Five political hopefuls — including one incumbent — have thrown their hats in the ring for two seats in the House of Representatives in Barre’s Washington-3. Democratic incumbent Peter Anthony is running for a second term, but longtime representative Tommy Walz, also a Democrat, announced in March he will not seek re-election. Walz has been at his post since April 7, 2014.
Walz told The Bridge by phone he decided not to run because he will be 77 years old by the next election. Walz said that while he thoroughly enjoyed his time in office, the last two pandemic years were “not so fun” because lawmakers had to conduct business over Zoom meetings rather than in person and over lunch. Nevertheless, Walz said he felt blessed that Barre City voters gave him four terms in office, which allowed him to formulate policy and help the people of Vermont.
Those who have filed for candidacy include incumbent Democrat Peter Anthony, Democrat Jonathan Williams, and Republicans city councilman Michael Deering II, Thomas “Tom” Kelly, and Brian Judd. Kelly and Judd did not return either a phone call or email from The Bridge seeking information.
Responses are listed in alphabetical order by last name for fairness.
Incumbent Rep. Peter Anthony, D-Barre City
Anthony was born in the “Hell’s Kitchen” section of Manhattan and graduated high school in Cape Cod, according to his bio on legislature.vermont.gov. He came to Vermont to attend Goddard College. He returned to New York to get a doctorate. He also worked on a dairy farm in Plainfield, Vermont and as a motorcycle mechanic in Barre, Vermont before becoming a professor of economics at Castleton State College. Anthony also served on the Barre City Council, the board of civil authority, and the Barre Democratic Committee. He assumed his curent office on January 9, 2019.
Proposition 5: Anthony said he voted to move forward Proposition 5, the amendment to Vermont’s Constitution governing reproductive rights called a “Declaration of rights; right to personal reproductive liberty.” He noted it is now up to the people of Vermont to decide its fate in November.
Gun Laws: Anthony said he supports a complete closing of the ‘Charlotte’ loophole. He also would like to see moving the background check default period from (the federal rule of) three days to seven business days. Additionally, he would like clarification and standards for emergency orders to remove firearms by court order. “This was especially important in the context of domestic assault/violence. It was just in time to prevent a threatened gun attack on a Fair Haven public school by one student,” he wrote by email to The Bridge. There is no place in private “arsenals” for assault weapons, as far as Anthony is concerned, rather they should “stay with soldiers performing their official duties.”
Housing: There are many regional solutions for housing problems — including ways to govern rental property, tenancy, and controlling Airbnbs, as Burlington has done. Anthony noted Vermont provides loans and grants through various organizations, but those are by application by other (usually private) entities, and proposals are extremely competitive. Additionally, attempts to “change Act 250 and override local zoning have a checkered record of success,” Anthony writes. And a proliferation of Airbnbs has given property owners financial incentives to keep what used to be local residential rentals off the local market.
One thought Anthony mentions would be to favor resident owners with property tax rates as opposed to non-resident and out-of-state property owners. He cites a practice by Massachusetts to allow towns to “create a differential tax burden between year-round residents, and others.” Also, regulating Airbnbs may help.
Michael Deering II, R-Barre City
Michael Deering, a member of the Barre City Council, is a father of four with experience in restaurant management, food service work, and cleaning (work he deems “everyday blue collar jobs to scrape by”). He is currently a student who just graduated from CCV with a degree in behavioral science. He is planning to attend UVM in the fall to get a degree in social work with the intention of becoming a trauma therapist. He also coaches football and flag football with the Barre Youth Sports Association. He got his first advocacy experience by being on the board of the Head Start Policy Council, where he learned how to advocate for his child and to teach parents how to advocate for their children.
Proposition 5: Regarding Proposition 5, which will be a ballot item on August 9, Deering said he “kind of” agrees with it, but there are complications because a pregnancy involves the rights of more than one person. Two people create a child, he said, and therefore while a woman has a right to her body, it gets “gray” when half of the child belongs to another individual. So when it comes to whether or not he will support Proposition 5, Deering said he will fully support what his constituents decide. “It is about supporting the voters of Barre and not what I feel. I need to support the needs of the voters and make sure the residents and constituents of Barre are heard.”
Gun Laws: The bottom line for Deering is that more laws are not going to curtail people who would break the law anyway. So he does not support more gun laws. “As a carrying firearm owner, I feel it is important to allow people to carry firearms, but it has to be done safely and effectively.”
Creating more laws that are going to make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to be able to protect themselves, if that is their choice.
Housing: “I live in public housing,” Deering told The Bridge, adding that it is what is allowing him to help give himself a “hand up” so he does not need to have his “hand out.” How to deal with the housing crisis is a difficult question. Deering is working with Barre City Council to try to figure it out, but there is only so much the government can do. The government has to try to work with housing organizations to help not only those living below the poverty level, but also those above the poverty level who are living paycheck to paycheck.
As far as using Act 250 changes to fix the housing situation, Deering said he does not believe it should be changed drastically. “This is not a problem we are not going to fix overnight or the next 12 months, but it has to be a longer-term sustainable solution,” Deering said.
Jonathan Williams, D-Barre City
Jonathan Williams told The Bridge he lives in Barre City with his wife, Rebecca (Becky) Wigg, and their two dogs. Williams has worked as a town administrator for several towns and has also served as chair of the planning commission for Marshfield. The couple moved to Barre several years ago when Williams started work as a senior grants and contracts manager for the Vermont Foodbank. He is running because he believes the state could do a better job at supporting nonprofits and the business community. He also thinks the state government could make funding for municipalities and service agencies more equitable by streamlining application processes. “We could do a better job supporting people in need in our state and in Barre City,” including food, housing, and employment.
Proposition 5: Williams says he is in full support of reproductive rights and abortion care. The recent United States Supreme Court ruling to repeal Roe v. Wade is a “travesty” in his opinion. “It is unfortunate that in 2022 this is even an issue.”
Gun Laws: Williams supports closing loopholes that allow repeat offenders to purchase guns. “School shootings have been nonstop — it is reprehensible and tragic,” he told The Bridge. And while he respects Vermont’s sportsmanship and hunting, national background checks and magazine restrictions are in order.
Housing: “It is a critically important issue in Vermont,” Williams said, especially in the wake of the pandemic with more people moving here. But Barre has many buildings that are dilapidated and could be renovated to be used for housing. City management is doing a good job of using ARPA funds for renovating housing stock, Williams said. Williams reiterated the state should improve how it doles out funds.
The Other Candidates
Republicans Brian Judd and Thomas “Tom” Kelly did not respond to The Bridge. To see information on Brian Judd, go to facebook.com/BrianForBarre. No online platform was found for Kelly.