GUILFORD — Two candidates are on the ballot for a three-year seat on the Guilford Select Board and three candidates are on the ballot for a two-year seat.
Verandah Porche is seeking a third three-year term and is facing off against Jason Herron, who has also thrown his hat in the ring to compete with Jaime Durham and Tara Cheney for the two-year position.
Tara Cheney has lived in Guilford all of her life, save for a few months in Bar Harbor and a few months in Florida.
Previously, she has served on the Guilford School Board for three years.
“A large part of my desire to be on the Select Board is based on history, heritage and tradition,” she said. “My grandfather, Harvey Cutting, was on the Select Board for nine years. He was also the Guilford road commissioner for 17 years and a farmer all his life.”
Cheney’s uncle, Clayton Cutting, was on the board for a number of years and her aunt, Sally (LaRock) Carpenter, was town clerk for 13 years.
“I grew up with family members building, working in and caring about this town,” said Cheney. “I feel an obligation and duty to represent the town of Guilford [and] I am at a place in my life where I have learned a vast skill set from life experience and my careers to be able to be a level-headed, middle-of-the-road and knowledgeable Select Board member.”
Cheney is a nurse, holistic health practitioner, artist, body worker, and owner of multiple businesses, including, with her husband, Fred, Vermont Roadworks, an asphalt paving company.
“I am very proud and honored to have been the recipient of the 2021 Reformer Woman Business Leader Award,” she said. “In 2022, Vermont Roadworks went on to win the Small Business Association Award for Vermont’s Woman Owned Business of the Year.”
Cheney said she appreciates Guilford for its heart and its rich history.
“There is a blend of people from all walks of life and backgrounds. I believe that Guilford is welcoming and the people are kind, hard-working, creative and innovative.”
She believes while she has a lot to learn about town business, her experience as a small business owner for almost 25 years, dealing with people on a daily basis and problem solving very serious issues, would be put to good use on the Select Board.
“I am highly adaptable, a natural leader and very open minded and can understand both positions if there is opposition,” said Cheney. “I know the costs that go into construction, paving or road repairs and a fair price to accept a bid. I am experienced in human resources and finances and know how to navigate and resolve conflict.”
One of the most pressing issues for communities around the state is affordability.
“The state of Vermont wants people to come here and live, raise a family and have a career but people can’t afford it,” said Cheney. “People who are already here can’t afford it. I want to keep people in Guilford.”
She also credited Guilford Cares, though understaffed and underfunded, for helping many of the town’s elders.
“I want Guilford to cherish and honor seniors in our community, as well as disabled people. No one should struggle when they are not able bodied or when they live alone. I am passionate about helping this organization.”
As is occurring across the country, said Cheney, there is “some division” in Guilford.
“Kindness wins in my book. People just need to be nicer and more respectful to each other in general,” she said. “We need to make decisions based on what is best for our town and the people as a whole. Education is key and it’s important to never speak from a place of ignorance.”
While she is compassionate and empathetic, said Cheney, she is strong in her convictions and has often been “a champion for people without a voice.”
Jaime Durham is seeking her first elected position in the town.
Previously, she was appointed to Guilford’s ARPA Advisory Committee and served as its chairwoman.
“We formulated a report advising the Select Board on the best use of ARPA dollars in Guilford,” she said. “This report has been praised as exemplary by the state.”
Durham and her husband, Jethro Eaton, are also Guilford’s Green Up Day coordinators.
“I enjoy public service, and after my experience on the ARPA Advisory Committee, I realized that my skills would be useful on the Select Board,” said Durham. “I want to help our town move forward functionally as a community, and truly believe my skillset will benefit Guilford.”
Jaime and her husband moved to Windham County in 2011 and Guilford in 2015 following a visit to Vermont to hike the Long Trail.
Durham and Eaton run a construction business, Owl’s Head Builders.
She also teaches, researches and writes in the field of English language learning.
Durham, who served as the director of the Broad Brook Community Center for two years, attended SIT Graduate Institute where she received a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She also has Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from Cornell University.
“I love the strong spirit of volunteerism and civic engagement in Guilford. I love the rural beauty along with the raw elements that make us resilient, and require us to support each other to thrive. In Guilford, people care for their neighbors, and have welcomed my family and my kids.”
Durham said there are many things to be grateful for in Guilford, including the elementary school and its teachers, the community center, the parks and trails, the country store, and all the resources and organizations that make Guilford a strong community.
