College Residential Director Esther Thomas elected to Middlebury selectboard

By Manya Kula

Courtesy Photo
Esther Thomas was elected to the selectboard in the March 2 election, occupying the seat that was previously held by Professor of Philosophy Victor Nuovo.

College Residential Director Esther Thomas was elected to a one-year term on the Middlebury town selectboard in the March 2 election, defeating opponent Andy Hooper. Thomas joins incumbents Lindsey Fuentes-George and Farhad Khan, who secured three-year terms in uncontested races. 

For Thomas, her focus is on bringing a new voice to town affairs. As a single parent, working mom, woman of color and member of the college community, Thomas’ post on the selectboard would give her an opportunity to bring wider representation to the town government. 

“I hope to be an extended voice,” she said. “I hope by me running, people who weren’t talking about it before are now talking about [running for selectboard], are now considering it, bringing a new wave of interest to what’s going on in our town.”

Thomas has maintained close ties to Middlebury — both the college and the town. 

As a Residential Director, Thomas oversees more than 800 students in junior and senior housing as well as incoming Febs housed in Forest Hall. She works closely with students to aid their transition to college, orient them to campus protocols and enforce conduct expectations. Hooper, too, is closely connected to the college: he is married to Economic Professor Caitlin Myers and his parents met at the college. 

Originally from Rhode Island, Thomas moved to Vermont with her two kids in July 2019. She holds a position as a worship associate at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society and a board membership at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op. The community of the town is an important part of life for Thomas, and she credits the college for sustaining her through the pandemic. She plans to continue to build that connection by bringing her contagious energy and enthusiasm to the Middlebury selectboard. 

“I jump in, and I want to get involved and create that light,” Thomas said. “I don’t believe community just happens. I believe it’s built.” 

Hooper, Thomas’s opponent, is a manager at AgriMark and has been involved in local politics since his twenties. In an email to The Campus, he stated his top priorities as revitalizing Middlebury’s downtown, keeping housing affordable, and updated public transit. 

Thomas anticipates that the term will be challenging. She has been attending recent selectboard meetings as a participant to learn how the board is run and operated, but Thomas admits she has a lot more to learn.

“Before I can raise the flag and say ‘let’s change, and let’s do this,’ I’ve got to understand what I’m walking into, understanding the systems that are in place, how the town works, how decisions are made,” Thomas said.

An earlier version of this article stated that the Middlebury College community sustained Thomas throughout the pandemic. It was the community in the town of Middlebury that sustained her throughout the pandemic.