The village of Johnson will vote in a new trustee Tuesday to a board that has seen turnover and contention over disagreements about racial justice issues in the past year.
Three candidates are currently on the ballot: Tess Milner, Kyle Nuse and Ken Tourangeau. All three believe they would be stabilizing and balancing forces within the context of the political strife and battles between citizens and trustees that drove previous trustees to quit.
Milner, though on the ballot, has neglected to campaign due to “sudden and serious” health concerns, but said if elected she would still give the position and town her “full effort.”
A resident of Johnson for four years, she has two children who attend Johnson Elementary School. She also works with a variety of organizations, serving as the executive director of the Lamoille Chamber of Commerce and is a communications coordinator with the North Central Vermont Recovery Center, among work with other groups.
“I strive to promote peace, facilitate healthy relationships and communication, and pride myself on being able to remain unbiased,” she said in a statement. “I pledge to listen to all of our village voters, and be open to hearing all opinions, not allowing my personal beliefs or positions to interfere.”
Milner wants to help the village trustees work “smarter not harder” and said she would make meetings more efficient, an apparent reference to the September meeting on racial equity issues that lasted nearly into the next day and later drove Gordy Smith, former chair of the board for 40 years, to resign in December.
“The village of Johnson is where I live, work and breathe with my family and neighbors every day, all day. Serving and advocating for its most marginalized residents, neglected infrastructure, struggling small businesses and large institutions such as Northern Vermont University and the Vermont Studio Center — all of which are vital for our local economy and identity — is why I’m choosing to continue to spend countless hours in an elected position such as village trustee,” she said in a statement.
Nuse is a veteran of town politics who has, in the past six years, served on the Johnson Selectboard and as president of the town’s non-profit business board, Johnson Works.
She said she has a deep understanding of how municipal government and budgets work along with an ability to think creatively. Nuse narrowly lost a write-in vote in April to fill an empty seat on the board to Andrew Crews, who subsequently decided not to serve.
Nuse has also been vocal in the discussion over racial justice and inclusion, calling trustees’ decision to fly a Black Lives Matter flag on the village green and not at the fire department building less a compromise and more “like a yielding that she is not comfortable with” in a meeting last October in her capacity as a selectboard member.
Tourangeau runs Green Mountain Construction and lost a write-in campaign when Diane “Dee” Lehouillier was elected in April.
In a statement, he said he would like to “drive Johnson back to a viable community that is a desirable place to live” by focusing on services, reasonable taxes and recreation while also working toward diversity and inclusiveness while preserving the town’s heritage.