May 24, 2019

PLACES I’VE PLAYED: Williston Town Meeting 1786

By Bill Skiff

A whimsical and historically inaccurate look back at Town Meeting—coming soon

On Jan. 1 this year, Williston began it’s 250th year as a Vermont town.

Research done by Jim Heltz in Williston’s town records tells us “On June 7th 1773 Benning Wentworth, Governor of the province of New Hampshire, signed a charter to grant 23,040 acres of land to Samuel Wills and 64 other land proprietors. These acres comprised the Township of Williston.”

Where were Williston’s first town meetings held? You guessed it: down country. The first Town Meeting held in Williston was not until 1786.

This January, a committee of Williston residents, under the direction of Deb Beckett, began to plan events for the towns’ 250th anniversary.

A town-wide celebration will be held on Monday, March 4, prior to the scheduled Annual Town Meeting. A potluck supper, starting at 6 p.m in the Williston Central School’s cafeteria, will feature foods from old Town Meetings. Bring your family as well as an old-time dish. Check out Ginger Isham’s column for some ideas or bring your own version of scalloped potatoes or red beet hash.

At 6:30 p.m., a group of citizens will perform an old-time Town Meeting play, featuring controversial topics debated in years past—including actual dialogue from town records. Come learn whether the west boundary of Abell’s farm was by the old crooked tree or by the large red rock. Help us elect a road commissioner and see if we can get the muddy, cruddy “ruds” fixed by spring. At the top of the agenda is whether Williston should be wet or dry. Challenging times are ahead for the town. We need your help.

Vermont’s first governor, Thomas Chittenden, will also be in attendance. Bring your camera to have your picture taken with the governor—a once–in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Come and help Williston embark on it’s 250th celebration in style. Bring your spirits, your food and your family to Williston’s Town Meeting dinner theater.

Monday, March 4, 6 p.m. at Williston Central School’s Cafeteria


Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at


NEIGHBORS NETWORK: Local landscaper wins award

Observer staff report

A St. George landscaping company took home one of the top prizes in Green Works/Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association’s annual achievement awards. Green Works—a nonprofit organization representing Vermont’s garden centers, landscapers, horticulturalists and plant professionals—presented the awards at the 2013 Green Works Winter Meeting & Trade Show held earlier this month.

Brian Vaughan, who owns St. George-based Vaughan Landscaping Co., won the New England Nursery Association Young Nursery Professional of the Year award.

The award honors someone in the horticultural industry under 40 years old who “has shown involvement in his or her state and/or regional nurserymen’s association, has contributed to the growth and success of their company of employment and has portrayed an image to the public of what our products and services can do for them,” according to a Green Works press release.

Vaughan, originally from Thetford, studied Urban Forestry and Landscape Horticulture with a minor in Applied Design at UVM. While there, he founded the University’s Horticultural Club, which still exists today.

Vaughan launched his landscaping company in 2002, specializing in landscape design, stonework and installation.

In 2007, Vaughan was nominated to serve on the board of directors for the Friends of the Horticulture Farm, eventually becoming curator of the perennial gardens.

In 2011, Vaughan was nominated to the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association Board and is currently serving as a director. He has been a VNLA member and Vermont certified horticulturist since 2000.

The event also honored several other Vermonters.

Don and Lela Avery, who own Cady’s Falls Nursery in Morrisville, won the Horticultural Achievement Award.

Chris Conant, of Colchester-based Claussen’s Florist, Greenhouse and Perennial Farm, won the Environmental Awareness Award.

Julie Rubaud, who owns Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg, took home the Retailer of the Year Award.

The UVM Student Merit Award went to Ferrisburgh native John R. Bruce, a senior studying sustainable landscape horticulture.

