Home News and Features Montpelier Mayoral and District 1 Council Races: The Candidates Speak

Montpelier Mayoral and District 1 Council Races: The Candidates Speak

Photo by John Lazenby
Three people are running for mayor of Montpelier this year, and three people are running for the District 1 Montpelier City Council seat, the only contested council seat on the ballot for the 2024 annual city meeting and presidential primary on Tuesday, March 5. 

The Bridge reached out to candidates in the two contested races and asked them the same questions to give readers a flavor of who is running and how they might address the complex issues facing Montpelier in 2024. On Feb. 26 all six candidates will have a chance to dive deeper into these and other city issues at live candidate forums held at City Hall, with video coverage from ORCA Media (see sidebar at left for details). 

Mayoral Candidates

Carlton Anderson.
Carlton Anderson is a poet, musician, and long-haul truck driver who currently serves on the Montpelier Planning Commission and has lived in Washington County for 21 years. He’d like to see more young people engaged in local government so their voices can be heard. He says “I will champion a more futuristic comeback for Montpelier, having felt firsthand the devastation and sadness within our capital subjected to flooding. Seeking office is an uncomfortable, visceral need to be a part of a solution ready for fresh eyes that respects where we’ve been and looks forward to where we can go.”

Dan Jones.
Dan Jones is a 15-year resident of Montpelier and a founder of Sustainable Montpelier as well as having spearheaded MyRide and the 2016 Sustainable Montpelier Design Competition. He says “I am running for mayor because I love Montpelier and I feel I can provide the vision and leadership our citizens and our City Council need for responding to the growing climate and economic challenges, while engaging our state and federal partners to help repair our broken infrastructure and develop new housing and business supports.”

Jack McCullough.
Jack McCullough is an attorney for the Mental Health Law Project at Vermont Legal Aid who moved to Montpelier from Michigan in 1983. He served on the City Council from 2018 to 2023 before he was voted in as mayor. He says “My experience and leadership qualities enable me to work with city leadership and community advocates to complete the work we started before the flood. I want to continue to lead the city to develop more housing, to improve and preserve our infrastructure, and to recover from the July flood.”

City Council Candidates

Dona Bate.
Dona Bate, president and owner of the consulting firm Dbate Speaking, is the incumbent candidate. She has served on more than 40 city committees, ten of those on the City Council, and has served as the president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce among other roles. She says, “I want to maintain the level of city services to improve infrastructure, senior center, parks and recreation for quality of life and economic development; and to continue smart incremental investments; like, upgrade of wastewater plant to create energy, reduced costs, and increase revenue or Country Club Road property for housing and recreation.”

Nat Frothingham.
Nat Frothingham: The former editor and publisher of The Bridge, and a board member for Capital City Concerts, Frothingham holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in education, both from Harvard. He says “I’m in this race for a City Council seat because I’m convinced that all of us — working together — need to take thoughtful and immediate action to secure our beautiful, historic, and irreplaceable downtown from the next big flooding disaster.”

Adrienne Gil.
Adrienne Gil, a public health director in program management and a community volunteer, has worked as a consultant for over 20 years in the transportation and health care fields, with a focus on organizational development and project management. Asked about her reasons for running for council, she says “I am tired of sitting on the sideline and watching our taxes rise, while our infrastructure crumbles around us. I have over 20 years’ experience focused on systems thinking, strategic planning in diverse organizational structures. These skills will strengthen my effectiveness as a member of the Montpelier City Council.” 

How can Montpelier deal with its deteriorating infrastructure and also hold down municipal property taxes?

Mayoral Candidates

Carlton Anderson: As a burned out truck driver, I see infrastructure as a national, state and local issue. I’d seek synergistic opportunities with surrounding communities to fast-track shovel-ready projects collectively. Maximizing bulk purchase savings where feasible. Source from as close to Montpelier as possible. Looking for a larger New England purchase power as well.

Jack McCullough: Our 2025 budget fully funds our capital plan while holding overall budget increases below the rate of inflation, partly by cutting other expenses. We should continue to fund street repairs and improvements and increase the capital plan. Our proposed water plan will replace failing water mains within 10 years, and within our established water rate formula (operating costs plus 1% for repairs). As we recover from the flood we will be looking to the local options taxes and the parking fund to make up for some of our losses.

Dan Jones:

Good Governance starts with Strategy and Prioritization, which requires a complete understanding of our infrastructure and a plan for maintaining that infrastructure that includes costs.  Montpelier currently pays $1.3 million dollars a year in just “emergency” fixes. To date, our administration has not been aggressively searching for the Federal and State funds that could help provide the needed upgrades.

If Montpelier’s citizens want property taxes held down, public safety, and the infrastructure fixed they must be willing to make some hard choices in terms of city services and expenses.  Helping frame those choices will be my priority.

City Council Candidates

Dona Bate: Regular evaluation and update to the city’s long-range capital improvement plan (CIP), which maintains a steady approach to financing and managing projects (i.e., buildings, equipment, streets). CIP monitors the debit service level to meet City Council’s cap as new projects replace paid-off projects. Support staff to aggressively seek grants which maximize city funds, like $4 million in grants toward the $7.5 million cost for the East State project that includes replacing underground utilities and Main Street intersection valves, preventing wastewater overflowing to the river. Continue to integrate pipe replacement with a schedule of streets being redone.

