With thanks to John Tenny

Each year across the county’s 23 towns, a few local “heroes” are honored for service to their communities “beyond the call of duty” or, to put it another way, way beyond what most of us could imagine doing ourselves. So, we offer our sincere thanks and tip our collective hats to them for their magnanimous efforts.
To cite just one of those public heroes this year, John Tenny was honored in Middlebury’s annual report as he steps down from his position as chair of the selectboard for the past 15 years. He had also served on the Middlebury Design Advisory Review Committee from 1989-95, and the Middlebury Public Works Committee since 1991. He also served on countywide boards, including the Addison County Community Trust board, on which he served as its president since 1995.
Putting in years on various committees is certainly noteworthy, but the depth of community involvement during those years is what sets Tenny apart. The town meeting dedication aptly describes Tenny’s commitment: “He has gone above and beyond the call of duty by reaching out to forge and nurture strategic alliances; fostering a sense of community by attending every important event as a representative of the Town, always ready with an appropriate and meaningful statement; scanning the horizon for new opportunities to meet the Town’s goals; and inventing new approaches to address vexing issues. John is always well prepared, engaged and energized to achieve the best result for the Town.”
During Tenny’s leadership major accomplishments included: completion of the Cross Street Bridge, relocation of the wastewater treatment facility, construction of a new police department building, this year’s adoption of the fire building fund and the adoption of the Middlebury Business Development Fund.
As importantly, Middlebury’s town budget has lived within its means (always within inflation), while pursuing these several major initiatives and in the midst of a national recession.
And almost nothing in government is an easy task. For every one of us who would implore the town to be more progressive in its thinking and actions, there are at least one or two others pleading for the town to be more cautious and conservative; to hunker down; to postpone bridges because they are in the wrong place, or because a project will ruin how things are, or will complicate what is already a complicated mess. What leaders soon discover is that the objections to progress are infinite, while the possible solutions are finite and always most often difficult to articulate to everyone’s satisfaction.
That said, one of Tenny’s greatest strengths, from this editor’s perspective, has been his tolerance for debate, his determination to get all angles of the story (or town perspectives), and his firmly held belief that it was in the town’s best interest to get as many residents onboard as possible before moving forward with any project. That may have slowed things down occasionally, but it brought the community along step-by-step, and created a steady string of successes with few setbacks — and that’s an admirable legacy for any public servant.
For those 17 years of leading the selectboard, he steps down from the post with the town’s profound thanks — and the expectation that he’ll continue in other community capacities for years to come.
Angelo S. Lynn

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