NEIGHBORS NETWORK: Free lacrosse clinic for local players

Players learn lacrosse skills at last year’s free lacrosse clinic, hosted by Curtis Lacrosse. This year, the company is adding a free clinic for Williston players ages 5 to 12. (Observer courtesy photo)

Players learn lacrosse skills at last year’s free lacrosse clinic, hosted by Curtis Lacrosse. This year, the company is adding a free clinic for Williston players ages 5 to 12. (Observer courtesy photo)

A Williston lacrosse company is hosting two free clinics for local youth players.

Curtis Lacrosse is set to hold a clinic for Williston players on May 19 from 9 a.m. to noon at Allen Brook School, offered in conjunction with the Williston Recreation Department. The co-ed clinic is for beginner to intermediate players ages 5 to 12.

Williston resident Kelly Curtis—who owns Curtis Lacrosse with her husband, Ryan Curtis—said the goal of the clinics is to get young players excited about lacrosse.

“We teach them the terminology and to throw and catch, all the basics, and then we get them excited about the sport by playing fun games with them, using all their new skills,” she said.

She noted that Williston already has a “great” program for older players.

“We’d love to start something for the little guys,” she said.

A second free clinic, for boys ages 8 through 18, is set for April 14, from 9 a.m. to noon at UVM’s Virtue Field. Kelly Curtis said registration is currently full, but encouraged players to join the waiting list, as the Curtises might expand the clinic size.

Ryan Curtis is the University of Vermont’s men’s head lacrosse coach, and has played professional lacrosse. Kelly Curtis runs the Northeast Classic, a local nonprofit college lacrosse tournament.

Ryan Curtis’ fellow UVM coaches, along with many players on the UVM team, have signed on to help run the clinics. Players who sign up for the April clinic also get a free ticket to the April 13 UVM game, giving clinic attendees a chance to see their coaches in action.

“It is a great opportunity for local lacrosse players to get three full hours of instruction from some of the best lacrosse coaches in the area,” Kelly Curtis said.

To register for either clinic, visit

—Stephanie Choate, Observer staff


Letters to the Editor

Education must improve

On Feb. 12, 2013 President Obama addressed the public about the current issues and policies in America in his State of the Union address. One of the main issues he addressed was the importance of increasing the quality of education both for early childhood and secondary education. I would like to say that I agree with the president about the need for improvement. As a special education major at Salve Regina University, I’m quite concerned about the current and new policies being created for education.

As a recent graduate of public education, I agree that the quality of education varies greatly between schools and communities, and that where you live shouldn’t determine the quality of education you receive. It is my belief that I received an amazing education from public school, but when I compare my education to those of my peers at college, I see a wide range of competency. At times, I feel that I’m at an unfair advantage because I was exposed to a better education in high school than others. It’s not fair to have students spend 12-plus years in school and still not be prepared for college or a successful job. We must make the time invested count. I intend to do my part in increasing the quality in education in America; I just hope that our government can keep up its promise.

Breanna Willard


GUEST COLUMN: Restoring fiscal health first step toward real reform

By Bruce Lisman

The economic challenges Vermont faces are much bigger than “business as usual” policies are capable of solving. We need to implement big ideas—transformational reforms—that will build an economy where everyone is secure and can prosper.  But to do this, lawmakers must first restore the basic fiscal sustainability of the state budget. This is the conclusion of an analysis of the state budget recently released by Campaign for Vermont.

The need for bold investments in areas like education, healthcare and human services is widely recognized. But chronic, recurring budget gaps and shortfalls prevent lawmakers from focusing on rethinking our outdated and inefficient systems and programs.

From 2009 to 2012, one-time money from the federal government seduced our leaders and allowed them to sidestep comprehensive analysis and reforms. Since then, we’ve experienced budget gaps filled by property tax and income tax increases (while household income has remained about the same, or declined). This year there’s another “budget gap” of $50 to $70 million. Lawmakers need to understand the depth of the problem and seek solutions beyond just spending cuts or tax increases to fund old systems producing inefficient or inadequate results.