“The longer I live here, the more I find to appreciate,” she said.
Durham said she is an active and empathetic listener, which would serve her well on the Select Board.
“It’s been a challenging few years for our Select Board, as nationwide political tensions have manifested themselves on a small scale,” she said. “Every opinion is worth hearing, and I think my practical skills, coupled with my approachability and open mindset, will help our Select Board continue to operate civilly in service of the community.”
Jason Herron moved with his family to Vernon when he was 4 years old after his father accepted a position as an assistant operator at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
He graduated from Brattleboro Union High School in 1994.
Ten years ago, Herron and Jason Macie, who he’s know since kindergarten, purchased property in Guilford and turned it into Lakeridge Maple Farm.
“We produce maple products along with firewood and lumber that is all harvested from our land,” said Herron.
Four years ago, Herron and “the love of his life,” Lyndsey Mitchell, built a home just down the road from the maple farm.
Last year, they welcomed their son, Lincoln, into their lives.
“The three of us (plus Rizzo the dog) are very blessed to live in the community of Guilford, where we’ve all been stuck in the mud, but only until a neighbor happens by and lends a hand,” said Herron. “Speaking of being stuck in the mud, we have a problem with our roads in Guilford, not with the crew that works tirelessly to maintain them, but the actual roads. We have parents that struggle to get their children to school during mud season. If a school bus can’t pick up those kids, then neither can many emergency vehicles. I’d like to establish a plan to begin fixing our roads.”
Herron ran for a seat on the Select Board last year,
“I was met with a surprising amount of hostility as I attempted to serve in public office for my first time,” said Herron. “I was targeted in an email that was sent out to over 100 fellow residents of Guilford. Residents that included two Select Board members and my state representative. The email was titled ‘Jason Herron Must Be Defeated!’”
Herron said at the time he did not know there was “a concerted effort” to defeat him.
“Now that I know, I am motivated even more to run for Select Board again,” he said.
Herron also noted that he is currently in a legal dispute with the Select Board “concerning their unwillingness to provide all the conflict-of-interest disclosure statements that are required by Guilford’s own policy.”
Herron said he has studied Vermont’s Open Meeting laws, has read the VLCT Select Board handbook issued by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and has been following, attending, and participating in Select Board meetings.
“Whatever hostility awaits me, win, or lose, I will continue to fight for an open and transparent local government,” he said.
Herron is the Vermont state director for the Convention of States Project, “a movement encouraging state legislatures across the country to utilize Article V of our Constitution to rein in our federal government,” he wrote in a commentary published by True North Reports.
Verandah Porche is currently the vice-chairwoman of the Select Board and is responsible for supporting the chairman in his duties and is the liaison to the Cemetery Commission and the Recreation Commission.
“Since joining, I’ve learned so much about neighborly resilience, grassroots governance, and the complex requirements of state statutes,” said Porche, who is also a volunteer with Window Dressers, an organization that helps people draft-proof their homes.
Porche said she moved to Guilford’s Packer Corners in 1968, drawn by the peaceful beauty of the land, the tradition of self-reliance and tolerant neighborliness.
“We created a community where we could write, make art, and grow food,” she said. While much has changed, our neighborhood remains close-knit and public-spirited.”
Porche raised two daughters in Guilford and has worked as “a teaching poet” at Guilford Central School and around New England.
“At a divisive time in town, around 2007, I began writing ‘Kitchen Talks with Guilford Elders,’” she said. “From their youthful stories, I created ‘Broad Brook Anthology, A Play for Voices,” first presented during Guilford’s 250th celebration.
Porche currently works with Art in the Neighborhood, creating poetry with kids who live in Brattleboro’s public housing.
“My artistic work is based on curiosity, patient listening, and making deep, honest connections. I try to apply these values to my civic life.”
Porche said she most appreciates the atmosphere of cooperation in Guilford and how neighbors help each other in time of need.
She is also appreciative of all her neighbors who helped with the return of the Guilford Country Store and the Broad Brook Community Center, as well as those involved with the Guilford Free Library, Guilford Cares, Neighborhood Roots, and Guilford Folk.
“The most pressing issues for our community are public trust and affordability,” said Porche. “We must work together, locally and regionally, to weatherize homes and create new housing for young families and older residents, while protecting our environment.”
Porche also said she is proud to have worked with “visionary, down-to-earth, and cooperative colleagues.”
“I look forward to the next chapter,” she said.