FERRISBURGH — The emergence of a write-in candidate will give Ferrisburgh residents a choice on Town Meeting Day for the posts of town clerk and treasurer, both of which will open with the retirement of current Town Clerk and Treasurer Chet Hawkins.
On the Jan. 27 deadline, Hawkins’ grandson, David Hawkins, 23, filed his paperwork for town clerk. At the same time, Garrit Smits, 31, handed in his petition for treasurer.
They were the only candidates to file, but Gloria Warden, 65, wife of longtime selectboard member Jim Warden, has mounted a write-in campaign for both jobs. She announced her candidacy through social media in mid-February.
The Wardens confirmed in an email on Friday morning that if Gloria Warden wins the election, Jim Warden — who is running unopposed for another term on the March ballot — will step down from the selectboard.
Chet Hawkins, 66, who has not seen eye-to-eye with the selectboard on all issues in recent months, said he only decided to step down on the Saturday before the Monday, Jan. 27, deadline. He then informed the selectboard of his decision on the Tuesday after the deadline, upsetting members of the board with the late notice. Hawkins told the Independent last week the selectboard could also have asked him what his intentions were.
Warden said she would have filed petitions if she had known Hawkins was going to retire.
“I had been approached to run and said I wouldn’t run against an incumbent because its their livelihood,” Warden said. “If I had known when the petitions were circulated, I would have taken out the petitions.”
The Independent spoke to each of the three candidates and asked them about their résumés, their qualifications for the positions, their motives for running, and the reasons residents should support their candidacies.
Hawkins, a lifelong Ferrisburgh resident, is an Army National Guard sergeant and intelligence analyst who now oversees three other analysts. He has worked fulltime for the Guard in the past, but now works a weekend a month and says he volunteers about another week of his time every month.
Hawkins also works nights in Vergennes as a security guard and receptionist at United Technologies Corp., and has studied criminal justice at the Community College of Vermont.
His Guard mission varies depending on circumstance.
“In war, my job would be to think like the enemy and explain what they will do and are doing,” he said.
Before his promotion, he helped coordinate the Guard’s response to Hurricane Irene, communicating with construction companies and town officials as well as his colleagues about what to expect from the rain storms and rising rivers that followed the main storm.
Hawkins believes that background has prepared him for the technical aspects of the clerk’s position.
“The Guard has gotten me really good in dealing with information, and that’s a lot of what the clerk does,” Hawkins said. “It’s a lot like what I do as an analyst.”
Smits, an Addison native, moved to Ferrisburgh 10 years ago. He has two bachelor’s degrees from Champlain College, one in business administration that he earned in 2004, and one in accounting that he earned in 2012 after years of part-time study.
Currently, he is self-employed as an accountant, does tax preparation, and has kept books for several firms. Smits also does landscaping and works part-time in the Ferrisburgh Post Office, and has been the assistant treasurer for the Ferrisburgh Methodist Church.
Smits was the only applicant for the post of Ferrisburgh assistant treasurer when it was advertised late in 2013, but the selectboard opted not to act on the position before Town Meeting Day.
Smits said his résumé makes him qualified for the treasurer’s post.
“I do feel that I would be able to perform, given my education and past experience, my past work history,” he said.
Warden moved to Ferrisburgh 26 years ago, when she also began working in Charlotte’s town offices. She began there as an assistant treasurer, but soon moved into the town’s planning and zoning office, where she now works 35 hours a week and is the first person who meets residents with new proposals.
She is also the clerk of the zoning board, has helped maintain the town’s website and served as the town’s wellness and 911 coordinators, and in the 1990s completed Champlain College’s business certificate program.
In Ferrisburgh, Warden served for nine years on the planning commission in the 1990s and has also been a member of the town’s recreation committee.
Warden said she is well prepared for both jobs.
“I’ve worked in a municipal office for over 20 years. I enjoy working with the people. I enjoy what kind of work it is,” she said. “I work with people every day and help people every day. That’s what it is when you work in a municipal office.”
PITCHES TO VOTERS
Warden said her interest in serving in town offices actually dates back to the 1990s, when she wasn’t chosen after former town clerk and treasurer Lynn George left the area.
“I’ve been interested in this position before,” she said, adding, “I love my town. I feel a loyalty to it. And I have experience in working in a municipal work environment. I have the background. And I would like to work for my town and my community and the people in it.”
Warden hopes, if elected, to help spark greater citizen involvement in town governance, in part through greater reliance on social media such as Front Porch Forum as well as the town’s website.
“I feel like what’s happening at the town hall, whether daily or weekly or monthly, needs to get out more to the residents. I would like to see the selectboard agenda available through our electronic resources,” she said. “Maybe it would spark interest and get the people more involved in the business of the town and things that are happening in town hall.”
Smits said his schedule would allow him to devote himself to the treasurer’s job.
“If I were to be elected I would be able to focus more of my time on the position,” he said.
Smits also believes his 2013 application for the position shows he is highly motivated.
“I feel I’m the only person who truly wants this job,” he said.
And he is prepared for the long haul.
“I’m 31. If I were elected I would be able to provide good service for a number of years,” he said, adding, “I’ve been working in the Ferrisburgh community for about 10 years. I’ve done a lot of work for my neighbors. I’m new and energetic. I want this position.”
Hawkins noted that not only his grandfather has served the town for many years in several capacities, but also two of his great-grandfathers were selectmen.
“I’ve always been kind of interested in doing the job because it was what grandpa did,” he said. “I grew up with him serving the town, and I wanted to continue that. It runs in the family.”
His familiarity with the town will make for a smooth transition, Hawkins said.
“A lot of what the town clerk has to do is dealing with the public, and growing up in Ferrisburgh I know pretty much everybody at least in passing, and I know the history,” Hawkins said.
And his Guard experience will provide the needed expertise, he said.
“I’m good with people,” Hawkins said, “and I’ve got the technical skills and the mindset to deal with all the information and tasks that will come with the job.”
Australian balloting will be held on March 4 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Ferrisburgh Central School.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.