Montpelier should start by limiting budget increase to inflation, plus population growth (2.55 percent). This formula was a basic and long-held principle of fiscal sustainability advocated by governors Snelling, Dean and Douglas.

But restraint alone is not enough. We must also move to modern and more effective management systems, beginning first with human services.

Since 2008, human service spending has increased 29 percent. During this period, our population has grown by less than one-half percent per year. And, despite these expenditures, outcomes for low income Vermonters have not improved. In fact, the Shumlin administration recently said they don’t know why certain human service caseloads are growing. That’s revealing.

Our highest priority must be the systems used to move Vermonters out of poverty, because they’re not getting adequate results. In fact, lawmakers have created an inefficient system of “stove pipe” services that is too complicated, inflexible and ineffective. In many cases, Vermonters are trapped in poverty, unable to work, because of “benefit” systems that make it impossible for them to get ahead. That’s a disgrace and we must do better.

As a first step, we recommend a “shared-view-of-the-client”—a modern management system that groups each state benefit and service (regardless of agency or department) by client. Such a system would create an individual, and far more efficient, plan for each client, eliminate benefit cliffs and chart a clear and realistic path to financial security and independence.

Our analysis also notes that “cost shifting”—the practice of hiding the cost of state programs on the books of non-state entities—allows lawmakers to hide from the fiscal consequences of their decisions. Cost shifting is the opposite of fiscal transparency. It’s a budgetary practice we should reduce and eventually end.

Achieving real reforms requires leadership. There are fundamentally unsustainable trends that are getting worse, not better. Like Washington, they have to stop kicking the can down the road and return the state to full fiscal health. From there, reforms can be made that will grow the economy, create jobs and put every Vermonter on a real path to prosperity.

Bruce Lisman launched Campaign for Vermont, an advocacy organization that promotes economic opportunity.


Academic Honors

Students receive honors

The following Williston and St. George students were named to their college and university deans’ and presidents’ lists:

Benjamin S. Albertson, University of Vermont; Hannah L. Apfelbaum, University of Vermont; Timothy Averill, James Madison University; Katelyn Bashaw, Castleton State College; Calvin T. Benevento, McDaniel College; Anne Bertolet, Muhlenberg College; Juliana Chase, University of Vermont; Kanita A. Chaudhry, University of Vermont; Samuel C. Chevalier, University of Vermont; Caitlin M Chirgwin, Saint Joseph’s University; Lillian R. Coletta, University of Vermont; Stephanie L. Commo, University of Vermont; Thaddeus C. Cooke, University of Vermont; Parker J. Cornbrooks, University of Vermont; Sierra Jean Davis, University of Rhode Island; Victoria DeLuca, Wake Forest University; Derek Desany, Community College of Vermont; Ashley Dubois, Community College of Vermont; Christopher Forrester, Lafayette College; Ashton Lee Franco, Community College of Vermont; Bennett Hadley, Northeastern University; Patrick Hollick, Castleton State College; Bronwen E. Hudson, University of Vermont; John A. Judge, University of Vermont; Bethany J. Karstens, University of Vermont; Erin L. Keller, University of Vermont; Liam P. Kelley, University of Vermont; Daniel A. Lambert, University of Vermont; Kathleen E. Leach, University of Rhode Island; Andrew A. Lemieux, University of Vermont; Benjamin R. Liebman,  University of Vermont; Cody E. Litchfield, Clark University; Laura M. Macuga, University of Vermont; David C. Manago, University of Vermont; MollyRose Mendell, Ithaca College; Ailan H. Nguyen, University of Vermont; Jessica A. Novak, St. Lawrence; Megan E O’Brien, University of Rhode Island; Marissa S. Parente, University of Vermont; Aden M. Peterson, St. Lawrence; Timothy Reichert, Trinity College; Elizabeth Reynolds, Castleton State College; Christine Rickert, Community College of Vermont; Anna M. Schmoker, University of Vermont; Jessica L. Shapiro, University of Vermont; Hannah V. Shaw, University of Vermont; Philip Sheedy, Northeastern University; Anna L. Shelley, University of Vermont; Sara Stancliffe, Community College of Vermont; Callan Suozzi-Rearic, Skidmore College; Benjamin A. Teasdale, University of Vermont; Emilie C. Tetu, University of Rhode Island; Olivia H. Vande Griek, Clark University; Rachel E. Venooker, University of Vermont; Breanna Willard, Salve Regina University; Grace Zebertavage, Northeastern University

