Bristol clerk hired as new town administrator

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard looked high and low for a new town administrator but ended up picking a familiar face — the town clerk.
Therese Kirby, 47, who has served as town clerk since 2006, will take over the town administrator position at the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1. She will be the first female town administrator in Bristol’s history.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to continue to serve Bristol as a community,” Kirby told the Independent.
Selectboard chair Joel Bouvier said the board vetted 13 applicants and ultimately interviewed four. He said Kirby stood out as the best candidate.
“We were impressed with her municipal background,” Bouvier said. “She knew everybody, knew the inner workings of the town and all the department heads.”
Bouvier said picking someone familiar with the town made for an easy transition.
“She’s a really hard worker and a go-getter,” Bouvier said. “We’re a small staff and she can help train the new town clerk and treasurer.”
Town administrative assistant Jen Stetson said she looks forward to continuing to work with Kirby, albeit in a slightly different capacity.
“I’ve enjoyed working with her to this point, and I look forward to our working relationship for the next three years, if not longer,” Stetson said.
As for filling the town clerk’s position that Kirby will vacate, Bouvier said the selectboard has not yet set a course of action.
“We’re debating what we’re going to do for the time being,” Bouvier said.
Kirby, a native of Braintree, in Orange County, has lived in Bristol for 19 years. Before becoming a public servant, Kirby was a stay-at-home mom for eight years — her oldest child recently graduated from the University of Vermont, while her two younger children attend Mount Abraham Union High School. Previously, she worked for the National Bank of Middlebury.
In 2006, then-town clerk Penny Sherwood hired Kirby as assistant. When Sherwood retired later that year, the selectboard appointed Kirby to fill the vacancy. On Town Meeting Day 2007, voters chose Kirby to be their permanent clerk. She has been re-elected seven times.
When administrator Bill Bryant announced his retirement in late March, Kirby decided to vie for the position.
“I saw it as an opportunity for a career in municipal government, an opportunity to serve a community I love being a part of in a new position,” Kirby said.
While she will still be working full-time in the same office in Holley Hall, Kirby outlined the different roles she will be taking on.
“I’ll be working with department heads in a different capacity,” Kirby said. “I’ll be in charge of infrastructure projects, which I find interesting.”
Still, she said she will be around to help the new town clerk transition into the job.
“I’m going to miss certain things that I do now, but I’ll still be here and be able to help out whoever takes over,” Kirby said.
Kirby said she hopes the town offices will regain the institutional memory lost when three longtime employees — administrator Bob Hall, clerk Penny Sherwood and administrative assistant Shirley Emilio all departed within a few months in 2006.
“Bristol lost in one short period of time a lot of historical memory, and I think it’s important that we build it back up,” Kirby said. “All the department heads have been here a long time; I feel like it’s really important to have that continuity for the town.”
Kirby also said he hopes to continue the work of Bryant, who served as administrator for eight years.
“Bill had a good knowledge due to his years of experience with state statutes and had seen a lot in his tenure,” Kirby said. “I hope to carry forward a lot of the positive things that he has done.”
Kirby said Bryant was instrumental in many infrastructure projects and the renovation of Holley Hall and Howden Hall.
But Kirby said she also brings her own leadership style to the table. She plans to hold monthly meetings with the town department heads to facilitate cooperation.
“Everybody in their position sees things a little bit differently,” Kirby said. “One of the department heads can say to another, ‘Hey, I have an idea that might work for you.’”
The ultimate goal of these meetings will be increase efficiency in government.
“I want us to become as efficient and united of a team as possible,” Kirby said. “We’re all working towards the same tax dollar. ‘How can we help each other to be better?’ — that is my goal.”
Kirby said she is thankful for the many townspeople who encouraged her to apply for the position, and who have elected her as town clerk year after year.
“I have had a lot of support; people who knew I was an applicant have been very supportive and encouraging,” Kirby said. “I’ve worked for this community and been an elected official, and people still want me to stay. So it’s nothing that I ever take for granted.”

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