A familiar storyline in 2017 was town turnover, a trend Milton’s new town manager Don Turner hopes to slow in 2018.
This year started off with former manager Donna Barlow Casey handing in her notice. The first-time municipal manager now runs the Vermont Natural Resources Board, which administers land use law Act 250.
Turner, her successor, is familiar with the statute: The town’s longtime fire and rescue chief is also a developer and real estate agent. He had to hang his public safety hats to take the manager position, and a transition for those department’s chiefs will take place in early 2018.
In fact, the town will have a completely new public safety leadership next year: Police Chief Brett Van Noordt retired in October after 30 years on the force. As he’s most certainly playing golf in warmer climes, the station is manned by interim Chief Steve Laroche, a Milton policeman since 1992.
Newly hired HR director John Bartlett said a citizen-run committee has narrowed applicants for the position to five candidates, which will be further winnowed by town leadership. He expects a public Q&A session with the finalists in mid-January.
The transition ushered in the addition of a public safety director. Taylor Yeates will oversee strategic planning and budgeting for fire, rescue and police, freeing up those division’s chiefs to actively protect their communities.
Finance director Jessica Morris is also part of the lineup of new department heads at the Bombardier Rd. offices. She replaced Sarah Macy, who took her skills to Essex, her hometown.
Others include library director Susan Larson, public works director David Allerton and planning director Victor Sinadinoski. The town is still seeking a permanent wastewater superintendent.
Milton will also have new representation in the Vermont State House this session. Turner has vowed to fulfill the remainder of his term, but his seatmate, Ron Hubert, resigned in July. Gov. Scott appointed Republican Chris Mattos to fill the vacancy. The session begins January 3.
Also of statewide attention was the Vermont Air National Guard’s deployment to the Middle East for Operation Inherent Resolve. Among the 310 airmen deployed to fight ISIS was Milton’s Adams, whom we photographed being welcomed home by wife, Allyssa, and 6-year-old daughter, Brooke.
We also said hello to new faces at the schools. Though not a new employee, physical education teacher Trevor Wagar took a new position as interim athletic director. New co-principals Megan Smith and Brandy Brown now lead the middle school.
Notable retirements also got some ink in 2017. In Georgia, 28-year town clerk Laurie Broe decided not to run for re-election. Longtime art teacher Carol Crosby packed up her paintbrushes, and the school’s first-ever guidance counselor, Cindy Little, retired but vowed, “I’ll never stop serving children.” In Milton, 33-year music teacher Gisele McRae passed the baton and looked forward to traveling and spending time with family.
“I’m going out on my terms,” she told us. “I’m more fearless now than I’ve ever been.”
And speaking of fearless, we salute our former associate editor Abby Ledoux, who left in November for Houston, Texas. She’s now thriving as lifestyles editor at Houstonia Magazine.
But with departures, we also gain new faces. This year, the Milton Independent, Essex Reporter and Colchester Sun welcomed reporter Neel Tandan and news/sports clerk Ben Chiappinelli to our ranks. Readers might recognize the latter’s name from the Indy’s own pages: Chiappinelli currently serves on the Georgia School Board.
Lastly, we said goodbye to two special community members, Chris Letourneau and Carolyn Salminen.
Letourneau, Georgia’s selectboard chairman, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in October. Family, friends, colleagues and constituents remembered him as a man of integrity who served his town with pride.
We also had the privilege of telling the love story of Karlo and Carolyn Salminen. It began in 1966 in Greenport, N.Y., where the couple met. Fifty years later, this March, Carolyn died of ovarian cancer at age 70, but not without leaving a lasting impact on her community.
Karlo and Mrs. S – as Carolyn was known in her days teaching first grade – sang together, adopted two children and became fixtures at their church. Indeed, New Life Christian Fellowship was too small to contain the mourners at Carolyn’s funeral.
This summer, a town committee named Carolyn and Karlo the 2017 Community Champions. The award was presented in early August.
“It’s an honor,” Karlo said then. “I wished Carolyn could have been here to share it with me in person, because in spirit I know she is.”