CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnVermontrnby Arthur F. McGrath IIIrnThe Town MeetingrnAn annual Vermont tradition occurs onrnthe first Tuesday of March: Town Meeting.rnIt is actualK” a state holida}’; manyrnbusinesses and all schools and state officesrnclose for the day. This year, as eycryrnyear since I returned from the MarinernCorps, I make the trek from graduaterncollege to home to participate. While Irnha’e resided in different towns in recentrnyears, Guildhall, the county seat of E.ssexrnin the Northeastern portion of the state,rnis still home, a permanent fixture in myrnlife.rnhi the midaftcrnoon I leave Milton, arnsmall town just north of Burlington, Vermont’srnbustling Metropolis of 40,00(1. Irntravel east along U.S. Route 2, a familiarrnroute which cuts across the spine of thernstate, the Green Mountains. The sun isrnbright off the snow, and the mountainsrncreate beckoning shadows, shadows inrnwhich evening’s darkness will continuernto hide for a few brief hours more. Trafficrnis light, hi the winter, as long as one isrnawa’ from the ski areas, the vacationersrnwhich plague the entire state in thernwarmer months are for the most part absent.rnIt is one of the few blessings of ourrnbitter winters.rnAfter passing through St. Johnsbury,rnnamed in honor of St. Jean de Crcvecoeur.rnRoute 2 becomes even more barren.rnI am now well into the part of Vermontrnknown as the Northeast Kingdom.rnIt is heavily wooded with few houses, andrnthe towns are small and scattered. Irndon’t see this as a drawback. To me, thisrnis the essence of Vermont, why I still livernin a state which sends Bernie Sanders tornCongress. One advantage to being in arnless populated area is that the roads arernactually a little better here, a benefit ofrnhaving fewer people and less traffic thanrnthe rest of Vermont. Soon, around 5;00rnP.M., I come into the Essex County scat,rnGuildhall, many of whose 160 registeredrnvoters, out of a population of about 300,rnare preparing for town meeting at 7:00rnP.M. Two-and-one-half hours after leavingrnMilton, I arrive at my father’s house.rnI eat supper by the woodstove, its heatrnquite welcome and penetrating. I am reluctantrnto perform my civic duty, feelingrnquite content b the stove at this point.rnHowever, this is still a free state and I amrnstill a free man. Duty and tradition diernhard, especially in the mountains of Vermont,rneven among adopted Vermontersrnsuch as myself. However much Montpelierrnand Washington would like us to surrenderrnecn this power, we are more determinedrnthan ever to hold onto it.rnI leave for the meeting a few minutesrnafter my father, who is the chairman ofrnthe board of selectmen and must arrivernearly. I leave for the town hall soon afterrnand arrive a few minutes before thernmeeting starts. The meeting is held inrnthe town hall, known as the Guild Hall.rnBuilt in 1794, it has been in constant usernever since, with a few minor renovationsrnwhich have not affected the building’srnappearance of age.rnAfter staking my claim to one of thernhard wooden chairs for the night, I lookrnaround. In the front of the room is arnstage; directly in front of that is a longrntable behind which sit the x’arious townrnofficers: the board of selectmen, therntown clerk, and justices of the peace whornwill count the votes and cheek people offrnas they approach the table to cast theirrnballots. Ix) the left is a fireplace, rarelyrnused. On the mantle is an old clock withrnthe correct time, and above that is a copyrnof a famous painting of George Wishiiigton.rnThe only picture of a Presidentrnvisible is an old photo of Dwight Eisenhower.rnOn another wall is a large, oldrnwooden display board with the battlernhonor roll from the town. At the top isrnthe list of names from the Cixil War, andrnbelow are names from the Great War.rnNothing more recent. The moderator,rnAllen Hodgdon (who is also a side, or layrnjudge for the county) calls the meetingrnto order. He announces that this is thern211th annual Guildhall Town Meetingrnand immediately moves to the first orderrnof business, the election of the townrnofficers. This is the core of small-townrnpolitics and has been the center of manyrnbitter fights. Tonight is no exception,rnthough the fireworks are subdued. Vermontersrnare known for being taciturnrnand reserved, and this is often true evenrnin disagreements.rnTwo men were nominated for the position.rnThe incumbent, a man with 25rnyears’ service to the town, has been defeatedrnfor Selectman only once, and thatrnwas by my father nine years ago. Inrntonight’s election he takes nothing forrngranted, as he did that night, for he hasrncalled all the troops out. People whornhave not been to Town Meeting in yearsrnconic out of the woodwork to supportrnthe incumbent, no doubt at his request.rnMost of these people leave soon after thisrnfirst ‘ote, their task being done.rnThere is no debate or discussion. Peoplernquietly write their choice on theirrnballot and file up to the front of thernroom. There they vote by depositingrntheir slip into a wooden box while theirrnname is carefully checked off a list byrnseveral Justices of the Peace.rnWhile the votes arc laboriously countedrnand recounted, people mill about,rnsome snacking on food in an anteroomrnwhich has been prepared for a charityrnfundraiser being conducted for the BovrnScouts or some other all-too-wholesomcrncause. Soon, the moderator counts thernvotes. Eorty-one for the incumbent selectman,rn28 for the challenger. It will bernthe most ‘otes east all evening, and is 15rnmore votes than had been cast for allrnpresidential candidates combined duringrnthe primary voting all day.rnSeveral people speculate privately thatrnthe challenger lost because of whatrnseems to be the bane of all modern politics:rn”negative campaigning,” blamingrnhis opponent for all the ills of the townrnand arguing that only he could correctrnthose ills. Some would merely call thatrnspeaking about his opponent’s record,rnbut of course that depends entirely onrnwhom one is supporting. Others say hernlost because he failed to get his supportersrnto the Town Meeting to vote.rnThe only other contest of the eveningrnwas for tax collector. The incumbent ofrnmany ears was defeated by an evenrnwider margin. The incumbent receiedrnonly 18 votes. After this contest, all thernother elected offices are filled with littlernfanfare or discussion.rnAfter the election of the Town Officers,rnthe next item is the budget. Of interestrnis a debate over the money appro-rn42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn