Contact: Margaret Gibson McCoy
Vermont Council on Rural Development, PO Box 1384, Montpelier, VT 05601
Phone: (802) 223-6091, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 7, 2015
SWANTON COMMUNITY VISIT PROGRAM INVITES THE FULL COMMUNITY TOGETHER
Swanton residents will be coming together over the next few months to review challenges and opportunities before the community, set priorities, and advance action plans to advance the future vitality of the community. The process kicks off with a series of nine forums on “Swanton Community Visit Day” on January 28th. This community gathering is the first of a three-month “Community Visit” process that will allow all residents to actively participate in examining issues, deciding their top priorities and developing concrete action plans. Everyone is invited to join in on the Community Visit Day on January 28th.
The Town and Village invited VCRD’s Community Visit process to Swanton. The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) which will facilitate the Swanton process, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the advancement of Vermont communities. In the past 15 years, they have worked in over 40 communities throughout Vermont to bring residents together to share ideas around issues of concern and to move toward common solutions. Reg Beliveau, the village manager, sees the process as a real culmination of hard work in the community: “People before me have started this process. I’m very excited, and I know that we will make things happen.”
The idea of inviting the VCRD process came from leaders of the Swanton Enhancement Project which is facilitated by Hank and Molly Lambert. They were delighted that Swanton was selected for the project: “What a terrific opportunity for our community! We are so proud to have been chosen for a Community Visit by VCRD and to welcome its team of regional, state, federal and non-profit leaders to Swanton. More importantly, because of the support from the Village and Town, the members of the Swanton Enhancement Project, and hundreds of community members who will participate in the process, we will enjoy a healthy and dynamic community for decades to come!”
This first community gathering, the Swanton Community Visit Day, will include focus groups on nine different topics at meeting rooms throughout the town and a free community dinner at the High School Commons Room at Missisquoi Valley Union (see the schedule with locations below). Forum topics were decided by a town steering committee representing people from varied occupations and parts of town. The topics they set as starting points for the sessions on January 28th include: Vibrant Downtown (including Business Variety and Transportation Issues), Community Recreation Facilities, The Future of Agricultural Opportunities, Swanton’s History & Culture, Education & Training, Growth & Development, Tourism, Waters & Wildlife, Community Health & Substance Abuse, and Jobs & Economic Opportunity.
VCRD will bring a 25-30-person team of federal, state, business and non-profit leaders who will sit in on sessions throughout the afternoon and evening on the 28th, facilitate strong dialogue, and join community members at the free community dinner at MVU.
VCRD is building its Visiting Team now; so far members include Alex Aldrich, VT Arts Council, Jenny Nelson, Senator Sanders Office; Sue Minter, VT Agency of Transportation; Megan Smith, VT Dept. of Tourism and Marketing; Paul Bruhn, Preservation Trust of VT, and many other key Vermont community and economic development leaders.
According to Paul Costello, Executive Director of VCRD, “It’s all about local leadership. At VCRD, we know that the best decisions are made locally, and that real progress comes from people lining up together to get things done. The Community Visit will allow residents of Swanton to prioritize their ideas, and connect with experts and resources from around Vermont. But no one from outside of town knows what is best for this community…the whole process is about giving everyone the opportunity, as equals, to put their ideas on the table and then decide the best course of action to move the community forward.”
The Community Visit is an important opportunity for people to think forward about Swanton’s future, to exchange ideas, to meet Vermont leaders, and to take steps toward positive change. VCRD welcomes diverse perspectives and encourages ALL members of the community to participate. Everyone is invited to join the conversation on January 28.