iBrattleboro Selectboard Candidate Interview – Jessica Gelter

Jessica Gelter is an incumbent running for a one year seat.


Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for a one year seat…

I’m a nonprofit business leader, a townie, an artist, and a mom. I’m running again because the work that fired me up and inspired me to run last year is still underway, and I would like to be accountable and follow through on some of the decisions I helped make last year, like hiring new town manager Yoshi Manale.

What did you think of your first budget season?  Enjoy the overview of Town Operations?

I keep saying, it felt like a love fest! It was really surprising. Peter and the staff handed us a budget that was really easy to understand and say yes to, with some minor tweaks and alterations to make sure the tax rate didn’t jump up significantly again. I certainly learned a lot about the various functions of the Town departments, and all the equipment we own!

RTM increased compensation to make it easier for more people to serve, yet you are running unopposed. Did RTM make a mistake? Increasing compensation did not increase candidates…

One election is not enough to prove this didn’t work. And to get a little personal, it makes a difference for me and my family. I gave up a lot of side gigs and work to take this on.

Why do you think no one new wants to run for Selectboard this year?

I like to hope it’s because the current selectboard is working as a great team. 🤞

What are current your thoughts on Brattleboro and:

– housing

We have lots of work to do to build more middle and lower income housing. I hope that once the housing study is finalized, the Town can actively invest in housing and our community’s future.

– community safety 

Also, we have work to do, but I am thrilled about cheif Norma Hardy joining us for this journey towards increased safety for all Brattleboro residents. I was excited to help her implement things that will strengthen the work of the police, and I am excited she has been willing to adopt some of the community safety reccommendations right away.

– climate

I’m thrilled that our sustainability coordinator is working hard on this. There are ripple effects across the town government and our partners because of Stephen’s work. It’s important Brattleboro does its part.

How do you deal with burnout and exhaustion?

I deal with burnout by … avoiding it. It takes active care to balance life, work, selecboard, art, taking time in nature, and being with the people I love. Another piece of it is welcoming serendipity by being in the moment and saying yes to opportunities as often as possible. The most important piece is allowing for mistakes, apologies, and always striving to do better.

What sort of creative projects have interested you recently?

I’ve been pursuing sewing, quilting, and learning some traditional crafts from Japan. I’m chasing a piece of my cultural heritage that has always been a bit elusive to me, and I’m doing it through the creative forms that resonate most with the memories of my grandmother, who was from there.

Are you satisfied with public engagement in town matters? Is local democracy strong?

I would love to see more folks involved in local politics. Stephanie Bonin has been great at engaging downtown businesses in some of our topics over the year by putting together 3-5 question surveys when a topic of interest comes up, then emailing us the results. It’s a great way to hear from a particular group. I wish other groups in town would do that! On another note, I was disappointed to see the governor veto our work to get 16 and 17 year Olds the vote in local elections. It was a resolution that passed resoundingly with a popular vote of the people of Brattleboro. Truly disappointing, but I hope it doesn’t discourage young people from getting involved.

Would you say you are generally optimistic or pessimistic about humans and the problems we face? Why?

I am generally optimistic. I absolutely live and work for a better future.

Recommend some books, movies, music for us….

I reccommend Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s a tome, but worth the read if you like fiction and care about our climate crisis.

Is there anything you’d like to mention that hasn’t been asked?

What’s the best way for voters to reach you?

Thanks for doing the iBrattleboro.com interview again this year!

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