Killington Candidates make their case for votes
By Josh O’Gorman
STAFF WRITER | February 26,2013
KILLINGTON — The tug of war between the needs of business owners and the community at large sits at the heart of the three-way race for a seat on the Select Board.
Incumbent Jim Haff is facing challengers Patty McGrath and E.J. Willis for a three-year seat on the Board.
Haff, 52, is finishing his first term on the Select Board. He moved to Killington in 1997 and in 2008 he purchased the Butternut Inn and Pancake House, the same year he ran unsuccessfully for the Select Board and voters approved a 1 percent tax to generate money for economic development and tourism.
“I was against it then and I’m against it now,” Haff said. “If businesses want to grow, they should invest in themselves. I don’t think it’s fair to tax people for my business to thrive.”
Haff also expressed opposition to the idea that the town purchase the property formerly occupied by Bill’s Country Store and turn it into a tourist information center.
Haff pointed to positive steps taken by the town during his tenure, such as restructuring the debt payments for the Green Mountain National Golf Course and not raising the municipal tax rate the last three years.
McGrath, 53, owns the Inn at Long Trail. Previously, she taught math and science at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland. In terms of past public service, McGrath served eight years on the Killington Recreation Commission, including four years as chairwoman.
Unlike Haff, McGrath supports using public dollars to spur economic development.
“I thought, at the time and now, that it was a good idea,” McGrath said of the 1 percent option tax.
Of public funded economic development, she said, “I think their values will far exceed their costs.”
McGrath warned against the danger of making budget cuts to prevent rising tax rates.
“Cutting can’t be an end game. It can’t be a goal in and of itself. It doesn’t lead you anywhere,” she said. “As a town, we need to be sure we don’t cut so much we lose what we have.”
McGrath called for more transparency among the factions within the community.
“It would be nice to see trust re-established between the town, the residents and the business community,” she said. “It’s hard to work together when you don’t trust the motives of the other person.”
Willis — who is listed on the ballot as “E.J.” and whose name is Ellen Jean — moved to Killington in 1965. She retired from the job of assistant to the superintendent of the Windsor Central Supervisory Union, but previously worked in lodging, reservations, and food and beverage service at Killington Resort.
Willis, 65, has held numerous elected and appointed posts. She was the chairwoman of the Sherburne Elementary School Board and the Killington Democratic Caucus; a justice of the peace and a member of the Board of Civil Authority; member of the Killington Library Board; coordinator of the Killington Cupboard; former chairwoman and current treasurer of the West Bridgewater Cemetery Association; and former moderator and current council treasurer of the Sherburne United Church of Christ.
Like McGrath, Willis would like to see competing interests work together. Unlike McGrath, she expressed more concern for private residents than business owners.
“We need to get back to compromising and doing it civilly,” Willis said. “There seems to be an ‘us versus them’ mindset. ‘Them’ are the people involved in the hospitality industry and ‘us’ are the people who aren’t, and it seems like the government of the town is slanted toward the businesses.”
Killington residents will vote by Australian ballot, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 5 at the Town Office.