SWANTON – Ed White will be joining the Swanton selectboard for at least the next few months, filling a seat recently vacated by former chair Joel Clark until Town Meeting Day elections this coming March.
White, the former owner and manager of an automobile sales business in St. Albans, was appointed with a uniform vote during the Swanton selectboard’s latest meeting.
Also in the running for what was then a vacant seat was former selectperson Harold Garrett and Michelle Nordberg, a relative newcomer to Swanton involved in the Swanton Enhancement Project and its Community and Economic Development Task Force.
In a short question and answer session, White introduced himself as an experienced businessman with 42 years under his belt who said he would aim to bring more businesses to Swanton.
“I ran my own business for 42 years,” White said, “and I’d like to think it speaks for itself that a person can run a business for 42 years.”
“And this,” he added, referencing the selectboard, “is a business”
When asked what he believed Swanton’s biggest challenge was, White’s answer was curt. “Taxes,” White said, spurring a laugh from the board.
Garrett introduced himself as a former selectperson who could fill-in as an experienced hand able to guide Swanton’s newer selectpersons through a budgeting season influenced by an ongoing pandemic.
“This is going to be a challenging year with COVID-19,” Garrett said, “and, somewhere along the way, there’s got to be some sacrifices that have to be made.”
Garrett said he only sought a short-term appointment. “I’m not looking for a long term,” he said.
Nordberg introduced herself as someone with business and accounting experience, a law enforcement background and deepening involvement with town politics since arriving in Swanton five years ago.
Her ongoing involvement in efforts like the Swanton Enhancement Project led some on the board, like its vice chair Mark Rocheleau, to wonder whether Nordberg would be spreading herself thin by also joining the town’s selectboard.
“I’d say you’d run yourself too thin,” Rocheleau said. The board’s chair, James Guilmette, would second those concerns later in the selectboard’s back and forth questioning of Nordberg.
White, meanwhile, said he felt Nordberg was the most qualified of the candidates standing before the selectboard, saying as much when he was introduced during the board’s meeting last Monday night.
“If I was sitting in your seat, I’d have to pick Michelle,” White told the selectboard.
When asked about what they felt were the greatest challenges facing Swanton at the moment, Garrett said he felt the competition from online retail meant Swanton would lose its brick and mortar stores.
Nordberg, meanwhile, said she felt the biggest issue facing the community was “derision,” spurred from COVID-19 and the community’s recent conversations around racism, as well as the different “social determinants” and financial challenges facing different community members.
The Swanton selectboard adjourned for what, according to posted minutes, amounted to a 21-minute executive session. Afterward, the board’s vote for White was unanimous and White joined the board for the remainder of its meeting.
White will be serving on the selectboard at least until Town Meeting Day in 2021, serving as an appointed replacement for Clark until municipal elections will be held.
Clark announced earlier this year he planned to retire from the selectboard, stepping down as chair for a time before ultimately stepping off the board altogether in September.
Guilmette thanked Garrett and Nordberg for also considering a bid for the selectboard. “March isn’t far away,” he added.