Hinesburg Selectboard makes appointments to Conservation Commission

It is an unexpected turn of events for the Hinesburg Conservation Commission to have a steady stream of applicants for the panel, following a period when it was difficult to attract volunteers to serve on local town boards and committees.

“It’s an interesting dilemma for the Conservation Commission,” said Selectboard Chairman Phil Pouech. “It’s a nine-member board, and we now have seven (on the body).”

During April, the Selectboard made appointments to the nine-member group. Marie Ayer, Bill Baker, and Stacy Riley were named to the panel. During the April 17 meeting, the board then heard from four applicants seeking to be appointed to the two remaining positions. One of the seats opened up when then-Chairman Merrily Lovell won a seat on the Selectboard during March town meeting. Lovell resigned from the Conservation Commission in mid-April, noting she couldn’t maintain her post on the panel while sitting on the Selectboard.

George LeClair and Kate Kelly won the most recent appointments to the Conservation Commission. Peter Erb and Elliot Cluba also applied for the two seats. Erb is a former town Zoning Administrator, who left the position in 2015. Cluba is an herbalist, gardener, health expert, and primitive skills educator.
LeClair was originally slated to go before the Selectboard earlier in April, but couldn’t attend the meeting due to sickness, he said. During his question-and-answer session with the board, LeClair noted that as a local business owner, he comes into contact with an array of customers and is accustomed to working with a diverse group of people. He pointed out his interest in maintaining open land for hunting and fishing, and has also worked with the Lake Champlain Walleye Association.

During the interview with the board, Selectboard member Tom Ayer pointed out he spoke with LeClair frequently about volunteering for the commission. Ayer said he feels LeClair can be a “conduit” for the panel’s interactions with hunters and those who fish.

Selectboard member Aaron Kimball also asked LeClair about his experience serving on boards. LeClair pointed out his work with the Walleye Association and the Vergennes Youth Program. Lovell followed up with an inquiry about how LeClair views land conservation. LeClair indicated he supports conserving land, but added land shouldn’t be taken from a property owner “just because you can,” LeClair said.
Four board members supported LeClair’s nomination, with Lovell casting the sole dissenting vote. LeClair’s term is up Jan. 1, 2019.

Kelly stepped up to speak with Selectboard members, outlining her background and why she sought a position on the commission. She pointed out that her background and strong interest in wildlife biology and conservation would likely prove useful for the panel’s work. Also, she noted her desire to teach children, and get them outside to learn.

Kimball asked about her experience and Kelly said her children are older, and that she has time to serve the community. Lovell mentioned that land-use planning incorporating the protection of natural resources would likely get a boost with Kelly sitting on the Commission.

Kelly’s appointment to the Commission received unanimous support from Selectboard members. Her term expires Jan. 1, 2020.

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