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Special election has 5 vying for 2 recently vacated seats on Hartford Selectboard

  • Lannie Collins (Valley News photograph) Jovelle Tamayo

  • Mary Erdei (Courtesy photograph)

  • Mike Hoyt (Courtesy photograph)

  • Brett Mayfield (Courtesy photograph)

  • Mike Morris

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2021 11:12:55 AM
Modified: 7/9/2021 11:13:04 AM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Most of the five candidates vying for two Hartford Selectboard seats say they’re focused on issues that include finding “common ground” among Hartford residents and villages.

The candidates all submitted their names this month ahead of the Aug. 10 special election to fill Selectboard seats left open after two members stepped down in the spring.

The final list of candidates includes Michael Hoyt, an employee relations consultant at Dartmouth College, who will face former Selectboard member Mike Morris for the remainder of a three-year term that expires in 2023.

In the other race, Lannie Collins, who serves as a full-time caretaker for his father, retired educator Mary Erdei and Bretty Mayfield, the town’s health officer, are seeking to finish out a two-year term that also expires in 2023.

In interviews, the candidates identified similar goals regarding reaching across ideological divides and establishing better connections between the town’s five villages and their residents.

“There are people on all sides trying to look for community,” Mayfield, a White River Junction resident, said Thursday, adding that he wants to find “common ground” among the residents of Hartford.

He said he would like to forge a better connection between Hartford and the Quechee area, known for its private condo community.

In addition to his job as health officer, Mayfield, who is over 50 years old but declined to give his exact age, owns a health clinic called White River Health and Education, which operates in Hartford and has an office in India, he said.

As a health officer, Mayfield said he has a lot of experience meeting with and listening to members of the community, and a lot of knowledge about broader health issues in Hartford.

“The town manager and town have been looking at wellness in a broad sense, and I still want to continue that,” Mayfield said, adding that issues of wellness include infrastructure issues like problems with roads, sewers and water, all of which he said “affects our health.”

Mayfield also ran for Selectboard in the spring, but lost out at Town Meeting to Dennis Brown and Ally Tufenkjian.

Erdei, 71, who lives in White River Junction, said she’s running in order to be more involved and to help bridge a divide in the community. The divide she said comes partly from being quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic and partly from a tense national political climate.

“I want to support civil discourse,” Erdei said Thursday.

Erdei said she’s particularly passionate about supporting inclusion and diversity in Hartford, explaining that the issue is personal to her because her daughter, who is Asian American, has faced racial harassment.

She said she’s also interested in focusing on long-term environmental health and sustainability in Hartford, especially because of her background serving on Hanover’s biodiversity committee.

“There are so many things that future generations are going to have to deal with,” she said. “We can’t just sit on our laurels and worry. ... We have to look forward to what’s going to happen.”

Collins, 54, said he’s eager to see Hartford officials look into revitalizing and growing West Hartford, which he said is an oft-forgotten village.

Much of the focus in recent years has been on building up White River Junction while “neglecting surrounding villages,” he said.

One of Collins’ key focuses in his candidacy is increasing transparency in town government. Collins said when he asks a question of community leaders, he would like to know for sure that he’ll get an answer, which isn’t always the case.

“In the past year there’s been a lot of talk of transparency, but I don’t believe there’s true transparency, and I would like to make that a focus of my position,” Collins said.

As a regular attendee at Selectboard meetings and a frequent speaker during public comment sessions, Collins said he believes he has an understanding of town operations that will benefit him if elected.

“I think I would be able to bring a lot of history and thorough research to the Selectboard,” Collins said. “My commitment to attend meetings for the past six years makes an example of how dedicated I am to the town.”

In the race for the three-year seat, Hoyt, 45, a West Hartford resident, said he’s interested in giving a space to people who have felt marginalized in the community in recent years.

“I used to work as an attorney for the Vermont Legislature and worked with Democrats, Republicans and independents alike to find common ground. I think I can bring this quality to the Selectboard,” Hoyt wrote in an email Thursday.

A lifelong Vermonter, Hoyt moved to West Hartford three years ago and said he’s become focused on infrastructure issues like having adequate housing and downtown parking, which he said speak to larger issues “of economic growth, affordability, environmental impact and quality of life.”

Morris, a Quechee resident who’s in his mid-60s and owns a modular home building company. He served on the Selectboard from 2016 to 2018 when he lost a re-election bid to current board member Kim Souza and Jameson Davis, who has since stepped down.

In 2017, Morris made headlines when then-Selectwoman Becca White called on him to resign after he forwarded an email that included a racist image of former President Barack Obama, his family and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Morris later apologized.

The incident sparked larger discussions within the town about racial inequality and led board members to form the Hartford Committee on Racial Equity and Inclusion.

Messages to Morris for comment on his candidacy were not returned Thursday.

Town officials announced the special election in May after newly elected board member Rachel Edens stepped down, citing health issues, and another newly elected board member, Julia Dalphin, resigned over time constraints.

The election will be held Aug. 10 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is expected to cost the town between $6,000 and $7,000, according to Town Manager Tracy Yarlott-Davis. She said the town is considering holding a candidates night.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

Correction

Michael Hoyt is running for a three-year seat on the Hartford Selectboard in a special election next month. Brett Mayfield is running for a two-year seat on the board during the election. A previous version of this story inaccurately reported which seats Hoyt and Mayfield are seeking. 




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