2023 selectboard candidates

Clockwise from top left: Darren Adams, John Fitzgerald, Richard Saunders and Leland Morgan. 

On Town Meeting Day, voters will have four familiar faces to consider for two one-year seats on the Milton Selectboard. 

Darren Adams, John Fitzgerald, Leland Morgan and Richard Saunders all have years of experience in public service and town government. 

Adams, the board’s current chair, is hoping to serve his 13th year. John Fitzgerald, the race’s other incumbent, was first elected in 2020. 

Morgan, a former state representative who lost his candidacy for senate this fall, is hoping to return to public service and to the selectboard. Saunders is on Milton’s economic development commission. 

The Independent asked the candidates 3 questions ahead of the upcoming election on March 7. Their answers have been edited for length and for clarity. 

Q:  Why are you running or running for re-election to the Milton Selectboard?

Adams:  I am running for re-election to continue to work on several projects to keep making the community safer and a better place to live. Milton is an awesome town, full of great people.

Fitzgerald:  I am running for my fourth one-year term. I am passionate about the community and want to be involved to help Milton progress in the right direction. I want to see our community members that live here, work here. Also in the last few years the town has started a few larger projects that I have been involved with and would love to be able to see them through to the finish line.

Morgan:   I am running for a seat on the Selectboard to help keep Milton a good place to live and to make it even better. I am a lifelong resident of Milton and have served the town in numerous capacities over the years and want to continue to do so.  It is always good to have fresh eyes, ears and perspectives on a board.

Saunders:   I'm running for selectboard because my wife and I are raising our daughter here, and I want to ensure that she grows up in a town she can be proud of, where she is safe, respected, and valued, whoever she decides to be, and can access the opportunities that will equip her to do whatever she chooses in life. Milton is on the path to becoming that place, but we need proactive, sensible, collaborative leadership, and to bring people together, speak clearly and honestly, and have the courage to do what is right. That would be my role.

Q:  What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Milton and how would you begin to tackle it?

Adams:  The biggest challenge is balancing affordability with providing the level of services our community expects. We solved the EMS staffing shortage and have a fully-staffed police and public works departments. 

We are now working hard to build a long-awaited recreation center with a pool, ice rink and other amenities without impacting property taxes. We recently acquired additional land adjacent to Bombardier and are launching a feasibility study. If done correctly, this will provide a benefit to all residents without creating a burden to taxpayers.

Fitzgerald:  The rising housing market spiked tax bills. It is extremely important that we are able to bring a budget to the taxpayers as close to level funded as possible. The second factor is the rate of inflation. Everything is more expensive, it’s very difficult to do more with less. The fix is to continue to find cost savings where possible while still supporting the community with programs through recreation, maintenance of infrastructure and the like.

Morgan:  As Milton grows, it is very important that we keep a balance between what is proposed and what taxpayers can afford to pay.  This is always a huge challenge.  Whenever it involves taxpayer money it must be considered and tackled on a continuous basis.  Whether money comes from the federal, state or town government, it all comes out of our pockets.

The building of a new Public Works Facility and the proposed development of a new multipurpose recreation facility will pose challenges of many sorts that will have to be addressed.       

Saunders:  There’s no simple answer. The rising cost of living, housing and childcare accessibility, a lack of mental health resources, difficulty finding and retaining staff, these issues and many others are impacting the community. 

One attainable issue is the lack of a downtown core, and the social and community spaces we need. Such additions would be powerful tools in attracting both businesses and people to Milton. To facilitate this we need to make changes to the way we regulate development in some cases, and we need to fund that development in smart, creative ways that return revenue to the community.

Q:  What perspective, attribute or experience will you uniquely bring to the board? 

Adams:   I have the ability and experience to work with many different groups with diverse thoughts and goals to build consensus.

Fitzgerald:  I have three years under my belt now with the Milton Selectboard. This year my fellow board members voted me in as the clerk. As clerk, prior to our meetings I sit down and review the warrant, approve minutes for accuracy, and if both the chair and vice chair are not able to be at the meeting, I am responsible for running our meetings, following the Vermont open meeting law as well as Roberts Rules.

Morgan:   If elected I would bring knowledge and experience to the Board.  I currently serve as a Justice of the Peace, am a member of the Board of Civil Authority, the Board of Abatement, and the Charter Compliance Committee. In January, I completed two terms (four years) in the Vermont House of Representatives.  I have also served on the selectboard in Milton.  I have always lived in Milton (my family has lived here for generations). I graduated from the Milton school system, the University of Vermont, and did graduate studies at Saint Michael’s College. As a veteran, I belong to the American Legion, as well as several other local organizations.

Saunders:  I’ve lived and worked in several different countries, in large, dynamic cities and in smaller, more cozy towns, and I’ve traveled to many more. I’ve watched them as they’ve overcome challenges, and I’ve seen them both seize and squander opportunities. They’ve taken many different approaches for many different reasons.

I offer a fresh perspective, and I think I can bring together people with different experiences and perspectives in order to find creative and innovative solutions to our challenges.

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