ST. ALBANS TOWN – The leadership of the St. Albans Town is set to look a little younger going into 2019, with the selectboard unanimously electing Brendan Deso as the board’s chair during the board’s reorganization Monday night.
Selectperson Bruce Cheeseman will be returning as the vice chair of the board, another nomination that won unanimous approval from the rest of the board.
Monday night was also the first meeting of newly elected selectperson Jessica Frost, who unseated longtime board member and previous chair Bill Nihan during a Town Meeting Day election partially framed by questions about demographics and representation on the board.
Representation, particularly generational representation, hung over the selectboard’s reorganization last night and was explicitly referenced by selectperson Al Voegele when nominating Deso for the position of chair.
“With the addition of Jessica Frost to the selectboard, the town is able to initiate a transition to a younger generation of leadership,” Voegele said, reading from a prepared statement. “A leadership by age that will be experiencing some of the most difficult problems of this century and, by consequences of their decisions, will determine the town’s future as a place to live, work and play.
“To prevent a division between young and old, this transition to younger leadership will be based on the collegial partnership with the older generations of the selectboard and the community. Thus, it is my honor to nominate Brendan Deso to be the next chairperson of the town selectboard.”
Being in his early 20s, Deso is the youngest member of the town’s selectboard and likely one of the youngest selectpersons in Vermont. With Monday night’s appointment, Deso is also likely one of the youngest to chair a selectboard in Vermont.
Prior to Frost’s election, the makeup of the town’s selectboard was often criticized – both jokingly and sincerely – for being populated almost entirely by older men and increasingly contrasting with the more middle-aged population of the town at large.
Some of those criticisms would come from selectboard members themselves.
Deso will be entering his third year on the board with his reelection on Town Meeting Day. He will also be leading the selectboard after a contentious year that regularly divided the board into camps and resulted in frequent 3-2 votes.
With that in mind, Deso looked to strike a more positive tone with his appointment as the board’s chair.
“One message that should come from tonight’s meeting is that we are unified in the common goal of serving our constituents the best as possible,” Deso said. “We all know here that we may have a disagreement or two as the year progresses, but as long as we remember… that we’re united in our common goal of serving our community the best as possible, we’ll have no issues.”
The board also welcomed Frost to her first meeting.
“Congratulations,” Deso said. “We’re all really excited to work with you.”
“I’m excited to work with you guys,” Frost said. “I’m just absorbing everything right now.”
Frost, a RiseVT wellness specialist and the chair of the town’s parks committee, is also one of only a handful of women to be elected to the selectboard and the only member of the board with children currently in the town’s school district.
While the town maintains a roster of other appointed positions, those appointments will be made at the board’s next meeting, April 1.
The board also held off on adopting its rules of procedure, which the board readopts after reorganizing every year. They expect to likely revisit those rules of procedure on April 15.
Posting sites, where the town will post warnings for upcoming meetings, were also shifted around early in Monday’s meeting, with the selectboard narrowing its five posting sites to three. Those posting sites are now town hall, the Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center and the St. Albans Bay Post Office.
Deso also asked that agendas and minutes be shared on social media with the hopes that those warnings would reach larger audiences.
The Messenger will return to Monday night’s meeting, a two-hour marathon meeting touching base on everything from solar projects to ambulance services and the town garage project, in subsequent issues.
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