Waitsfield residents Chach Curtis, Jordan Gonda and Jennifer Stella are running for the Waitsfield Select Board.
Curtis is seeking reelection to a two-year term on the select board, Gonda is seeking reelection to a three-year term on the board and Stella is challenging Gonda for the three-year seat.
The Valley Reporter invited the candidates to answer questions over the next two weeks. This is the second installment. Voters will elect two select board members at Town Meeting on March 1.
VR: Please outline your top three priorities for Waitsfield's use of ARPA funds?
Curtis: With ARPA money already in the bank and more federal infrastructure money on the way, Waitsfield has a generational opportunity to invest in our community. My top three ARPA priorities are water/wastewater, affordable housing and roads/bridges/culverts. Let’s use today’s ARPA funds to design shovel-ready water/wastewater systems to be funded by tomorrow’s federal infrastructure grants. Let’s use ARPA funds now to subsidize hook ups to our existing decentralized water/wastewater systems, so that we can build more affordable housing in the village center. Let’s leverage ARPA funds now to get started on long-deferred road/bridge/culvert projects without destabilizing our budget.
Gonda: Waitsfield will receive over $500,000 in ARPA funds for use by 2026. My priorities for these funds are to:
- Maximize best use of the funds by ensuring that projects are eligible under ARPA rules and don’t have other funding sources that could be used more readily;
- Solicit community input on long-term projects, to include investments in affordable housing, wastewater and utilities to support smart development and stormwater infrastructure projects; and
- Collaborate with local stakeholder groups to identify areas of immediate economic need, which should consider assistance to child care centers, essential workers, small businesses and the tourism/hospitality sectors.
Stella: ARPA authorized over $65 billion in spending to help restart the crippled U.S. economy and schools. Vermont received $1.05 billion, with the town of Waitsfield to soon receive over $500,000. Governor Scott has circulated a plan that proposes investments in housing, broadband, wastewater and sewer systems, climate change and economic development. Which sounds great. My overarching, top priority will be to ensure an open, transparent and inclusive process here. Ultimately, it’s up to the people who live here to decide how they want their tax dollars spent. Truly understanding the needs of those I represent, will be priority No. 1.
VR: How important is the Conservation Commission's work to Waitsfield's future?
Curtis: Our local economy is based largely on tourism, and the tourists come here for our open space, our natural resources and our recreational opportunities. The more of these resources we can offer, the more sustainable our economy will be. The Conservation Commission’s work is therefore critical to our future, because the Commission secures, maintains and expands access to open space like Scrag Mountain. We need to support the Commission’s strong work by (1.) setting aside money in reserve to fund future land and easement purchases, and (2.) providing annual operating funds for maintenance of town forests, control of invasive species, etc.
Gonda: The Commission’s work is fundamental to what makes Waitsfield a special place, and the Commission will continue to be an important voice in issues facing the town. The Commission will provide valuable insight on appropriate siting and ecological impacts of zoning changes that will support future development. As stewards of our public lands and natural resources within them, the Commission will continue to serve an essential role in the town’s response to and planning for climate-related impacts. As a tourist-based economy, the Commission’s work to enhance public uses of town lands will continue to benefit Waitsfield’s businesses and tourism sectors.
Stella: The Waitsfield Conservation Commission (CC) was formed in 2003 and expanded in 2007. Their work will be incredibly important in ensuring we maximize our return on current investments, while preserving the heritage and rural charter of our town. For example, the Wait House and the town hall are high-cost buildings, in need of maintenance and utilization plans. The Commission could play a key role in scoping out opportunities that enrich community, enhance curb appeal and bring in, rather than cost, money to the taxpayers. They can also help protect our land and water from chemical contaminations.
VR: Please provide a brief bio of your education/skills/experience.
Curtis: I received a BA from Dartmouth in 1986, then tried and failed at city life (San Francisco). After returning to Dartmouth for an MBA in 1994, I moved to Waitsfield and found not only my home but also my calling in renewable energy. For the past 25-plus years, I have held executive leadership roles at local Vermont companies like Mad River Canoe (president), Northern Power Systems (CFO), and SunCommon (CFO). In addition, I coached ski racing, served on various boards (Mad River Glen, Catamount Trail, etc.) and served on the Waitsfield Development Review Board and town budget committee.
Gonda: I am an environmental attorney with the Agency of Natural Resources in Montpelier. Previously, I worked as an attorney with Legislative Council in the Vermont State House, and as an advocate for the Vermont Natural Resources Council. I graduated from Vermont Law School in 2011 with degrees in law and environmental policy and have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies. Other community service includes membership on the Waitsfield Planning Commission (2014-2020) and the MRVPD Housing Coalition (2019-2020). I am a hard worker; I enjoy learning from and collaborating with others and am passionate about contributing to my community.
Stella: Growing up, my entire family of small business owners worked incredibly hard to make ends meet. I studied hard in school, learned to balance a budget and went to college, working in the business world for many years before pausing to raise our children. My volunteer work after 14 years in the community has included Waitsfield’s sidewalks project; flood relief; school fundraising; food shelf; health choice and more. I have marketing, communications, science, health and advocacy experience and am adept at balancing diverse opinions and needs. I love this town, and hope to bring balance to the Waitsfield Select Board.