Special election set for Newport mayoral position

Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 12:32 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2023 at 2:47 PM EDT
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NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) - Newport is holding a special election for the city’s top job after the former mayor stepped down in May.

Beth Barnes claimed she resigned because she was bullied by city councilors less than three days into the role. Citing election costs, councilors wanted to appoint a new mayor but residents pushed to have a say.

Two of the candidates vying for the position of mayor in Newport actually ran against Barnes: Roderick J Owens and Carl P. King. Former state representative Linda Joy Sullivan is also throwing her hat in the ring for the position.

“It’s a position that I believe I have the skillset for. I have the experience,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan has lived in Newport for about a year but says her experience representing Dorset in the Statehouse and working on policy makes her a clear choice to lead.

Her opponents who ran against Barnes in March say they’re still up to the challenge.

“I’m still committed to doing the job I set out to do at the beginning of the year, that’s to be the mayor,” Owens said.

“It’s because I care about my community and I also want to grow with my community,” said King.

As far as priorities, community relations are key for all candidates.

“For one, in the council and the community, the communications, I want to address that. And secondly, I want to encourage the growth of our businesses and use of our recreation,” said King.

“My first goal would be to get everyone to calm down and realize we are all residents of Newport City and we all have a vested interest in what we’re trying to do, so it’s important for us to collaborate,” Owens said.

“To work together with the council and listen to the will of the people, and put together good policy based on the will of the people, and to work with the town manager to enforce that policy,” said Sullivan.

Many Newport residents accused council members of not being forthcoming with information about what really happened with Barnes behind closed doors. We asked candidates their thoughts about transparency.

“I believe that is going to come straight from the heart. I believe and practice transparency and therefore I expect that from others. Especially elected officials,” King said.

“Everything is supposed to be public so my primary goal is for anything that could be released to the public is released and anyone would have access to it,” Owens said.

As for Sullivan, she said she hasn’t lived in Newport long enough to speak to how the council has previously operated.

“I would address my elected position the way I always address my election position and I would work very well with my council members so I don’t see any issues at all,” Sullivan said.

But they all have one message in common.

“I just want to encourage people to get out and vote. I care about Newport and I’m a real local,” King said.

“Come out and vote the city councilors need to see that and need to see that we’re involved in the process,” Owens said.

“I hope that they come to speak with me and cast their vote,” Sullivan said.

When researching candidates, WCAX News found one of them, Carl King, had a criminal history.

Reporter Rachel Mann: In 2015, you were charged with two counts of aggravated assault in the second degree and had been convicted for violating abuse prevention orders and identity theft before. Why should people trust you to lead their city with that record?

Carl King: “That’s something that happened in the past. I did better myself. I identified that I did make a mistake when I was younger, bettered myself. And I want to prove to myself and my community that it is true that dreams can happen. You can rise above.”

The special election will take place next Tuesday, Aug. 1. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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