders from around the county met for a forum at Enosburgh’s Methodist church Saturday morning with a simple message: It won’t always be easy, but if someone wants to make a difference in their community, the opportunities are there.
Those leaders, elected members of different governing boards and initiatives from across Franklin County, seemingly all came to that conclusion during a modestly attended forum on local politics organized by former St. Albans City Mayor Liz Gamache, Enosburgh Initiative leader Jim Cameron and the Messenger.
“We’re doing it because we really care deeply about our communities and we believe at the local level we can work together to make a change,” Gamache said. “I think that’s really exciting for what it means we could do today, and what it means we can leave for tomorrow for future generations.”
The Messenger moderated the forum, a conversation between Gamache, Highgate selectboard chair Sharon Bousquet, Swanton Village Trustee Adam Paxman, Montgomery planning commission chair and Montgomery Thrives chair Alissa Hardy, Enosburgh selectperson Polly Rico and Lisa Hango, the vice chair of the nascent Northern Mountain Valley Unified Union School District’s school board and a member of the Berkshire school board.
Despite the whole of Franklin County resting between some of their towns, each participant’s respective leap into town politics appeared to overlap in some way, with themes of recruitment and civic duty pushing each participant into their towns’ respective leaderships.
In Bousquet’s case, it was a vacancy on the town’s selectboard she was ultimately appointed to fill. Now a selectboard chair, Bousquet said she was only intent on registering her dog when Highgate Town Clerk Wendi Duaablon, suggested she apply for that vacancy.
“I have a large mouth… and I’m opinionated, so I said, ‘Well, there are some things I’m concerned about,’” she said. “I’m a taxpayer, and I’m concerned about taxes going up and what direction the town’s going in. We have an aging population… and I’m concerned the taxes are going to tax people out of their homes.”
Bousquet was appointed and later elected to a subsequent term on the board.
Hardy said she ultimately volunteered to join the planning commission when, one Town Meeting Day, a call for volunteers went unanswered.
“I watched everybody sit down and nobody stood up,” Hardy said. “I nudged the person to the side of me and said, ‘You can nominate me if you’d like.’
“I had no idea what the planning commission did… but I just had a feeling that somebody had to step up and do all these various jobs, or it wouldn’t be done,” Hardy continued. “Here I am now… and I feel like change is bound to happen and it’s an opportunity to help form that change.”
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