Residents of the city’s District 3 neighborhoods will soon see their fifth city council representative in the past two years. With the resignation of Dan Richardson, the remaining council members will appoint a replacement at their meeting this week.
Four district residents have applied to serve until the next city election, which is scheduled for Town Meeting Day, March 1, 2022. The winner then will serve the remaining year of Richardson’s term.
Seeking the interim appointment are Jennifer Morton, a social worker at The Family Center of Washington County; Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission of Women; Alice Goltz, a school crossing guard and advocate for parental rights; and Gene Leon, a business owner and member of the city’s Development Review Board.
The city council can choose anyone it wishes to replace Richardson, but its recent practice has been to seek applicants and select from that list.
Richardson came to the council in the same fashion, replacing Ashley Hill, who resigned in 2019. Richardson then won the right to complete Hill’s term at Town Meeting in 2020 and was re-elected (to a two-year term) this year. District 3’s other seat also changed hands when Glen Coburn Hutcheson stepped down after serving one term. Jay Ericson won a two-year term in 2020 for the open seat.
Richardson, an attorney specializing in municipal law, is leaving to become city attorney for Burlington. He said the time demands and potential conflicts of interest of the new job precluded him from remaining on the council. He and his family will remain in Montpelier.
“It has been an honor to talk with residents in District 3, most often virtually or by email, about their issues and concerns,” Richardson said in an email. “We, Montpelierites, are active and engaged in our community, and we share a passion for discussing issues and participating in solutions. I have been fortunate to serve such a wonderful cohort, and it is my great disappointment to have to end my term sooner than I anticipated.”
Richardson came to the council just as the COVID-19 pandemic roared in, sapping city coffers as business slacked, tax revenue dropped, and parking revenue disappeared. The economic crisis forced the city to cut its budget and put a damper on many aspirational goals.
Richardson was an advocate for strategic planning and was a proponent of developing the eastern end of Barre Street as a commercial and residential hub. He also had hoped to provide more recreational options for District 3 residents, especially those who live south of the Winooski River.
“COVID put many of these ideas on the back-burner as we focused on making essential city services available and keeping government funded during some very scary and dark times,” Richardson said.
Two of the potential replacements have run for council before. Goltz lost to Richardson, 578–222, last March, and Leon was runner up in a three-way contest for the seat won by Ericson in 2020.
Goltz is a longtime advocate for parental rights. She lost custody of her child at birth when state officials determined she was unable to care for the infant. Goltz argues that she was never given the opportunity to prove she could care for the child.
Leon led a successful effort to lower the speed limit on Berlin Street, where he lives, although the council did not agree with his goal of 25 mph and set the new limit at 30, down from 35.
Brown is the spouse of City Clerk John Odum and said in her application letter that any potential conflicts of interest could be averted. Morton, a Native American, said her goal, among others, was to bring cultural diversity to the council.
The council will take up the appointment at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1.