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Town Meeting
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Pomfret Stops Squabbling, Chooses New Officials

It’s not unheard of for town meetings to erupt in uncivil debate, and that’s what a lot of people were expecting in the Upper Valley town of Pomfret. It’s a pretty place, but local politics have taken an ugly turn lately. Yet the sparks of dissent that have been flying in public meetings and headlines over the past year didn’t even seem to smolder at Town Meeting.

Before bringing down his gavel, Kevin Geiger’s first act as newly elected moderator was to urge the audience to be polite. Over the past few months there has been a string of resignations and replacements on the selectboard, and some meetings have been really nasty. In fact, one of the three selectmen, Neil Lamson, who had served on the board for years, resigned in order to run against more recent selectman and Chairman, Michael Reese, for the one open seat. Lamson says he cannot work with Reese. They sharply disagree on how to spend town funds, and have sparred about recent  public information requests. Reese told his constituents that he has tried hard to restore stability and openness to town government.

“At my second meeting we held a public airing of the concerns. It was difficult, it was very emotional, it took time, and by all accounts, people felt better and to my knowledge were ready to move on,” Reese said.

They did move on, choosing Reese, not his more veteran challenger, Lamson, by a wide margin.  Voters then unanimously approved the budget, which  reduces spending by 5 percent and creates a reserve fund for fire equipment. They also moved the start of the fiscal year up to July, rather than next January.

Finally, they presented gifts and thanks to Hazel Harrington, who is retiring after serving as either Clerk or Treasurer for over 40 years. Lynne Leavitt, former Town Clerk, gave her a plaque embedded with a memento—the town stamp.

“Because when we couldn’t use the stamp any more, she asked ‘Are you going to throw it away?’ and I said, ‘Oh no!’” Leavitt recalled, as the audience laughed.  

Leavitt’s own laughter seems especially gracious, since she herself lost her job earlier at this very town meeting, when a new Town Clerk, Becky Fielder, was voted in and immediately took over the notepad and pen. With that shake-up and Chairman Reese being chosen for the first time following the special election, it was almost a clean sweep in Pomfret.  

Many voters are apparently hoping it will be a new day, as well. 

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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