Julie Hulburd’s Vermont roots extend all the way back to the 1700s. She’s worked in government since college; she likes dogs, parks, and bagels; and she’s running for the vacant seat on the Colchester town selectboard.
“My family came to Vermont in the 1700s and then moved to Colchester in the 1800s, so I’m kind of naturally invested in what happens in Colchester,” she said with a laugh.
Hulburd currently serves on the Colchester Recreation Advisory Board and works as the Director of Human Resources for VSAC (Vermont Student Assistance Corporation). In college, she served as the president of her student government and as Vice-President of Vermont State College’s student government.
“I’ve been working on public conversations for a long time,” Hulburd said. “You have to collaborate and listen to all of the different concerns and come to some middle collaborative ground.”
Hulburd began seriously considering the position a year ago. She met with folks on the selectboard at the time and some local legislators to better understand the workload and responsibilities of the position.
“I feel like if it’s something you’re going to do, you have to be willing to spend the time and attention to really make judicious and careful decisions,” she said. “When people vote for us and put us on the selectboard, they’re placing a great deal of trust in us. That includes how we spend their tax dollars, how we make decisions about the town that will affect us now and in the future. I really wanted to make sure that I was prepared to do this, if I was so lucky to be chosen by the public.”
When collecting signatures for her petition, one of the requirements to run for selectboard, Hulburd went door to door talking to those who offered to sign. She fulfilled her 30 signatures in a little under 48 hours.
“I wanted to get to 100 but when I got to 50 I was like, I need to turn this in; get goin’,” she said. Although campaigning door-to-door is outside of her usual comfort zone, Hulburd said it turned out fun and offered a chance to hear a myriad of different perspectives than she typically hears. She noticed a lot of misconceptions about the town sewer proposal which was voted down in 2019.
“I think we could probably do a better job of communicating in the future. I don’t know what that looks like but I think we could do a better job of being clearer. I know what the Local Option Tax (LOT) is, but not everyone does. Even my husband probably doesn’t know what that is,” Hulburd said laughing. “So explaining that minutiae that we assume everybody knows [is important]. People who don’t think about this everyday don’t know, so it’s our job to inform and educate them in a way that they can trust.”
She also thinks that her 12 years of experience working in municipal government will help on the selectboard. “I’ve seen what it takes to build a municipal budget, when we’re talking about the dollars and cents that our neighbors are paying us to build our roads and provide public services,” she said.
According to her, working in human resources in municipal government is a good experience in human behavior.
“Having a really difficult problem and working through it to a solution was really satisfying work. It’s something that I feel made a real difference in the community I was serving,” Hulburd said. “You might come to a table in a negotiation or conversation where people are really far apart, but through conversation you get to a solution that everyone can live with. I think it’s about listening, talking and asking questions.”
She sees this emphasis on communication and working collaboratively as an important thing to keep in mind moving forward with the Malletts Bay Initiative.
“I want to hear a lot more before I make up my mind; there are a lot of options,” Hulburd said, regarding which route she thinks is the best to tackle wastewater pollution in Malletts Bay. “I think the planning commission has done their job really well and really thoroughly in terms of giving their recommendations. Some members of the public have brought their concerns forward and now it’s really about talking through those concerns.” She also mentioned interest in hearing how the public conversation goes when the selectboard discusses comments from local citizen group, Friends of Malletts Bay, who are outspoken against the sewer plan.
As a member of the recreation advisory board, Hulburd is also passionate about parks. For her, creating four-season parks and places where the town can gather are important in considering future development. “It would be really nice to see [Bayside Park] become even more of a town center, in the summer and even in the winter months. Some of the development we’ve talked about as a town are walking parks that can be used in the winter, or dog parks, so we can be together in the winter as well,” she said. “I’m excited to see that kind of development and change and I think it would bring more people to our town as well.”
For Hulburd, investing in town parks is an important step towards thinking about the future of Colchester. “We have to think about not just what will bring people to our town today but what will bring people in the future as our population ages and changes. What will keep people coming back to Colchester as visitors or people who want to stay and live in Colchester?” she asked.
Three seats on the town selectboard are up for reelection. Incumbent members Pam Loranger and Chair Jeff Bartley have filed petitions with the Town Clerk but fellow selectboard member Herb Downing does not plan to run for reelection of his seat. Stacey Mercure, owner of Colchester Health and Fitness, has also filed a petition running for Downing’s seat. The deadline to submit a petition ended on Jan. 27.
For more about Julie Hulburd, visit her website at juliehulburd.com.