As of next week, the Milton Independent will once again call 69 Main St. home.
Technically, we never left. But since I took over the helm at our sister papers, the Colchester Sun and Essex Reporter, in March 2016, I’ve spent most of my time at our second office at Severance Corners, restaffing and reorganizing three newspapers.
It’s been a long almost two years, and now it’s time for more change. We are closing our Colchester office and settling in Milton next Thursday, Dec. 14.
Anyone who’s visited our Milton office might be wondering how we could possibly fit six reporters in that space. But this is really two moves in one: We’re swapping suites with Nancy Turner, who runs Don Turner and Sons Construction next door. She’s already made herself at home in the Indy’s former space.
Anyone who recognizes that surname might have more questions: Wait, you share an office with the town manager?
The answer is no, but there is some nuance.
Don Turner Jr., Milton’s newly minted town manager, will be (and has been) our landlord. If this sounds like a conflict of interest, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it. But the fact is Don Turner has been our landlord since the Indy moved from editor emeritus Lynn Delaney’s home in 2011. He’s charged us a modest monthly rent to take over what used to be a conference room for his construction business, which is primarily operated by his parents, Nancy and Don Sr.
With this move back, your local paper will continue cutting a check – albeit a bigger one – to Turner. But this will not affect our coverage of state and local government, just as it hasn’t for seven years, as Turner has worn the hats of state minority leader, fire chief, rescue chief and developer.
Turner himself will tell you I don’t shy away from pressing him even though I count him among my personal friends. “Jeez, you’re tough,” he’ll often say, which fills any journalist with pride. I called him out – on a weekend nonetheless – when he revoked his endorsement of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump after the “Access Hollywood” tapes leaked. And I pressed more when he was non-committal about a possible re-election bid to the Vermont State House despite serving as town manager.
Critics might say we’ve missed opportunities to hammer Turner harder. They don’t have to look farther than this week’s Page 1 to see him, above the fold, helping make this weekend’s community tree lighting a reality. They might think, “Really? You’re going to report on him fairly?”
But the truth is Turner wears the hat of “go-to helpful guy” for many people and groups, not just the Indy. He was given the title “Mayor of Milton” long before he ever filled the town’s leadership spot, and now that he’s in the official role, nothing is going to change for us.
Those disclosures aside, I’d like to address some other concerns readers might have. Some have arched a skeptical brow upon hearing we’re closing one office and moving to a smaller one.
There’s merit in that, but I want to dispel the notion of traditional downsizing. The Indy, Sun and Reporter aren’t fulfilling newspapers’ national narratives. Sure, the decision was somewhat financially motivated, but a lot of it came down to logistics.
The Colchester space was formerly staffed by ad reps. Once a longtime salesperson left, our publishers at the St. Albans Messenger decided to house all reps in-house, and a consolidated operation there has resulted in better communication and brainstorming.
This left us with too much space. With an existing office in Milton, it was the natural option to consider.
And we’re thrilled about it. I’ve missed my regular haunts and routines in Chittenden County’s northernmost town. But mostly, I’ve missed the people who stop in or just wave or honk on their way down Main Street.
We’re coming home, Milton. Stop in and see us.