Over the past week, Chelsea lost its road crew and four of its five Selectboard members, right on the cusp of winter. A dust-up over recent town events had sparked outrage and hostility, and a slew of resignations.
Now, the dust has settled, and the town government is seeking to rebuild.
Karen Lathrop, the Chelsea town clerk, has been posting updates on the rebuilding effort via the Chelsea community Facebook group. In a post Tuesday, she announced plans were established for residents to vote Jan. 3, 2023, to elect new Selectboard members to finish the terms of those who had quit, including board Chair Levar Cole, Vice Chair Mark Whitney, Merrill Whitney and Bruce Hook.
That left just one member, Geoff Clayton, to work with other town officials to clean up the mess.
“The Town Clerk, Treasurer, Road Foreman, and I, with the help of a number of residents, are working together to bring the town into the New Year as smoothly as possible,” Clayton wrote in an email to VTDigger on Monday. He declined further comment.
According to state law, when “a vacancy occurs in any town office,” the selectboard must appoint someone to fill the vacancy “until an election is had.” However, if most of the selectboard resigns simultaneously, “vacancies shall be filled by a special town meeting called for that purpose.”
Lathrop also wrote in another post on Tuesday that Rick Ackerman, the road foreman who resigned last week after 29 years on the job, is serving as the highway contact for the town of some 1,200 people.
Town Treasurer Gayle Durkee said Ackerman has returned as road foreman, along with one member of his two-person road crew who had also resigned. However, Durkee could not confirm whether Ackerman is back for good, or is just filling in until another foreman is hired.
Lathrop could not be reached by phone for comment on Monday or Tuesday. The town garage and Ackerman could not be reached by phone on Wednesday.
Candidates for the four Selectboard openings will have to file election petitions signed by at least 10 of Chelsea’s registered voters, and those petitions, plus consent-of-candidate forms, must be submitted by Nov. 28, Lathrop wrote in the post. The election on Jan. 3 will be by secret ballot.
Lathrop listed the four Selectboard vacancies:
- Two months of a three-year term
- Two months of a one-year term
- One year of a two-year term
- Two years of a three-year term
In an email on Wednesday, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said his office is staying out of the matter. “The only time we would have been involved is if all the selectboard members had resigned,” he said.
Going forward, Condos said, “the remaining selectboard member would have authority to draw orders for payments,” according to state law.
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