Chair Facing Challenge On Burke Select Board

Burke Select Board Chair Christine Emmons is being challenged by Samuel James. Voting is March 2 by Australian ballot.

BURKE — Voters on March 2 will decide between two people competing for a spot on the select board.

Samuel James is challenging incumbent Christine Emmons, who serves as the chair of the board.

James, who lives in East Burke, operates the Burke Recycling Center, which is located in West Burke, behind the town office. He said he was encouraged to run for the position by his neighbors.

“The big push was from some neighbors asking me to do this,” he said. “I figured I’d at least like to test the waters.”

James said the people who encouraged him to run appreciate his ability to get things done.

He refers to himself as a jack of all trades. He said he’s run small businesses in the past to include a handyman service and serving as a fishing guide. He’s lived in East Burke for 22 years and is a native to the area, having been born in St. Johnsbury and graduated from Lyndon Institute. His parents live in Lyndonville. He serves as a trustee at the Lyndonville Methodist Church.

James said his position at the recycling center means he interacts with a lot of residents; he figured he connects with a couple of hundred people every week. He said that kind of connection between a selectman and the community would benefit both.

In terms of issues facing the town, he said the growth of the community needs to be managed well. “Things are progressing pretty fast,” he said. Burke is home to the mountain resort and ski area and the Kingdom Trails network.

He said the growth of Kingdom Trails is significant, but he says the popularity of the trails network within the community can function well with good communication and compromise.

“I love the town of Burke,” he said. “Should the town of Burke elect me they’re going to get an honest, hard-working man of his word. I’ll work to the best of my ability to get things done.”

Emmons is on the Town Meeting ballot for the third time. Each time she’s faced an opponent.

She was first appointed in January 2017 following the resignation of long-time Selectman Sam Sanderson. She appeared on the ballot the following March seeking election to finish out Sanderson’s three-year term; there was one year left.

Emmons won over George Wagner Jr. in March 2017. One year later she sought re-election to the three-year term and beat Travis Corey.

She works for the Vermont Agency of Transportation and has lived in West Burke since 2003.

Emmons said she hasn’t actively campaigned ahead of the election. “It’s one of those things where you get busy in the doing,” she said. “I’m not much of a politician; I’m just someone trying to be a good representative and voice for my town.”

She said one reason she hopes to be re-elected is to see projects full to completion that the board has been working on. She said she looks forward to the completion of the East Darling Hill Road project. “It’s been many years in the progress,” she said. The work is scheduled to be finished by September.

Another project to be done is the Hayden Crossing Bridge. There’s also an effort to replace the town garage on a new site.

She also talked about the continuing work with Kingdom Trails to strike a balance between the economic growth that comes with a wildly popular trails network and “the least disruption to the residents.”

Emmons said the challenges of managing a town during the pandemic have been significant, but things were handled as smoothly as possible.

“I try to be a good representative of what I feel is best for the overall of Burke,” she said. “I try to take into consideration the good of the town, how it will affect the residents.”

Voting for the race between Emmons and James will take place by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 2.

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