Nat Frothingham: Truthfully we are not currently dealing successfully with our deteriorating infrastructure and rising property taxes. We need an honest, comprehensive, and ongoing discussion about what we’re already doing today to hold down the property taxes and fees that pay for all of our infrastructure expenses. We should explore income-based payment options to help people who can’t afford Montpelier’s unsustainable municipal taxes and fees.

Adrienne Gil: Montpelier’s path to a sustainable future involves strategic planning, diversifying funding, and forming key partnerships. To address our pressing infrastructure needs, we must assess repair costs, pursue congressional spending requests, and maximize federal infrastructure funding. We must also foster a welcoming environment for new housing and businesses in order to grow the grand list and support the schools; this may involve streamlining permitting and zoning regulations. And the city budget must be examined to see if reductions can be made while fully funding our police, fire, and public works needs.

How should Montpelier prepare for future floods?

Mayoral Candidates

Carlton Anderson: Montpelier should vote me in as mayor because the citizens can rest assured I only want what is best for us all. I came home after trucking. Showed up for the clean up and look forward to the future being a great possibility! This isn’t a ‘what to prepare for’ issue. It’s a ‘do what we should’ve already done’ as harmoniously as possible while being mindful of colossal inclusion of ideas with actions.

Dan Jones: We all care deeply about the possible destruction more floods could visit upon Montpelier. I look forward to the advice of the Resilience Commission [sic] for suggestions on a robust emergency response plan. It is time to start working toward making the land use and planning changes that will improve our local resilience. This includes looking at how to adapt to the failures of flood insurance, the possibility of starting to relocate our commercial downtown, and clear messaging on how city staff will support and care for our neighbors and businesses.

Jack McCullough: City government alone cannot do this, and we will work closely with the Montpelier Commission on Recovery and Resilience.

We are going to be looking for ways to work with downtown property owners on flood proofing measures, and we need to look for opportunities to build flood resiliency into our zoning bylaw.

The biggest steps will have to involve regional and state measures, such as flood plain construction. We will also be looking to work with state government for alternate uses to unused state-owned parking lots and buildings.

City Council Candidates

Dona Bate: Seek experts and resources beyond the city. Improve city, regional, and state emergency operations. Help residents prepare and stay involved. Have neighborhood interactive workshops to coordinate nearby assistance before and during a flood. Keep searching for grants to assist residents with migration costs. Stay involved with Montpelier Commission on Recovery and Resilience. Create a partnership with the state to remove four non-functioning dams that would reduce flood level by several feet: two dams on North Branch River and two on Winooski River.

Nat Frothingham: About future floods, we need to take all of the logical steps to prepare for future floods — these include a fail-safe (and tested) emergency communications early warning system and a well-led and thoroughly rehearsed volunteer readiness response. We also need to organize, seek the best advice, and create a comprehensive flood response that will prevent future flooding and secure our irreplaceable downtown.

Adrienne Gil: Montpelier requires a robust strategy emphasizing rebuilding with long-term resilience amid climate change and environmental stewardship. Collaborating with climate change experts on local, state, regional, national, and international levels is crucial. Floods are a common natural hazard across the globe, so we can draw from extensive expertise. A comprehensive, multi-pronged approach must involve the entire Winooski River watershed and include measured, tracked, and sustainable initiatives. At the same time, the City must prepare an improved emergency management plan to deal with any future flooding events.

Voting at the annual city meeting and presidential primary is Tuesday, March 5. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at City Hall. To check on your voter status, including making an absentee request or registration information, go to the Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page” at mvp.vermont.gov.

All photos are courtesy of the candidates.

Live Candidate Forums at City Hall Feb. 26

The Montpelier Rotary Club will host one forum for City mayoral candidates and a second forum for City Council candidates in contested races on Feb. 26 in council chambers at Montpelier City Hall. The mayoral forum runs from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Council candidates will follow from 2 to 3 p.m. The events are free and open to the public, although seating space is limited at City Hall.

The Bridge’s Editor-in-Chief, Cassandra Hemenway, will moderate the live, in-person event. Viewers can also watch live from ORCA Media on Comcast channel 1085 and online at orcamedia.net. The forum will be recorded and available for later viewing at orcamedia.net.

 Montpelier’s election will take place on Town Meeting Day, March 5, with voting by Australian ballot from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at City Hall. Registered voters can also request and file mail-in ballots from the Vermont Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page” at mvp.vermont.gov.

 The Montpelier Rotary Club is a professional service organization with local and international programming that seeks to create better relationships and cooperation among the peoples of the world. Among its local programs are the middle school backpack program, the Kitzmiller Memorial Coat Drive, and annual scholarships for local high school seniors, awarding more than $70,000 each year. The club will present its second annual Casino Night event to raise money for these and other programs at the Capital Plaza Hotel on May 17. The Montpelier Rotary Club, in concert with Rotary International and the world’s 4,200 Rotary clubs in 118 countries, are also engaged in a long-range campaign to eradicate polio worldwide. 

 The club meets twice per month on Mondays and celebrated its 100th anniversary on June 9, 2023.