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Budget Committee member appointed to replace Knowlton

Lisa Swancott (right) is sworn in as a Northfield selectman by Town Clerk Cindy Caveney, filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Jamie Knowlton. Swancott has been a member of both the Budget and Capital Improvement committees, and said she looks forward to now working with the numbers she helped develop. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
June 15, 2011
NORTHFIELD — It was less than 30 minutes into the Northfield selectmen's meeting on June 7 when Geoff Ziminski and Steve Bluhm made the decision to fill the third chair on their board with Budget Committee member Lisa Swancott, who will serve the remaining nine months of James Knowlton's three-year term.

Knowlton tended his resignation on May 27 due to a job change, which requires he and his family relocate to Fairfax, Va. later this month.

According to state law, the remaining selectmen are granted the responsibility of appointing a replacement for a board vacancy within 45 days of the opening. Should they fail to do so, residents would be allowed to petition the Superior Court for a special election.

After an initial meeting to lay out the process they would follow, Ziminski and Bluhm reviewed letters of interest and met again on June 7 to ask a few questions prior to making their decision.

Candidates for the vacancy were Sally Robert, who lost by 12 votes to Bluhm in the latest election in March; budget committee members Linda Pardy and Swancott; former Fire Commissioner Kevin Waldron; and former selectmen Debra Shepard and Glen Brown.

Of special interest to the sitting selectmen was the stance each candidate had on the future of recycling in Northfield, a topic which will fill their agenda for much of the coming year.

Shepard has been a member of the Recycling Committee, and said that after her research, she hoped to see Pay as You Throw implemented.

Waldron admitted he had had his "eyes opened" on recycling recently by his stepdaughter. He and his family now actively participate in recycling practices, and he was willing to investigate any way Northfield could save money through a town-wide program.

Robert said during her campaign for office last winter, many people approached her who were interested in curbside recycling, and she felt that was a sensible approach for those who could not make it to the transfer station to recycle their trash.

Pardy and Brown were not present for the question, but Swancott said she, like Waldron, had no opinion on which way recycling should be brought to Northfield, but would like to research the topic and prepare a plan to present to voters next March.

After hearing the response to their only question, Bluhm said he felt the board had two ways to go in selecting a replacement for Knowlton.

"We could go with experience…or go with the exact opposite, and pick someone who is well-rounded and has experience in budgets, etc. … someone who has not been in town politics, and could bring new things to the board," said Bluhm.

He added that any one of the candidates would be suitable under either of the two criteria, each having been involved with the town in one form or another.

"I'm not against any of them. It's kind of like youth versus experience," Bluhm said, referring to the two former selectmen and three candidates who had not held the office in the past.

Ziminski said that while each person who had shown interest was qualified, and many had good experience to bring to the position, he was leaning toward someone with a fresh perspective.

"I've narrowed it down to one person, in my opinion. I'm looking at Lisa," he said. "She has the time, the energy, and I've seen her in action. She's not afraid to speak her mind. I think that's a positive."

Bluhm agreed Swancott was one of the candidates he had also narrowed his choices down to, and seconded Ziminski's motion minutes later to appoint her to the board.

Town Clerk Cindy Caveney administered the oath of office immediately after the vote, and the three selectmen held a brief discussion on the MetroCast cable negotiations before heading into a nonpublic session.

Swancott has served on both the Budget Committee and Capital Improvement Committee, and said her bookkeeping business allows her flexibility in her daily schedule to spend working for the town. She said her goals would be to present voters with a recycling proposal, and to work hard in finding the right candidate to fill the vacancy for the Highway Department's superintendent position.

"It will be interesting, having been on the budget committee, to now see what it's like to work within that budget we created. I love that," she said.

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