There are many charming things about the small state of Vermont. Even if you’ve never step foot in the Green Mountains I bet you could probably name a few of the state’s charms just from the ubiquity of the Vermont brand…the skiing, the award-winning cheese, the green mountains themselves.
Yet some of the treasures Vermont offers is discovered only by living here. One of these is Town Meeting, an annual day-long event of pure honest-to-goodness local government held the first Tuesday of March. Each town in the state gets together at a public meeting space and goes over the down and dirty of district officer elections, budget approvals, and the like. It can be, um, boring, but also a sweet reminder that our voice and votes matter.
Since we moved to the town of Craftsbury a couple weeks ago, I attended our local Town Meeting at the Craftsbury Academy school house on the common. Sitting in the gymnasium bleachers I witnessed the full effect of engaged civil responsibility. Voters asked questions, ballots were counted, budgets were approved, new officials were elected, and the local high school seniors even catered lunch.
All across the state schools are closed and workers have the day off to attend what is known as the first sign of Spring on the way. Loads of neighbors young and old (I saw one man with a cane and a baby asleep on her father’s shoulder) come together and from their attention and intention, another year is set in the books.
It’s a sweet experience, having come from one of largest states in the union, to see people so actively committed to their locality. What you do in a small town matters. You can’t hide in anonymity. What happens to your neighbors affects you indelibly.
Town meeting. Dare I call it a beautiful thing? It reminds me of how connected we truly are, no matter what state we call home.