Lj Holland Leaves Guildhall, and Laura’s Heart Breaks

This week, my friend and neighbor Lj  begins her move out of Guildhall. On the advice of her doctor, she’s headed to the warmer climes of Florida to start a new life. She’ll be around sporadically over the winter, but by March, she will be officially and permanently moved. I know that she’s doing what’s best and I’m happy for her. But I am sad for myself. No, I am much more than sad–I am devastated. When she goes, she will take a big part of me with her and will leave a gaping hole in the community where I’ve lived and worked since 2004.

When we moved here, Lj and her husband Mike Holland had preceded us by four years or so. They came here from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where Lj had been a police officer and Mike had begun a career as an accomplished chef. They bought the beautiful old Ridgewell Farm on Rt 102 and proceeded to farm, run a vegetable stand, raise pigs, sheep and chickens, brew their own beer and wine, and throw the best parties in the North Country.

Lj has had a huge impact on my life in the relatively short time I’ve known her. When I was appointed as Town Auditor back in 2006, Lj brought great snacks, showed me the ropes, and taught me how to read financial statements. As an auditor, she was knowledgeable and dedicated. Later, she provided support and encouragement when I ran for Town Treasurer. During that first difficult year, she and the other auditors slogged painstakingly through hours and reams of material as together, we cleaned up a recordkeeping mess from the previous administration.

She taught me about composting, advised me on pastry techniques, showed me how to host a great party and gave me counsel on other matters ranging from finding a good physical therapist to whether or not I should get my own chickens.

Lj was elected to the Guildhall Selectboard in 2010. To that position, she brought a wealth of hard-edged common sense, a no-nonsense attitude and a great sense of humor.

Lj's dog Maizey (the white lab on right) play with our dog Django, at Lj' house

Lj is also brave, courageous and outspoken. This summer and fall, she was one of the many Guildhall citizens who were appalled and outraged when our School Board vice-chair actually voted for the School District to pay tuition for his own 5th grade child to attend an out-of-district school. She passionately believes in good government and accountability. She hates the idea of someone getting special treatment just because of their name or the power they hold in town.

In a small town like ours, it isn’t easy to stand up publicly against something that you believe is wrong, unethical or illegal. But Lj knew it had to be done and she never blinked.

She attended School Board meetings despite her deteriorating health and spoke up bravely. She joined with others to petition the School Board for a hearing on the conflict of interest issue. She wrote a letter to the editor to the local newspaper. She proudly took the serious step, along with nine other citizens, of filing a lawsuit against a School Board and individuals that she believed had broken the law and betrayed the public trust. The woman has guts.

I wish there were more people like Lj in our town. As far as I’m concerned, her portrait should hang in the Town Office, in recognition of her exemplary service to Guildhall and of all the great friends she made here.

We miss you horribly, Lj. But we’ll stay in touch and we wish you great health and happiness in this next chapter of your life.

We Won the Rescission Vote.

This was an important practical and symbolic step in the direction of taking back our School Board and making it accountable.

I am very proud of the work that so many people did in preparation for this meeting. Some of us wrote letters to the editor. Others assembled a mailing. Others coordinated taking an ad out in the local paper. Most important, numerous residents made extraordinary effort to talk to their neighbors and fellow citizens personally about the issues at stake and to emphasize the importance of voting. (I see it as grass roots local politics at its best)

I’m extremely proud of our School Board chair, Sharal Plumley, who courageously stood up and said that in good conscience, she could not support a program that allowed some families to get their tuition subsidized, when so many other families over the years have had to pay out of their own pockets.

I’m proud of Lindsay King, my neighbor, who took the floor and recounted how he had been a special needs child and that the school had tried to get his parents to pay for him to go to another school and asked why now one family expects–and receives–a subsidy.

I’m proud of Roger Brisson, who described to the assembly how he had been a gifted and talented child, but that his parents took responsibility for paying to send him to a different school to meet his gifted and talented needs. I’m proud of Lori Cantin, who pointed out that the Guildhall Elementary School has the resources, talent and ability to meet program needs right here at home.

And I’m appreciative of Teri Anderson, who had the wisdom and the insight to know when there had been enough debate, and took action to call the question and vote.

All those who spoke in favor of rescission were well-spoken, civil and respectful. There were no personal attacks by those of us opposed to the gifted and talented article. This civility and respect shows that the recent community outrage about the gifted and talented “entitlement” is no personal vendetta, but rather a deep-seated belief that programs supported by taxpayer funds should be implemented fairly, according to one consistent set of rules for everyone, with no special treatment for anyone.

Finally, I believe the vote demonstrates that most taxpayers and citizens are unwilling to tolerate local officials who use their office to seek personal gain.

Congratulations to everyone. Well done.