DORSET — Three seats on the Dorset Selectboard are in play during this Town Meeting election. One of them is a 3-year seat currently held by Michael Connors, who is running for re-election. He is being challenged by Jack Stannard, a former member of the select board, whose bid to return to the board last year was unsuccessful by a narrow 5 vote margin. Stannard has also served on school board in the past.
There are also two 1-year positions open with three candidates vying to fill them. The top two vote-getters will occupy the positions. Henry Chandler is running for re-election to one of them alongside Meagan Thörn and Dan Frost.
Candidates reflected on their opinions about the town's water source, fire department, and other strength and weaknesses in the area as well as looking forward to the future development to bring about economic benefits.
Stannard is no newcomer for the select board election as he served 12 years before and about a decade on the school board. He was also born and raised in Dorset and hopes to guide the town toward its future, acknowledging real estate as the main industry.
"I've seen it [Dorset] go through a phase. Farming was very important, but even then, there were vacation homes and homes for artists and so on; Dorset was known for that," he said, "and I can't see any necessity from veering from that tradition in the foreseeable future."
One thing most of the candidates have in common is looking at the town's tax burden between opposite sides of the town.
"I'm on a prudential committee for the fire district. Looking at ways that we can equalize the tax burden for the voters between East Dorset and Dorset," he said. "They don't have as much taxable property and have higher tax, so I'm looking at a way to equalize that."
Stannard believes in the town government and thinks that the community is able to make decisions for the town's future. He mentioned that he was upset with the zoning code that was passed last year without having the town vote.
"I was upset that a change of magnitude of that zoning was passed by the board of selectmen before putting it for the voters," he said. "I wouldn't dream of passing it without putting it to a vote with the town."
Stannard appreciates the Dorset school bringing in families and wishes things will remain the same.
Connors has been on the zoning board of adjustment for 15 years and also has done several projects in the town. He said that he has contributed much to the board and understands changes that needs to be made in Dorset as well as to the water system.
"I'm a supporter of moving forward and making it safe for drinking water," he said. "I want it to be upgraded and better for the people. It's too small for today's standards. We have to keep up with the times and I'm able to be flexible and understand change."
Connors added that change needs to happen in Dorset and how real estate is managed, but also on a state level with regard to taxes.
"We need to change our local zoning a little bit," he said. "The state needs to make serious changes. Real estate is an issue but it has a lot to do with tax. It's not something that happened overnight."
The candidate is confident that he's right for the job of selectman and thinks that the people of Dorset will make the right decision.
Chandler is running again for a 1-year position against Dan Frost and Meagan Thörn. One of the things Chandler and the selectboard are focusing on is a collaborative effort with the Manchester selectboard on a study for the economic development of the Northshire. The study was reported in the Feb. 16 issue of The Journal.
"I think we've had a good year in Dorset and on the board of selectmen," he said. "We've had some controversy before I was elected and some of that has calmed down, but there are still issues out there."
The development of the town requires an active village core to serve all residents and invite out of town people to stay at various bed and breakfasts and other lodging locations. By working with Manchester, Chandler believes that a partnership will evolved with businesses in the town to promote the region.
"I think the Dorset electorate will be voting on some funding to support that partnership," he said. "I definitely support that collaboration with Manchester as long as the ideas we have for Dorset are appropriate; it's different from Manchester. We want to see economic development in Dorset that is appropriate and reflects the will of the Dorset community."
As for the zoning code that was passed before a town referendum reversed that decision, Chandler foresees a better balance between the selectboard, planning commission and what amendments are made so that the town's viewpoints are better represented.
"I would like to see the planning commission be a little more sensitive to the residents and enable businesses that are appropriate for Dorset," he explained.
He added that real estate is an important driver of Dorset's success; however the town also needs restaurants and inns in the village. He vowed continued support for the accomplishments of the existing companies and establishments in the town.
Furthermore, Dorset's water system seems to be occasionally inaccessible, according to Chandler.
"It's not as good as it could be for the town and stature of Dorset," he said. "We should have a water system that is always available where the fire hydrants work. We should have great, clean water that the town can really be proud of. Right now we have great, clean water, but it's not always available for firefighters."
In regards to firefighters, Chandler said the planning commission is thinking about ways to combine law enforcement and fire protection between Dorset and East Dorset to deliver services more efficiently.
Following in his father's footsteps, Frost has been particularly busy with his family's well-drilling and water systems business lately, but wants to get more involved with the community. The business is half a century old and has required Frost's attention more so since his father's passing.
He previously ran for the select Board in 2012, but lost by roughly a dozen votes.
"I'm quietly entering the race, but looking to get involved," he said. "My father was on the board for 12 years and people seemed to respect him pretty well."
Frost grew up in Dorset but moved away for 20 years and then returned. He said that Dorset is a "great little town and East Dorset is a great village."
The state of the municipal water system was an area of interest for him.
"The water system in Dorset is pretty tough," he said. "East Dorset did an upgrade 30 years ago."
He is looking forward to serving his community and hopes to carry out his father's legacy of town service on the board and his business.
Thorn is running for one of the posts on the Select Board because she wants to give back to the community. After the zoning code issue from last year, Thörn thinks it's important for the town to pull together.
"I'm not sure if there's trust lost but I think that it has allowed people to categorize their neighbors or people as being in one camp or another and the truth is that people can have different points of view for different reasons," she said. "It's important that everyone come together and work together as a community and not paint people with attitude."
Thörn dedicates a lot of her free time to volunteering at the local food cupboard, and fundraising for the Dorset school. She recently served a stint as the president of the Dorset Theatre Festival's board of directors. She has also organized a junior instructor ski program. She is a small business owner and lawyer and has put her children through the Dorset school system.
With one child in college and some extra time, Thorn thought it would be a good idea to run to be on the selectboard.
"Everything I do I try to with the utmost integrity and I think that I will do my best for Dorset," she said. "It's a place I love."
Thörn appreciates Dorset's small community feeling and its appeal to tourists.
"People support each other, have a lot of natural resources a lot of great destinations for tourists," she said. "We have skiing, golfing and biking. Real estate has been a bit weak, yes that's a weakness and I hope we come out of that."
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.