Don Turner, the man known colloquially as the “Unofficial Mayor of Milton” may indeed land a formal role leading the town if the selectboard has its druthers.
The board named Turner – Milton’s acting town manager for the last 10 weeks and also fire and rescue chief, legislator, realtor and developer – the only finalist in its search that began in late April, members announced Monday night.
The town received just 10 applications for the position and only three from Vermont, despite only advertising in local publications, board vice-chairman Ken Nolan said.
The board came to consensus after a special meeting last Sunday, during which they determined no other candidates had the vision or experience needed to move Milton forward, board leadership said.
“It would be a waste of time to bring someone else in to interview, given the rapport we have with you and the alignment of vision – we’d be just going through the motions,” Nolan said. “We’re better off to have the public give us their feedback.”
A special meeting is planned Monday, June 12 for just that. Starting at 6 p.m., the public is invited to the municipal offices to quiz Turner about his ideas, priorities and abilities to lead the town.
“The hat question is going to come up,” Adams said, acknowledging Turner wears multiple. “He has a good plan, and obviously the board would have to feel comfortable with that plan as to how many hats can one wear at the same time.”
Two of those are serving as Milton’s fire and rescue chief, roles he’s held for 13 and 10 years, respectively, and ones he’ll have to give up. He’s been on the fire department for nearly 34 years and would like to continue as a regular member, he said.
Turner has thoughts on restructuring the departments but wasn’t prepared to discuss them until and if the job offer becomes final and until speaking to the crews’ membership.
And as House minority leader, Turner is one of Milton’s four state representatives, which requires his attendance in Montpelier four days a week during the four-month session.
If he’s chosen as manager, Turner said he wants to complete his legislative term, which ends in January 2019. He’s served in the legislature for 12 years.
Still to be discussed in negotiations are Turner’s private investments, which include his construction company, Don Turner & Sons. He plans to maintain his real estate license, he said.
Turner said the thought of hanging up any hat is “heartbreaking” but is excited, if all works out, to move Milton forward.
“You get comfortable, and you do the same thing forever. And then all of a sudden you’ve got a whole new challenge,” he said. “Deep down, I believe I’m doing the right thing. It’s going to be good for me. It’s going to be hopefully good for the community.”
Adams doesn’t expect “any dramatic outcry” from the public but is open to hearing their pointed questions. The board originally expected to have more than one finalist, but even with just Turner, “[it] still gives them input in the process and before the decision is made,” he said.
Adams said the other candidates had varying experience such as in accounting, planning and public works. He suggested the town might consider them for other vacancies, which include finance director, fiscal assistant and director of administration.
But none were as familiar with Milton as Turner, who’s called the town home his entire life. That factor – that Turner won’t seek a town managership elsewhere in Vermont or out of state – played heavily in the board’s decision, Adams said.
“Nobody’s going to come close to that,” he said, noting it takes new managers at least a year to get up to speed on town projects and problems.
“Don is the only one that’s going to be able to know those issues because he’s lived those issues and is living those issues,” he said.
Turner said many citizens have already told him he can bring stability to the town. He welcomes the forum and invites the public to hear his plans if chosen Milton’s next manager.
“I look forward to the opportunity to move forward and serve this community in a different capacity,” he said, adding, “I care very deeply about Milton, and that’s not going to change.”
If you haven’t already, you can meet Don Turner at the selectboard’s town manager forum on Monday, June 12 at 6 p.m. in the community room. If you can’t make it, submit your questions ahead of time to selectboard chairman Darren Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.