BARRE — The gender gap on the City Council will certainly narrow some on the strength of a Ward 3 race about which only one aspect of the outcome is certain: a woman will be the winner.
Though a contested race in Ward 1 will determine whether women occupy an unprecedented three seats on the seven-member council, Ward 3 voters will be asked to choose between two women for the second straight year.
One of them – Samn Stockwell – briefly served on the council after edging Ericka Reil, 10-9, at a Ward 3 caucus in mid-December 2019. The rematch went to Reil, 276-180, less than three months later, earning her a two-year term a year ago and prompting Stockwell to try again. This time, Stockwell’s competition will be political newcomer, Sherry Prindall.
The winner will join Reil and replace Councilor Rich Morey, who chose not to run for a second term because of a looming move that will take him out of Ward 3.
Sherry PrindallTired of viewing Barre politics as a spectator Sherry Prindall has decided she wants to get into the game.
It took a gentle nudge from Ward 2 Councilor Michael Boutin, but Prindall, quickly warmed to the idea of serving the city in a way she wouldn’t have considered a year or two ago.
“It was time for me to be active,” she said, explaining her decision to run for elective office for the first time.
Prindall, 65, of Thomas Street, has a Facebook page — “Sherry for Barre” — and is using social media to spread the word about her council candidacy that is really rooted in curiosity.
“I am one who likes to know what’s going on and I’d like to know what’s going on with my taxes,” said Prindall. “I want to make sure that money is being spent wisely.”
It’s difficult to do that from the nickel seats, but Prindall said she is confident she’ll be a quick study if elected.
A Michigan native who moved to Vermont in 1991 to raise her family, Prindall returned to the Detroit area in 2012 and came back to Barre three years ago.
Prindall said she no longer feels comfortable walking downtown. She said she’s troubled about the loss of downtown businesses and the perception that crime is on the rise.
“It just feels different and it concerns me,” she said.
Prindall believes Barre has a drug problem that needs to be dealt with and those with addiction issues who deserve treatment.
Affordable housing is also an issue.
“Rents are too high, taxes are too high and the only way we can do something about that is by bringing in more business,” she said.
Prindall likes the idea of filling downtown vacancies, but concedes that will likely require investing in infrastructure improvements and upgrading buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
They aren’t simple problems, but Prindall said they deserve attention and she is optimistic solutions can be found.
Prindall pointed to the positive impact those who buy and “flip” homes have had on some neighborhoods and would like to explore that idea on a grander scale.
Prindall said Ward 3 voters should know she is open to new ideas and not locked into any particular positions.
Prindall’s pitch to voters?
“They get a person that’s going to listen to them and what’s best for the city and the residents not just what’s best for me,” she said. “This isn’t about me. This is about what’s best for Barre and the residents of Barre.”
Now employed as an inpatient medical coder for a Detroit hospital — work she has been performing remotely since returning to Barre three years ago, Prindall previously worked at Central Vermont Medical Center for 21 years.
Samn StockwellSamn Stockwell’s service on the City Council didn’t last long, but it lasted just long enough to convince her to run for the right to represent Ward 3 a year ago.
Losing to Ericka Reil didn’t change Stockwell’s desire to serve and she is again holding herself out as someone willing to put in the time required to try and make Barre better for everyone.
When Stockwell says everyone, she means everyone. From the single moms for whom childcare is an obstacle to employment, to the working couples who need to hold down two jobs to pay the bills.
“That’s not a way to live and it doesn’t build a strong Barre,” said Stockwell, who has some ideas about what might.
Stockwell, 68, believes communities, like Barre, need to start thinking about childcare as essential infrastructure.
“Women cannot participate fully in the workforce without high-quality childcare and children will not reach their potential without investing in the childcare workforce,” she said.
Stockwell is eager to bring new businesses to Barre, but believes recruitment efforts should focus on businesses that pay a livable wage, or, at the very least, more than minimum wage.
“I have a deep-seated … compassion for people who are essential workers and other low-wage workers and their struggles to live,” she said.
Stockwell would love to see the city encourage neighborhood redevelopment in Barre’s north end and said it is unfortunate the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) district doesn’t include an area that could use some creatively-financed special attention.
Stockwell said she’d be open to creating a “landlord rental improvement program” in an effort to incentivize upgrading available housing stock.
“That seems doable,” she said.
Stockwell, who still teaches at the Community College of Vermont, spent most of her career working for area social service agencies and knows there is a price to be paid for a high poverty rate.
“Poverty is really expensive for a city and it’s really expensive for the individual,” she said.
Stockwell, who lives on Elliston Street, said she is intrigued by the two tiny houses that are now located on Berlin Street and wonders whether that model could be replicated on other small parcels.
“I think that would be attractive to people,” she said.
Stockwell counts herself among the supporters of the council’s split decision to raise the Black Lives Matter flag in City Hall Park for the month of December and would have joined the majority had she been elected a year ago.
Born in Connecticut, Stockwell has lived most of her life in New England. She settled in central Vermont in 1980 — a few years after graduating from Goddard College in Plainfield. Stockwell, who previously lived in Marshfield and Montpelier, moved to Barre five years ago.
Stockwell has taught at CCV for 25 years and has worked for the Family Center of Washington County, Head Start, and Washington County Mental Health Services over the years.