In an astonishingly reckless display of poor leadership, three members of the Waitsfield Select Board rejected science and public safety this week when they voted against a resolution calling for people to wear masks in public places in the town.

Spouting nonsense about political ideology from the Cold War era, board chair Paul Hartshorn said he was voting against a mask resolution because, “It looks to me like this puts Waitsfield on the path of communism.”

“When I went to high school here, I never thought we’d be leading our way to communism. I think that’s where we’re going.”

Think about that. The world and the country and Vermont are dealing with a once-in-a-century global pandemic with a virus that can spread silently via asymptomatic carriers and the local select board chair suggests taking public safety precautions is going to lead to communism. Really?

Warren, Fayston and Waterbury adopted resolutions calling for people to wear masks in public and Moretown discusses it next week.  Public health goals, articulated by each town’s public health officer, were to have a Mad River Valley communitywide mask requirement to protect all of us. Waitsfield’s public health officer, Fred Messer, was vocal in his support of the resolution.

Hartshorn’s wasn’t the sole vote against the resolution. Board members Kellee Mazer and Darryl Forrest, who said they felt there weren’t enough cases in Washington County to justify such action, joined him.  But Washington County case counts don’t matter as The Valley fills with tourists and second-home owners from areas with much higher rates of infection.  

It is incredibly irresponsible for the town that hosts the majority of The Valley’s businesses to fail to adopt this simple safety measure that will help keep stores open and keep Vermont’s doors open to a vital source of income from tourism and second-home owners. If we fail to do everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19, we will have to shut down again. It’s that simple.

Messer, as town health officer, has issued an emergency public health order calling for masks in public, which the town is researching as The Valley Reporter goes to press.

Hartshorn’s phone number is in the phone book. Share your thoughts there or via the town offices at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..