Around Town


Williston water and sewer bills have been mailed and are due March 30.



Residents with children who will be five years old by Sept. 1, 2013 can attend Williston School District’s kindergarten registration, held April 2, 3 and 4 at Allen Brook School. Starting March 4, parents can visit the school district’s website,, to set up an appointment or call 879-5806.

Veteran CVU girls soccer coach hangs up his clipboard

Brad Parker (right) celebrates with his CVU girls soccer team after winning the state championship in the fall. Parker, who has coached at CVU for more than two decades, is retiring. (Observer file photo by Shane Bufano)

Brad Parker (right) celebrates with his CVU girls soccer team after winning the state championship in the fall. Parker, who has coached at CVU for more than two decades, is retiring. (Observer file photo by Shane Bufano)

A quarter century of varsity coaching for Brad Parker, Champlain Valley Union High’s top-notch girls’ soccer coach, has come to an end with his retirement announcement late last week.

“The time feels right,” Parker said in a phone conversation with the Observer over the weekend. “I have been thinking about this for the past four years.”

He leaves a solid program that has won the last two Division 1 championships with a large group of returning veteran athletes next fall.

A former CVU player himself, Parker broke into the coaching ranks following his education at the University of Vermont by taking the reins of the junior varsity team.

Two years later, when varsity coach Jeff Goode moved on, Parker took over the top job.

In the next 25 years, CVU won 340 games, tied 42 and lost just 45 while filling the hallway trophy case with 11 championship baubles.

His teams made the finals on 16 occasions. That record puts Parker among the elite in Vermont coaching annals.

The longtime mentor says he will continue to operate his popular summer soccer camp for girls at CVU.

Taylor Goldsborough, a senior on this past season’s team, said, “I was shocked by the announcement. I will not be here next year, but I was still shocked.”

The star midfielder added that she liked playing for Parker very much.

—Mal Boright,
Observer correspondent


Shaking up the school day



Flutist Claire McDevitt leads the way for Mardi Gras musicians (from left) Ethan Duncan, Rebecca Chicoine, Natalie Durieux, Zachary Schaw, Paige Niarchos, Anthony Nguyen, Danielle Trasciatti-Holmberg, Lauren Johnson, Julia Patzer and Eric Couture. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

Observer staff

Williston Central School buzzed with international music and cultural flair on Friday.

A Mardi Gras parade of students and teachers decked out in beads and decorative masks—complete with “When the Saints Go Marching In” blaring from the instruments of school band members—wound through the halls.

In the auditorium, students banged out a Brazilian beat on drums while the audience leapt to their feet to dance and sing.

Friday marked the end of Theme Week, which the school has run for nearly a decade. This year’s theme was “Cruising around the world,” said Related Arts Teacher Jennifer Oakes, one of the event’s organizers. Theme Week gives students the opportunity to explore different world cultures, customs, art and languages. Students partake in two activities throughout the week.

“Trying something new is wonderfully important to all of us,” Oakes said. “Children at this age are great sponges for learning new things and trying new things, and this gives them that opportunity.”

Students seemed equally enthusiastic.

“It’s a blast,” said eighth grader Colton Layman. “We definitely learn a lot about different cultures.”

“It’s really nice to get out of your class and get to know some other kids,” said Zachary Hark, who is in sixth grade.

