Fred Houston was appointed as a board alternate, bringing the number of alternates for the DRB to three, while Wendy Manners and Deb Dorsett were each appointed to full time positions, joining the board’s only other full-time member, Peter Wallace. Manners is also the chair of the planning commission and said she would be willing to fill both roles, but not for long. When asked if she intended to leave the planning commission for the DRB, Manners said that she would in time, but only if she felt assured that the commission’s already established goals would be met. Former DRB member Tom Manton was also interviewed for a full-time position, but the board declined to appoint him, with Susie Haughwout recusing herself from the voting, as well as a portion of the executive session.
This slew of interviews came at a time when the DRB was down to one full-time DRB member and two alternate members, following the resignations of chair Nicki Steel, and full-time members Sherry Brissette and Sheila Osler. Following the executive session, the board voted to accept, with regret, the resignations of Steel, Brissette, and Osler, who all resigned in protest earlier this month, after the board decided not to reappoint former vice chair Andy Schindel to the full-time position he held for nine years.
During the earlier public comment portion of the meeting, members of the public urged the selectboard not to accept these resignations. Carl Boyd read a petition drafted by Carolyn Palmer, which garnered 39 signatures, and stressed that the board’s decision not to reappoint Schindel was an “insult to an exemplary member of the DRB for nine years.” The petition also asked the board to “take the high road” and bring in the resigning members of the DRB for a discussion, and hold off appointing new members until after this meeting is held, and “allow Wilmington to continue its rebirth without being jeopardized.”
Former selectboard chair Tom Consolino expressed his distrust in the selectboard’s judgment, as well as his support for the resigning DRB members. “I, and many others, believe the town has suffered a serious loss as a result of the resignations,” said Consolino. “Their knowledge, professionalism, and respect for others and willingness to put in all the time necessary on each and every petition has taken volunteering to the next level. I, and many others, will not be comfortable without their presence on the DRB.
“While some continue to wonder about the actions of this board,” continued Consolino, “I remain hopeful that members of the board will take steps to regain the public’s trust and respect.”
Others chastised the board for what they saw as a failure to communicate, as well as their handling of Schindel’s reappointment. Kathryn Longbotham said she needed help understanding why a nine-year member of the DRB was not reappointed due to the fact he left town for three months each year. “The list of needed volunteers on the town website is growing longer and longer,” said Longbotham, “I’m truly disappointed.”
“People in other towns ask me, ‘What’s wrong there (in Wilmington)?’” added Richard Sugarman. “I voted for you, and there needs to be better communication. When you see folks like Sheila and Andy, who have given so many years to this town, and have chosen to live here, when they resign, there has to be a reason behind it.”
In other action, the board decided to approve a new reappointment policy, one which did not include term limits for board, commission, and committee members, an idea that had been floated at previous meetings. A joint meeting scheduled for April 23, to include the planning commission, selectboard and DRB, was postponed due to the recent resignations, and the board asked town manager Scott Murphy to contact the members of each board to come up with a new date for the meeting.