Home News and Features Hunger Mountain Candidates Speak Out Before Election 

Hunger Mountain Candidates Speak Out Before Election 

The Hunger Mountain Co-op bulletin board. Photo by Cassandra Hemenway.
Hunger Mountain Co-op members are getting the chance to elect four candidates to join the co-op council. Seven people have thrown their hats in the ring for the four open seats. As per the organization’s bylaws, voting begins at the annual meeting Nov. 9, and will run through Monday, Nov. 27, according to hungermountain.coop

This election comes amid a governance shakeup whereby former General Manager Kari Bradley resigned and Human Resources Manager Jay Wisner retired as of Sept. 1. Their actions came in the wake of an organization and community uproar over the handling of a felony sexual harassment situation involving a cashier supervisor and his female subordinates. Some of the future work for the council involves hiring a new general manager, according to recent council meeting minutes. Council president Eva Schectman told The Bridge in a previous interview that of the roughly 10,000 co-op members, she hopes more than the usual 400 to 500 members will vote in the elections.

Statements from the Candidates

Erich Zeichner (new coumcil candidate statement): We have a moment to consider where changes can be made to improve how we operate as an organization. Are we succeeding in creating a healthy in-house culture? Are we being responsive to employee needs/issues? Are we solving problems and avoiding unnecessary hostility/conflict? Are we providing good competitive livelihoods to our staff? Are we operating in accordance with the ideals meant to guide us as an organization? Are labor/management relations being maintained in a healthy marriage? Is our council providing unbiased oversight of management and requiring adherence to all of the standards which encourage a healthy, safe, and inspiring work-place? Is our integrity and character as a co-op being kept intact by the way that we conduct ourselves? Now is an opportunity to constructively be in dialogue: improve, make changes to reflect our best aspirations as an organization. I am a proponent for prioritizing this process in whatever capacity. 

Carl Etnier (former council member; statement from the Hunger Mountain Co-op website): In difficult times, the co-op needs experienced leaders who know how to disagree without being disagreeable, how to listen to people who have been hurt and take their issues seriously, and who welcome and respond to input from members. I have a track record of doing just that at Hunger Mountain Co-op.

Catherine Lowther (incumbent council member; statement from the Hunger Mountain Co-op website): I became a Hunger Mountain Co-op member in 1989. As a lifelong organic gardener; a psychotherapist and health counselor; a faculty member at Goddard College for 23 years, where I started the bachelor of arts degree program in the sustainability program, chaired the Sustainability Committee, and offered courses in climate change; I will bring my experiences supporting health and sustainable living to the co-op council.

Steven Farnham (incumbent council member; statement from the Hunger Mountain Co-op website): Thank you for the opportunity to serve Hunger Mountain Co-op. It is important to continue focusing on carbon footprint reduction, greater sustainability, and greater dynamism and diversity in how the co-op serves the community. I will continue to listen to Hunger Mountain Co-op members and workers, to know their vision, needs, concerns, and goals. I appreciate your support and vote. Thank you.

Elizabeth Jesdale (new council candidate statement — edited for length): Our co-op has so much potential to put people and the planet first. I think it is time for a worker’s perspective to join the council. I am a worker who has been harassed at work, a worker with an invisible disability, a worker who cares deeply about equity. I have been a member since I was a NECI student in the 1990s. I came to the co-op to be a core worker, and ended up getting hired for a full-time position! Regarding sexual harassment as asked by The Bridge, “I do not have all the answers. I wish I did … The first change that needs to be made is to change perspective and create a space where we believe victims. An organization can’t just want people to feel heard, we need to BE heard.”

Kristian Connelly (new coumcil candidate statement): For years, I’ve been asking the co-op to practice community care and establish equity in access for all, be a leader, and live its stated values. So I’ve seen firsthand this council’s lack of ethics, morals, leadership, and accountability, and its unwavering deference and fealty to the co-op GM. The current council has failed everyone. Staying with the same voices will only bring more of the same. That’s been proven too many times, unheeded and uncorrected for far too long. We can, and should, ask for better. If we don’t, they win. It’s just that simple. Let’s be the co-op of truth, transparency, and trust.

Billy Donovan (new coumcil candidate statement): I will review, restore, and nurture the proper relationships at Hunger Mountain Co-op. The council’s ongoing use of image-oriented, corporate consultants to guide their decision-making is misguided — resulting in abuses of power that are detrimental to our future well-being.This is omnipresent, but best exemplified by the council’s apparent bad judgement, secrecy, and failure to report to law enforcement an employee’s alleged criminal sexual acts, leaving some of our young girls victimized. With renewed leadership we will be more than that. I will reorient the council away from the consultants who have no stake in our community and toward the members who do. 

Annual Meeting Details

The election will be held during a two-week period starting on the date of the annual meeting, Nov. 9. The meeting is scheduled to occur from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Vermont College of Fine Arts Alumni Hall, according to information in the Oct. 2 council meeting packet.