Creative Leadership Delivering Results for Our Communities
Clerk - VT House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development
Founder/President - Bethel Revitalization Initiative
President/Dean - Bethel University
President - Bethel Business Association
President - Bethel Area Rotary Club
Trustee - Grand Lodge of Vermont Freemasons
Bethel Board of Civil Authority
Small Business Owner
Growing up and going to school in Bethel, I have a keen understanding of the challenges facing our small rural communities and schools. My father was a carpenter and my mother worked in a local factory. With the tragic death of a child, full loss of our home due to a house fire, critical health challenges, and an economy that was tanking at the time, our family fell on hard times. At the same time, our town was also falling on hard times with the closing of businesses and the loss of major parts of downtown due to fire. I understand what it's like to be hard-working and doing everything right and still being on the edge.
I attended the University of Vermont and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in the double majors of psychology and religion. In the psychology department, one of the professors taught classes and ran a residential program on how to teach people to think creatively and collaboratively to solve problems. I became the student director of this program and spent my senior year coaching students on how to create solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
Being raised with a strong sense of civic responsibility and a deep love and appreciation for small Vermont towns, when I finished college I moved back to Bethel and got involved. While working on Main Street at Clifford of Vermont, I also bought and ran the local pizza shop, Mert’s Pizza.
I joined the Masons, becoming head of the local lodge. I eventually went on to help form a new lodge of younger men who wanted to find ways to reenvigorate Masonry in Vermont. This has led me to being appointed as a Trustee and leader of the 4500-member statewide Grand Lodge of Vermont. I am working with their leadership to overcome regional, generational, and financial challenges and reverse decades of decline in membership.
As a member of the Bethel Area Rotary Club - serving Bethel, Rochester, Pittsfield, Stockbridge and Royalton, I eventually became club president responsible for coordinating the various local and international charitable activities and student exchanges.
Because I am good at working across differences and getting things done, I was asked to join the Bethel Business Association where I eventually became president and began such initiatives as the annual Bethel Home and Business Expo.
I also founded the Bethel Revitalization Initiative at that time hoping to attract younger and newer residents to become involved, although truthfully, we never expanded beyond a handful of dreamers.
After getting married, having a child, and working various jobs and businesses, I went back to school for a Master of Arts degree in counseling as well as a Masters certificate in Acupuncture and Oriental medicine. I opened a small private practice in 1995 and focused on career, family, and community organizations.
When Tropical Storm Irene hit, many communities including Rochester and Pittsfield really pulled together. Unfortunately, the storm exacerbated fractures in Bethel’s community and it pulled apart. In an effort to rebuild Bethel’s community cohesion, I worked with a small group of community leaders to resurrect the Bethel Revitalization Initiative.
We sought to unify the community by carefully listening to their needs and then finding creative solutions to community problems that transcended political divides and family feuds. We hosted rotating community potluck discussions, brought community groups together for networking and visioning sessions, and based on those sessions began a series of town projects including artwork downtown and re-enlivened parts of our main street with pop-up shops that eventually became permanent businesses.
We also created Bethel University which each year offers over 65 classes taught by locals and which now draw over 1100 student registrations from every county in Vermont and every state in New England plus New York. Bethel University brings vibrant day and night life, community connection and pride, and tourist dollars to Bethel. It is one creative solution that is working to revitalize our small town and while still a work-in-progress, we are indeed progressing.
While the four towns in our district are each unique with their own challenges, we also have much in common. I understand how our small rural towns work and the challenges they face, and will effectively represent their needs in Montpelier.