With a month to go until Town Meeting Day, the mayor's race in Montpelier has some new competition. Wednesday, the recently fired city planner tossed her hat into the ring.
Gwendolyn Hallsmith announced her candidacy at Local 64, a co-working space for area business startups and entrepreneurs, that she calls a model for the kind of creative economy she is pushing for.
"The economy is actually a big part of the reason I was inspired to run for mayor," Hallsmith said.
A few short months ago, the former city planning director was working out of City Hall. That was before she was fired by the city manager for alleged infractions, including unprofessional behavior and insubordination.
"The fact that I'm interested in public banking and complementary currencies led the mayor to accuse me of being anti-capitalist. I think that speaks volumes about what he thinks about the kinds of economic initiatives and innovations that were talking about when we're talking about adapting to life in the 21st century," Hallsmith said.
Mayor John Hollar says he supported her removal not because of what she was advocating for, but because she was doing it at work on the city's dime.
"My concern was that she was pursuing a whole range of initiatives out of City Hall that really had nothing to do with the city," Hollar said. "They were being pursued as part of her work through her own nonprofit."
Hallsmith, who is appealing her termination, maintains that issues like public banking, affordable housing, citizen-driven economic development and climate change are precisely the kinds of issues that need to be addressed.
"I don't come with any ax to grind," she said. "I really just want to see the programs and policies that I worked hard on to their fruition."
The mayor, who is also a lobbyist with clients that include the kind of large banks that might be impacted by public banking, rejects allegations that Hallsmith's firing was some kind of retribution for her proposals. He says now that she's in the race, he hopes they can stick to the issues.
Mayor John Hollar: We've got a lot of good things to talk about. That's what I'm going to be focusing on. The issues that are important to people who live in Montpelier.
Reporter Alexei Rubenstein: Do you question her motivation for running?
Mayor John Hollar: Not at all. I think anyone has the right to run and if she wants to do that, that's her prerogative.
With only a month to go, the race for mayor of the Capital City is already off to a feisty start.
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