By Jason Starr
For the first time in 22 years, the Town of Williston is without the calm, steady leadership of Rick McGuire.
The town manager retired Monday, and was celebrated Tuesday at a small gathering at the Isham Family Farm. It wasn’t the public celebration befitting two-plus decades of dedication to the town and relationships built with residents and co-workers, but it did allow town leaders to mark the occasion under pandemic health protocols. In lieu of a larger celebration, the town’s new town manager, Erik Wells, who worked for two years as McGuire’s top assistant, is asking community members to send in notes for McGuire to Town Hall at 7900 Williston Rd.
“Rick has been an incredible leader for Williston,” Wells said. “His professionalism, keen ability to solve problems, integrity and innovative thinking are some of the many attributes of his tremendous character that I have been fortunate to witness and learn from on a daily basis. Congratulations to Rick on his retirement and an outstanding career in public service.”
McGuire lives in town and plans to continue serving as a volunteer in civic organizations. He was a founding member of the Brick Church Music Series and is a member of the Williston-Richmond Rotary Club.
“In retirement, I plan on continuing to be a part of this wonderful community, but in a different role and with the knowledge that the community remains in good hands,” he said.
McGuire has been admired for his ability to guide the town through large projects, like the 2019 acquisition and protection of the Catamount Community Forest, as well as handle the day-to-day operations of a town of 9,000 residents no matter what challenges arise.
“He is very good at diffusing difficult situations,” said Town Clerk Sarah Mason. “He is always calm in the storm.”
Mason worked with McGuire for eight years.
“I have really enjoyed working with him. He is approachable all the time. He’s always very calm, supportive and helpful,” she said.
McGuire has helped the town manage significant land development and population growth of about 100 new residents a year, while prioritizing the acquisition and conservation of public land.
Under his leadership, the town constructed a new fire station, public works garage and water storage tank. He supported the expansion of the fire department and creation of an ambulance service, as well as creating a stormwater utility program to fund infrastructure to foster water quality improvement in the Allen Brook and Lake Champlain.
Selectboard chair Terry Macaig spoke at Tuesday’s celebration of McGuire’s retirement.
“We congratulate Rick on his 22 and a half years as town manager,” he said earlier in a town press release. “His vision for the town and innovative approach to solving problems has been recognized not only by our residents and selectboards, but also by his peers in Chittenden County and statewide. We will miss him and wish him the best in retirement.”
McGuire’s career in public administration started in Connecticut 44 years ago. He has served at both state and municipal levels. He had planned to retire at the end of June, but agreed to stay on as the town’s hiring process for his successor was slowed by the pandemic.
“It has been a tremendous honor for me to have served the Williston community for these past 22 and a half years,” McGuire said. “I am thankful I was given the opportunity to work with so many citizens, volunteers, elected officials and staff who all worked tirelessly to the benefit of our community. A manager accomplishes nothing without those efforts.
“Any accomplishments attributed to me belong to the community,” he added. “I am just happy to have been a part of it.”