Fifth grader Fiona Reiner took home the top prize for flavor in the cruise-themed “Cupcake Wars” with her strawberry-lemonade cupcake recipe, which she said is a family favorite.

“It’s fun because it gives you a chance to do things you don’t usually get to do,” said Reiner, who also learned drumming with local Brazilian street band Sambatucada.

Theme Week culminates in the most highly anticipated event—a faculty-versus-students basketball game.

“It’s wall-to-wall children and very competitive,” Oakes said. For the students who don’t fit into the gym, the game is live-streamed into classrooms.

“It’s like the Army-Navy game,” Layman said.

Students hoisted handmade signs and cheered wildly, while teachers supported the volunteers playing for the faculty side. Eighth-grade student Marlee Gunn sank a last-minute foul shot to bring the final score to 54-54.


Students crafted brightly colored masks for the Mardi Gras parade. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)


Students (from left) Finn Davis, James Eustace, Ricky Baker, Sophia Barton, Chiara Antonioli and Matt Spear show of their Brazilian drumming skills, led by members of Burlington-based street band Sambatucada. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)


Players fight for the ball during Friday’s highly anticipated student-faculty basketball game. The final score was 54-54. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)


Max Hamrell looks for an open player during Friday’s game. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)



On the Town Meeting Day ballot

Voting by Australian ballot will take place March 5 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Armory. Absentee ballots are available at the Town Clerk’s office. Voters can weigh in on the following ballot items.

  • Adopt an $8,845,370 municipal budget. The budget represents a 4.4 percent increase from last year and would boost the tax rate by a penny to 24 cents per $100 of value.
  • Authorize the construction of a new Public Works facility and related improvements including land acquisition expenses at a total cost not to exceed $5,900,000 and to borrow money by issuance of notes or bonds to be financed over a period not to exceed twenty (20) years.
  • Elect incumbent Jeff Fehrs to a two-year term on the Selectboard. Fehrs, like all other candidates, is running unopposed.
  • Elect incumbent Jay Michaud to a three-year term on the Selectboard.
  • Elect incumbent Gerry Huetz to the Board of Listers.
  • Elect Jude Hersey to fill out the remainder of a term as a Dorothy Alling Memorial Library trustee. Hersey was appointed in 2012 to replace Bo Tur, who moved out of Williston.
  • Elect Brian Goodwin to a three-year term as a library trustee. Goodwin replaces Liz Jordan-Shook, who has been on the board for eight years.
  • The third library trustee position, a five-year term, is vacant. Former candidate Kathleen DeLuca withdrew from the race, and Jeff Dannies is running as a write-in candidate. Dannies needs at least 30 write-in votes. Dannies would fill the spot vacated by Pat Mardeusz, a board member since 2001.
  • Elect incumbent Kevin Mara to a two-year term on the Williston School Board.
  • Elect newcomer Kevin Brochu to a three-year term on the Williston School Board. Brochu replaces Chairwoman Holly Rouelle, who has been on the board for seven years.
  • Elect incumbent Champlain Valley Union High School Board member Jeanne Jensen to a three-year term.
  • Elect incumbent Champlain Valley Union High School Board member Polly Malik to a three-year term.
  • Adopt a Williston School District budget of $17,468,262.
  • Borrow $218,000 to purchase two Williston school buses.
  • Issue an $88,000 bond for lighting upgrades to Allen Brook School.
  • Adopt a Champlain Valley Union High School budget of $22,038,941, a 2.86 percent increase from the 2012-2013 budget.
  • Borrow $210,000 to purchase two CVU school buses.
  • Issue bonds of $328,600 to finance a boiler conversion from oil to natural gas, HVAC controls conversion to allow more local control and energy-efficient lighting upgrades financed interest-free by Green Mountain Power. Immediate savings from each project will cover the cost of installation and, in the case of the lighting upgrades, save additional money, said CVU Board Chairman David Rath.
  • Allocate CVU’s current fund balance of $154,000 to use in the school’s budget.