MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger stepped down from his job on Friday, Aug. 31, and was succeeded by Assistant Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay.
It’s an administrative transition that was scripted by the Middlebury selectboard a year ago. That’s when Ramsay returned to Middlebury to the same post she had vacated in 2007 in order to become Pittsford town manager. In 2008, she became Killington’s top administrator. Knowing that Finger was getting close to retiring, Middlebury officials talked to Ramsay about a 2011 return with a promotion to town manager in 2012. She accepted, and the metaphorical changing of the guard occurred last week, after the selectboard formally offered her a three-year contract.
“It’s worked out really well,” Middlebury selectboard Chairman Dean George said. “I think it will be a nice transition.”
Ramsay and Finger have worked closely to make for a smooth succession. Ramsay, 47, has attended many municipal subcommittee meetings, such as those dealing with municipal gym repairs, proposed new town offices and a soon-to-be hired business development director — issues at the forefront of the selectboard’s agenda.
“I feel right at home here,” Ramsay said of her appreciation for Middlebury and her readiness to face new challenges as town manager.
“I look forward to a long tenure.”
A long tenure would continue a tradition of longevity enjoyed by her most immediate predecessors, Betty Wheeler and Bill Finger. Finger, now 67, was hired as town manager in 2000 after having served in that same capacity in other Vermont communities, including Shelburne.
“Twelve years in one of these positions, you come to a time when change is kind of a good thing,” Finger said during a recent interview.
“You could not find a better person than Kathleen to do anything, including running the town of Middlebury,” he added. “She’ll do wonderful things. She is already doing wonderful things.”
Meanwhile, town officials are crediting Finger with some stellar stewardship during his tenure in Middlebury.
It’s been during Finger’s administrative watch that Middlebury built a new downtown bridge and a new police station; the town is currently developing plans for a community center that would include new town offices. Middlebury’s two fire stations are currently being dramatically improved. It’s also a period during which the town has caught up on a lot of deferred maintenance on infrastructure, such as road, sidewalk and water system improvements. At the same time Finger, at the direction of the selectboard, has tried to keep the municipal tax rate in check — freezing it at one point for three consecutive years.
Finger quickly points out that the aforementioned accomplishments were the product of many people and organizations working together.
“The selectboard deserves a lot of credit,” Finger said.
George served on the Middlebury committee that interviewed and recommended Finger for the town manager’s job back in 2000.
“He has been great,” George said of Finger. “I have really enjoyed working with him and will miss him.”
He said he will look back on his time in Middlebury with fond memories.
“It has been a great place to be,” Finger said. “There really hasn’t been a huge amount of controversy on anything. Things that need to get done get support.”
He leaves Middlebury with one major project still on the drawing board: A new municipal building/community center. Several ad hoc committees, an architect and the selectboard continue to hash out ideas for the new structure that could someday be built on the site of the current municipal building at the intersection of College and South Main streets. Finger believes the town is giving the proposed center a fair discussion and he is optimistic the project will come to fruition.
“I think we are getting on the right track of doing something here,” Finger said. “The different perspectives on (the project) are understanding each other more.”
Though he is stepping down as town manager, Finger won’t be leaving the area. He plans to remain a resident of Lincoln “for the foreseeable future.” There, he will tend to various home improvement projects while staying involved in local and regional nonprofit causes — such as the Weathervane United elderly housing complex in Lincoln and the Friends of West Rutland Town Hall. He is also receptive to fielding occasional assignments that the Middlebury selectboard might throw his way in the future.
But following his last day on the job, he plans to take a breather.
“I’m going to hang out for a while and be on the outside looking in, for a change,” he said.
The town of Middlebury will host a reception honoring Bill Finger on Sept. 20 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at Two Brothers Tavern.