MONTPELIER — Three sitting city councilors who — one of them appointed to fill a District 3 vacancy late last year — publicly announced their re-election plans Wednesday night, while a fourth — Jay Ericson — confirmed he won’t be seeking a second two-year term.

Ericson’s announcement came near the end of a meeting that kicked off hours earlier when council members Dona Bate, Conor Casey and Jennifer Morton all indicated they would join Mayor Anne Watson on the campaign trail in the run-up to Town Meeting Day.

As planned, Watson, who recently gave birth to her first son, missed the meeting that was run by Councilor Jack McCullough.

Bate started the string of announcements indicating her plans to run for what would be a fifth consecutive two-year term in District 1.

Bate’s announcement was quickly followed by Casey’s, who confirmed he will run for what would be his third term representing voters in District 2.

Cue Morton, who was appointed in September to fill the District 3 vacancy created by Dan Richardson’s mid-term resignation. That appointment expires on March 1 and Morton said she’ll run for the right to serve what would have been the final year of Richardson’s two-year term.

Ericson, whose first District 3 term expires in March, said nothing about his political plans and by the time he did, councilors were readying to go into a meeting-ending executive session and several had just expressed appreciation for his service.

He confirmed he won’t run for a second term.

Though all of the seats — including Watson’s as mayor — are up for grabs, Ericson’s decision guarantees the seven-member council will welcome at least one new member when it meets after the March elections.

There has been recent interest in representing District 3. Morton and three others — Cary Brown, Alice Goltz and Gene Leon — applied to fill the vacancy created by Richardson’s resignation. Two of those three — Goltz and Leon — have run for council before.

Richardson defeated Goltz a year ago, and Leon finished runner-up in the three-way race that Ericson won two years ago.

Leon, who is an alternate to the Development Review Board, was a virtual participant in Wednesday night’s meeting.

Prospective candidates have until Jan. 24 to file nominating petitions with City Clerk John Odum, though collecting signatures may not be necessary based on legislation that has cleared the Senate, received a preliminary thumbs up from the House Government Operations Committee and is expected to pass the House this week.

That will make it easier and, lawmakers suggest, safer for candidates to run for local office amid a current surge in COVID-19 cases that has councilors thinking about a return to fully remote meetings after they finalize the ballot for the city’s annual elections next week.

Though the Town Meeting Day warning will be finalized next week, councilors — as expected — reluctantly agreed to abandon plans to again mail ballots to all active registered voters this year.

Two days after the Roxbury Select Board decided not to permit the Montpelier-Roxbury Public School District to send its ballots to all voters, Odum said the council could still automatically mail municipal ballots, while noting that might not be wise.

“I hate to say this because I’m such a fan of the mail-in voting, but my advice is to not go that route,” Odum said. “People will be too confused.”

That sentiment was shared by others on the council who feared if voters received the city’s ballot in the mail, some — perhaps many — might not know that ballots for the school district, as well as the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority and the Central Vermont Career Center, would either have to be requested, or voted in person on Town Meeting Day.

“I never thought I’d be voting against all mail-in voting,” Casey said, conceding separating municipal and school ballots would be “unwieldy” and potentially drive down turnout for the school’s election — even if a brightly colored reminder was included in the city ballot.

Resident Peter Kelman wasn’t so sure.

Kelman said he would appreciate automatically receiving the city ballot in the mail along with a note to request the three others or vote at the polls March 1.

“I don’t think that’s too confusing,” he said.

Councilors weren’t willing to take that chance and favored sending out postcards to all registered voters encouraging them to request absentee ballots.

Except for the postcards, City Manager Bill Fraser noted that should have a familiar feel to Capital City voters.

“The way we’re recommending doing it, outside of last year, is the way we’ve been doing it forever,” he said.

Last year a single ballot — including all city and school questions — was mailed to all voters because of concerns associated with the pandemic.

This year, Roxbury’s consent was required with respect to the school ballot and the select board there balked at the prospect. Citing concerns no one would request the ballot for the Central Vermont Career Center, the Roxbury board agreed to send out postcards encouraging voters to request absentee ballots at its Monday meeting.

The career center ballot will only be available upon request, or at the polls in the 18 towns that will be asked to consider the creation of a new school district and the election of a new school board March 1. Montpelier and Roxbury are two of those towns.


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