BY ANGELO LYNN
PROCTOR — Michael Ramsey, Proctor’s new town manager, said the best part of the job over these first two months has been “getting to know everyone around town who takes an active role in serving the community. I could go on and on with names, but let me just say that there are volunteers and staff that will, and do, work 24 hours/7 days a week to make sure Proctor is achieving its full potential.”
Ramsey, 34, arrived on the job Aug. 30 and said he’s been working day and night catching up all things Vermont and Proctor, as well as getting settled into a new home in nearby Poultney with his partner of seven years, Brandy, who is able to continue her job in Virginia by working remotely.
The couple lived most recently from Waynesboro, Virginia, a town of 22,000 people in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains where Ramsey had been operations coordinator for the city of Waynesboro. There he oversaw a $3 million annual budget for the Public Works Department for the past several years. Before then, Ramsey was raised in Amherst, Va., a small town of about 2,200 people where he attended high school with little expectation to attend college.
He would join the U.S. Navy, however, and serve four years from 2008-2012 aboard the USS Blue Ridge in Japan, after which he got his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va, and a master’s degree in public administration from Ohio University. And somewhere along the way, he learned to play the banjo and love snow.
We sat down with Ramsey in is office Monday for a brief interview in which we found out how it’s been going these first couple of months, a bit about his transition from Virginia to Vermont, and were introduced to his keen sense of humor.
Q: After two months on the job, how’s it going, what have you liked most about the job and what has surprised you?
A: Now that I’m off and running, my nerves have settled that’s for sure! Picking everything up and coming to Proctor to fulfill a long-term goal of mine required not just a big move in distance, but professionally as well.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a public servant and one of my goals was to become a town manager. This is a job where I can use my skill sets in many different areas. For years I worked on town infrastructure projects (mainly underground), and while that’s an important job and towns absolutely depend on it, it gets old putting pipes in the ground. This job allows me to do things that people will see and that we can accomplish together.
Gladly, I can say that everyone in and around town have been kind and supportive during the transition, and without gloating, the overall feedback (so far!) is that I’m a good fit.
Q: How has your previous job as the senior utility operations coordinator for the city of Waynesboro, Va., helped you in this job? What capital or building projects are you working on or considering in Proctor?
A: Public Works can prepare a person for just about anything life has to throw at you; it’s why I have a lot of respect for our crews here in town.
In Waynesboro’s Public Works Department, I managed large capital improvement projects, oversaw a multi-million budget, and managed around 20 utility workers. When I wasn’t doing that, I was operating backhoes, plowing roads, and working on my graduate degree.
This all helped prepare me for the role of Town Manager here in Proctor, especially since the town has quite a few capital improvement projects happening.
Proctor is currently replacing a large portion of its aging sanitary sewer upstream of the Willow Street Pump Station, rehabilitating portions of the sidewalk along South Street, installing a multi-use path to connect Beaver Pond to the downtown area, and is working with the conservation district to draft a Storm Water Master Plan.
Other exciting news is that the town just made it through the first round of selection for the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Grant, which could help improve trail systems and promote other outdoor activities. We’re also currently working on a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan in partnership with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, so I’ve been busy to say the least.
Proctor will have to be creative to establish a workforce that doesn’t need to leave the borders of town to earn a living. The town also has lots of recreational opportunities and a great school —both of which are ideal for attracting remote workers who can keep their jobs in the city but enjoy the great quality of life that’s here.
Q: How long did you serve in the Navy and in what capacity? Has that experience transferred to this position in any way?
A: I was a Machinist Mate onboard the USS Blue Ridge, moored outside of Japan from 2008 to 2012. I’ve been to Russia, Australia, Vietnam, you name it. The Navy helped straighten me out. My family came from coal county in West Virginia, so life wasn’t always sunshine and roses growing up. I was raised hard and could have easily gone down the wrong path, but the military helped me focus energy toward more positive things like setting goals, getting an education, and exercising.
Q: From what you can see so far, what are Proctor’s biggest challenges over the next couple of years, and what are the town’s biggest opportunities in the near future?
A: Proctor needs to attract a few more small businesses. Like many communities in America, the town suffers from the exodus of a big business (the marble industry) that supported the local economy for generations. Without a large budget to support an all-out marketing campaign, and building constraints caused by land use classifications, Proctor will have to be creative to establish a workforce that doesn’t need to leave the borders of town to earn a living. The town also has lots of recreational opportunities and a great school —both of which are ideal for attracting remote workers who can keep their jobs in the city but enjoy the great quality of life that’s here. Another big initiative is to partner with neighboring towns to create a strong and cohesive network of communities that offer a great place to live.
It probably won’t be a silver bullet that solves the issue either, more like a silver buckshot.
Q: Are there any big issues facing Proctor voters in the upcoming Town Meeting?
A: The budget, of course, but nothing extraordinary has come across my radar yet, but that might be because I’ve had my nose to the grindstone. I would just urge everyone to get involved, and make sure to use your vote next March!
Q: What are your favorite hobbies and past-times?
A: I’m 34 with a girlfriend, dog, and 3 cats. She works in the mental health field and the others just lay around the house. I’m a pretty good banjo player and you will probably catch me riding my bike down Route 3 (but probably not doing both at the same time).
Q: What do you most like about Proctor so far? What do you look forward to doing this winter?
A: Proctor is a beautiful town and has incredibly unique features like the overlook at Beaver Pond, the marble bridge, and the Great Falls to name a few. I can’t wait to see Vermont and the town blanketed with snow, and I hope to get into cross-country skiing this winter. I’ve seen a lot of folks out practicing along the side of the road, and I like the groove they get into. Seems right up my alley.
Q: What has surprised you most about Proctor.
A: The most surprising thing I’ve discovered since getting here is — marble everything. I came up with the slogan while I was eating lunch one day, “Proctor is a Marbleous Town,” but it hasn’t caught on yet. I can’t for the world figure out why! Seriously, I’m just happy to be here and I hope to meet the expectations of the selectboard and everyone else in town.