Top 10: County sees new leaders step up
In addition to the turnover at the top at Porter Medical Center (see story No. 5), a number of important county institutions saw leadership changes in 2019.
After leading the Counseling Service of Addison County for 40 years, Bob Thorn at the end of March retired as the head of the county’s largest mental health agency. He was succeeded as executive director of CSAC by Rachel Lee Cummings, a former chief operating officer at Age Well. Cummings demonstrated her entrepreneurial spirit while an undergraduate at the University of Vermont when she founded Armistead Senior Care, which provides non-medical home-based care, primarily to seniors. She later ran a business providing guardianship services, mostly to seniors.
While the changeover at CSAC appeared to be seamless, new leadership at Addison County Home Health & Hospice came under more contentious circumstances. Tim Brownell had been executive director of the agency for less than two years when he resigned in early February. His abrupt departure came in the wake of criticism of ACHHH’s leadership by some past and present employees of the agency, which dispenses a variety of health care services to homebound patients and terminally ill residents. Those complaints largely related to administration/employee relations.
The agency’s board didn’t have to look beyond the ACHHH’s own Route 7 headquarters in New Haven for a replacement; in May it Deborah Wesley — the agency’s former vice president of clinical services — as its new executive director. Wesley, who served around two months as ACHHH’s interim leader, brought more than 30 years of experience — 25 of that in management positions — in the home health field. Ten agency employees took time to show their support for Wesley when a reporter came to interview her.
And it wasn’t only private agencies that saw new leadership in 2019. In January Vergennes Mayor Renny Perry said he would not seek another two years in office. Deputy Mayor Jeff Fritz stepped up and on Town Meeting Day won an uncontested election to become mayor of the Little City.
As the year wound down, though, Vergennes saw more municipal changes coming. After a little more than a year on the job, City Manager Matt Chabot in October said he would step down within 90 days. Also, City Clerk Joan Devine told the city council that she will retire in February 2020. City leaders got right on top of the search and in December hired Daniel Hofman to be the new city manager. He started the job in the first week of January.
Also on the municipal front, Bristol Selectman Ted Lylis resigned his seat for unexplained reasons in September. When the Bristol selectboard sought replacements, eight candidates offered their services. Rather than choose themselves, selectboard members called a special election for Dec. 3, and Ian Albinson edged Eric Carter in a close election. Albinson started his term on the selectboard last month.
Also in Bristol, the Mount Abraham Unified School District in July hired Shannon Warden as interim principal of Mount Abraham Union High School for the 2019–2020 school year. She replaced Jessica Barewicz, who resigned suddenly in June after being offered a job in Barre, which was closer to her home.
An educator for a younger clientele was hired in Middlebury. Mary Johnson Children’s Center in June hired Dave Mandel as its new executive director. The resident of Connecticut and New York City succeed Barbara Saunders, who retired after more than 30 years of service. Mandel assumed the leadership role on July 8.
Across town, Cicilia Robison on Aug. 1 became executive director of the Addison Central Teens center, which offers safe, supervised after-school and summertime activities for Middlebury-area teens at 77 Mary Hogan Drive. She had worked at the teen center for several years as an AmeriCorps member.
The board of Middlebury Regional EMS, or MREMS, in August picked Deputy Director Kate Rothwell to guide the county’s largest ambulance service during the search for a new executive director. Rothwell, also a paramedic and MREMS’s lead trainer, took the reins from Teena Betourney, who decided to pare back her duties as she contemplated retirement.