Marshaling a foursome

Recent retirees to lead Fourth parade 


Observer staff 

After a year’s absence, Williston’s Fourth of July parade is back. With its return comes an opportunity to recognize four longtime town officials who retired during the pandemic. 

The town recently revealed 2021’s four parade grand marshal honorees: 

• Deb Beckett, retired town clerk and treasurer 

• Doug Hulbert, retired assistant fire chief 

• Rick McGuire, retired town manager 

• Ken Morton, retired fire chief 

Choosing Williston’s parade grand marshal normally involves soliciting nominees from the community who are then voted on by the Recreation and Parks Committee. This year, with uncertainty about holding the parade, that process was not started. When it became known the parade could go on, town of ficials came up with the idea of honoring the four recent retirees. The committee agreed it was a great choice. 

“Usually, when a town public servant retires there is a big gathering and party, and for these four we were unable to do any of that,” said Sarah Mason, town clerk. 

Because of the pandemic, “they did not get the send-off they would normally have gotten,” noted Todd Goodwin, Williston’s director of recreation and parks. “This is a chance for the community to thank them.” 

Town manager for 22 years, honoree Rick McGuire recalled his first Fourth of July celebration in Williston back in 1998. His family had recently moved to town from Connecticut. 

“Here we were joining this fabulous celebration, which is so community- and family-oriented. It was spectacular,” he said. 

Over the years, McGuire has been active in many aspects of the parade, as a member of the Lawn Chair Brigade, appearing on the Brick Church Music Series float, as a parade judge and as a spectator. On being named a grand marshal this year, he said, “joining the others being honored makes it extra special.” 

Deb Beckett, who passed away in 2020 soon after her retirement, loved the Fourth of July, according to Mason. “Her family is thrilled she is being honored as a parade grand marshal and with the 5K run.” 

“Deb’s dedication to this town was incredible. It was not only her work, but years serving on boards and commissions, plus all of the organizations she was part of — and then her final year to go so awry with the decline in her health and the pandemic, we didn’t get to celebrate her at all,” said Mason. 

Also honored this year are Williston’s former fire chief and assistant fire chief, Ken Morton and Doug Hulbert. Morton served Williston for 38 years, 28 as chief. Hulbert retired in 2020 after 35 years with the department. 

Morton said, “It’s nice to be recognized by the town after so many years of service. It was a strange time to retire during COVID.” 

Of fellow honoree assistant chief Hulbert, Morton said, “He was a wonderful asset to the department for many years — a strong, supportive individual keeping the organization working well and never demanding credit.” 

Suitably, the grand marshals will be riding on a vintage fire engine owned and restored by Morton. He purchased the 1956 Mack fire truck, which his daughter will drive in the parade, from Richmond, Va. It is one of four fire trucks he owns that will appear in the parade, as they have in past years.