Planning Commission chairman Jaime Heins has been picked to fill a seat on the Shelburne Selectboard until town meeting in March.
Heins, a lawyer, has been senior legal counsel at Keurig Green Mountain since January 2015 and earlier did legal work for Burton Snowboards for nine years. He was on the South Burlington Land Trust from 2005 to 2012, and has been a Shelburne justice of the peace for the past year.
His wife, Erin Miller Heins, is also a lawyer and is a former member of town library board.
Heins, who has lived in town for five years, said he believed there was no wrong choice among the six applicants for the vacant selectboard seat. He said the planning commission has a “deep bench” and it would keep going if he was selected.
Within two hours of being named, Heins had to recuse himself from discussion on the town manager’s request for an independent investigation into his handling of the retirement of Police Chief Jim Warden earlier this year. Warden was represented by a lawyer at Heins’s wife’s law firm, but she did not work on the case.
Heins replaces selectboard member John Kerr, who stepped down effective Oct. 31, citing a lack of civility within the community and town government.
On Tuesday night, the remaining four selectboard members conducted interviews in public for nearly an hour with the six applicants. The board took few written notes as the candidates spoke. Afterward, the board met behind closed doors for 40 minutes to make their selection.
Before the secret session, selectboard member Dr. Josh Dein suggested a ranking process designed to bring transparency to the appointment, but it died in a 2-2 vote. Chairman Gary von Stange and Dr. Colleen Parker opposed the idea; Dein favored it along with Jerry Storey, a former municipal manager in Maine, who said it was worth considering.
Resident Sean Moran said he favored an open process at a time when public confidence in the selectboard is flagging. He noted Kerr quit the board seven months after his election, while another board member – Parker – has threatened to sue the town.
Dein also urged the board to discuss their decision in public, but his opinion was overruled.
After coming out of secret session, the appointment was approved 3-0-1 with Dein abstaining, saying he did so because he disliked the process, not the choice.
The board also voted to make Storey the new vice chairman, replacing Kerr. The vote was 4-0-1 with Storey abstaining.
Several members of the audience and board members remarked on the applicants who came forward to fill the board opening, calling it a strong field.
Von Stange pointed out that three seats on the selectboard will be up for grabs on March 6 – the seat Heins filled and the seats now held by Storey and von Stange, which expire on Town Meeting Day.
The other candidates for the selectboard vacancy were:
- Ken Albert, who served 18 years on the selectboard, including four as chairman, before stepping down in 2003. A U.S. Army veteran, he worked as an engineer at IBM for 33 years and most recently helped found the Shelburne Vineyard.
- Kristina Guerrero, a town resident for two years, has been on the Shelburne Social Services Committee since April. She served in the U.S. Air Force until 2010 and more recently started a business called TurboPUP, which produces meal bars for dogs.
- Mary Kehoe, a lawyer and chair of the Shelburne Development Review Board, is an experienced mediator, a skill she said she thought could help with issues facing the board. She is a former Burlington city councilor as well.
- Doug Merrill served on the town Bicycle and Pedestrian Path Committee for six years. Since moving to Vermont in 2005, he has worked at Husky Injection Molding, Dynapower and presently is chief executive at Semiprobe in Winooski.
- A former journalist and state government employee, John Zicconi said his current job as executive secretary for the Vermont Transportation Board posed a potential conflict of interest on topics related to the Vermont Railway.