BARRE — Tina Routhier’s put-up-or-shut-up candidacy is the only thing standing in the way of Samn Stockwell’s bid for a second consecutive two-year term representing Ward 3 on the city council.
One of the women will win next week.
It will either be Stockwell, who has run twice before with mixed results, or Routhier, a first-time candidate, who filed her paperwork early, briefly withdrew, but changed her mind in time to reset the stage for the race.
One of three incumbent councilors facing Town Meeting Day tests this year, Stockwell, 70, of Elliston Street, is a bit of a visionary. She has high hopes for her adopted home town and views affordability and walk-ability as high priorities.
Pragmatic by comparison, Routhier, 53, says, when the wind is right, she can smell one of the reasons she’s running from her home on Lois Circle. Hers is a back-to-the-basics campaign that would elevate needs — like fixing a chronic odor issue at the city’s wastewater treatment plant — over some of the niceties that are regular talking points for Stockwell.
That isn’t to say Barre’s aging infrastructure is an afterthought for Stockwell, or that Routhier isn’t open to strategic investments that would expand opportunities for local residents and grow the Grand List. It’s more a question of emphasis.
Ask Stockwell why she’s running and it won’t take long before “affordable housing” and “complete streets” or public amenities enter the conversation.
“I’m very interested in … how things could be better,” Stockwell says. “How could we create an inclusive city? How can we use the design of the city to say: ‘This is a community where everybody belongs?’”
In Stockwell’s view, that means “walkable streets,” convenient green spaces, but mostly a broad range of housing options. The latter, she says would make it possible to graduate from starter apartments and subsidized housing into affordable homes without leaving the Granite City.
“People would have that path forward,” she said. “They could see a way where their lives will be improved and ownership would be a possibility.”
Routhier said she would settle for a city where the sewer plant doesn’t stink more than it should, water lines don’t burst with regularity, and potholes weren’t a “revenue generator” for one of her family owned businesses – Routhier Quick Lube and Auto Center.
Those are the issues, Routhier says, that prompted her decision to run in the first place.
“I can’t complain about water, sewer and streets if I’m not willing to step up and be part of the solution,” she says. “I just can’t run my mouth and not step up.”
Routhier says that’s a message she shared in handwritten notes to Ward 3 residents who had requested absentee ballots to kick off her candidacy.
“They basically started, ‘Happy New Year! Are you sick of smelling sewer as much as I am?’” Routhier recalled of the notes, that cemented her status as the infrastructure-first candidate.
With one-time pandemic-related federal funding in hand, Routhier says her strong preference would be to invest it all in addressing a too-long list of infrastructure needs.
“If there’s ever a time that we’re going to address infrastructure, be it water, sewer or streets, it’s when we have … funds that we can utilize so we don’t put more burden on the taxpayers’ backs,” she says.
Funding aside, Stockwell says the city is better positioned to address the concerns raised by Routhier and others in their ward and around the city than it was when she was elected to her first term two years ago.
Stockwell points to a capital improvement plan that was recently completed, a strategic planning process that is almost finished, and a street assessment that is in the works as examples of the city preparing to make smart and sustainable investments in its infrastructure.
“Everybody is concerned about infrastructure and the roads and I’m very excited about some of the planning we’ve been doing,” she says.
Stockwell says she is proud of outreach the city did soliciting proposals for use of some of the $2.5 million it received under the American Rescue Plan Act. She is also pleased with the council’s recent decision to put $250,000 of that money toward the planned transformation of the former Ward 5 school to nine new affordable apartments.
Routhier says she would have supported funding for the Granite City Apartments project proposed by Downstreet Housing and Community Development, but did have questions about its $3.5 million price tag.
Routhier says she’s sensitive to the need for more housing, but suggested the city is ill-suited to plan the role of real estate developer.
Both Routhier and Stockwell say they are enthusiastic about Barre Area Development Corp.’s plans for Prospect Heights, which contemplates a range of housing options on one large site. It’s one, they say, has the potential to grow the Grand List over a period of years, while creating new housing at various price points.
Though Stockwell has taught for 20 years at the Community College of Vermont, her background is in human services. Over the years she has worked for Washington County Mental Health Services, for Head Start, and as a special educator.
Stockwell briefly served on the council after narrowly defeating Ericka Reil, 10-9, at a Ward 3 caucus to fill a vacant seat in mid-December 2019. Three months later Reil won the Town Meeting Day rematch defeating Stockwell, 276-180.
Stockwell captured her current seat in 2021, defeating political newcomer Sherry Principal, 224-144, in race that didn’t feature the incumbent.
Routhier, who grew up in Barre Town, graduated from Spaulding High School in 1987, and settled in Barre 12 years ago, has never run for office before. She is an appointed member of the city’s transportation advisory committee.
Since 2017 Routhier has been employed as director of sales and marketing for Routhier Quick Lube and Auto Center. Prior to that she was employed in a variety of capacities by National Life in Montpelier.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.