A democracy is only as good as the amount of participation people put into it. That is why our country started its public education system. To participate in our government, people had to be able to read and write and do enough math to understand a budget. St. Armand town government is suffering from a severe lack of participation.
My husband was the first Democrat to win an election and become a town board member in 35 years. People voted who hadn't voted in years. Many cast only one vote on the entire ballot. They knew that the government in power under Supervisor Joyce Morency had been acting as if the town were its own little kingdom. "We've always done it this way" had became the mantra. Equipment was bought without bidding. Jobs are passed out to friends, family and to secure votes. And board members have had their board jobs, which pay well for the amount of hours put in, plus other town jobs.
Tom Jones has objected to this for almost four years. He did get the board and Joyce to finally get state contracts on vehicles and consider other vendors. He protested a board member working for the town as well as being on the board until that board member finally chose the town job over his seat on the board. He has objected to the buying of land by the town when it added an unnecessary expense. So many times he was the lone dissenter over the improprieties in how things should be done. It wore him out. The people who supported him wouldn't come to the town meetings. With no one there following what was going on, the supervisor and board knew that it could be business as usual. How do you like the $70,000 steps, citizens of St. Armand?
Now that Tom is not running again for town board, the flood gates are open. Will Don Amell quit his job as town historian when he gets on the town board? There are two seats and only two candidates running.
Recently Paul Woodruff, Joyce's nephew, resigned his position on the board because he is moving out of the town lines. Immediately the town cemetery caretaker, Charlie Whitson, who has served three years short of the decades that Joyce has served, was appointed to take Paul's place ... with one dissenting vote, of course. Nepotism is alive and well in St. Armand.
Is this what you want, citizens of St. Armand? Joyce and the board do not keep taxes in line. They spent a limited amount of tax dollars, keep a lot in reserve and spend that for their own special use. Have any of you heard about all the special meetings? If you have, then that's another place to see what's going on.
Then there is fear. When Tom campaigned for the supervisor position, we heard, "Don't come here; my child won't get the youth commission job." "I need a job in the prison. Joyce can help me get that." "Joyce had my mailbox replaced." Are these reasons to give in to oligarchy (rule by a small group)? Is that how you want your town run? By the way, did you know that St. Armand lost the head of the water and sewer department? Have you seen the posting looking for someone to replace him? Me neither. Don't worry; the job has been filled ... "temporarily."
Don't blame your government. Don't blame your leaders entirely. With no guidance, they will do what they will do. Anyone who tries to serve the voters needs your help. No leader rules alone.
Sue Abbott-Jones lives in Bloomingdale in the town of St. Armand.