Candidates Announce Runs For Windsor House Seats

  • Clayton Paronto

  • John Bartholomew

  • Paul Belaski

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/12/2016 11:44:23 PM
Modified: 5/13/2016 1:25:35 PM

Windsor — A Windsor Selectboard member and local architect are both hoping to replace longtime state Rep. Donna Sweaney in the Vermont House.

Clayton Paronto, a six-year member of the Windsor Selectboard and owner of an online model train business, announced his candidacy as an independent on Tuesday. He is joined in the race by Paul Belaski, a Windsor architect and former zoning administrator, who plans to file his candidacy as a Democrat next week.

State Rep. John Bartholomew, a Hartland Democrat, also plans to run for re-election in the two-seat Windsor 1 district, which represents Windsor, West Windsor and Hartland.

No Republicans have formally announced their intention to run yet, though several local party members were slated to discuss possible candidates on Thursday, said John MacGovern, chairman of the Windsor GOP.

Paronto grew up in Windsor, but took a 20-year hiatus from Vermont to pursue a career as an accountant and then owned a used car dealership in Connecticut. He came back to the Upper Valley 10 years ago to take care of a family member. He soon became a member of the town Budget Committee and joined the Selectboard six years ago.

“I came from a family of community servers,” Paronto, 50, said. “It’s kind of in our blood.”

Paronto’s great-grandfather was Windsor’s representative to the Vermont House in the 1930s, and his mother was a Selectboard member in the 1980s.

He chalks up the decision to run as an independent as part of his personal philosophy, one where his time in the House would be devoted to the district first and state second, rather than political party.

“I don’t want to feel beholden to any political party,” he said, adding his goal is to work alongside those on both sides of the aisle to move Vermont forward.

Paronto said he plans to focus on education in the Legislature, working on ways to better train students.

“The cost to send students to college is enormous and we need to figure out ways to keep our students enrolled in schools that are affordable,” he said.

Paronto believes the state “poorly implemented” Act 46, the new education law that calls for consolidation of school districts. He also describes himself as open to marijuana legalization, but against a recent bill killed in the House.

The House defeated a proposal earlier this month from the Senate that would have legalized marijuana sales by 2018. It also killed a proposal for a non-binding referendum on legalization and a compromise to decriminalize homegrown pot, according to VtDigger.

Belaski, 65, has lived in Windsor his entire life. The architect and former town zoning administrator is also chairman of the town’s Democratic Committee.

When he heard Sweaney would be retiring, he thought it would be important to step up and run to retain the House’s Democratic majority.

“Being a native Vermonter, I’ve always had a strong feeling that Vermont’s a pretty nice place to live, and I want to make sure it stays that way,” he said.

Belaski said he hopes to tackle issues such as employment, housing and trying to stem the tide of young people leaving Vermont while in the Legislature.

He’s in favor of marijuana legalization, but is concerned past bills didn’t properly address how to enforce drugged driving.

“I’m not sure if there is an answer to that yet,” he said.

Belaski also said that treatment is an important component of fighting New England’s heroin epidemic, rather than criminally charging addicts.

Bartholomew said he’s most proud of legislation requiring the labeling of genetically modified organisms and pushing for a suicide barrier at Quechee Gorge during his time in the House.

The 61-year-old Bartholomew, a retired veterinarian, sits on the House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products and said it’s taught him “how innovative farmers are in Vermont.”

He also hopes to continue fighting for education and to reform Act 46.

“I didn’t understand why it was so critical,” he said of the law.

Although the law is meant to address rising property taxes, Bartholomew hasn’t seen a lot of money saved.

“Obviously we don’t want to waste money, but educating children is important,” he said.

Bartholomew also supported the Senate marijuana legalization bill. He initially struggled with the arguments for and against.

“All the arguments on both sides are largely irrelevant because prohibition never worked and will never work,” he said.

Both Belaski and Bartholomew will be on the Democratic primary ballot in August. Paronto will automatically move onto the general election ballot in November because he’s running as an independent.

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.

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