City alderman, prominent veterinarian Joe Klopfenstein to leave state for Oregon job

VERGENNES — Vergennes alderman and well-known area large-animal veterinarian Joe Klopfenstein will later this fall pull up his Vermont stakes after 30 years and leave for a teaching job with Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Klopfenstein, as much a fixture on the Vergennes musical scene as on the 33 dairy farms he serves with his veterinary partner, Annie Murphy, said he was made an offer that was too good to refuse — in part because he and his wife Nancy’s two sons both live in Oregon.
“I love my job. It’s not like I was looking to leave,” said Klopfenstein, 57. “This was a unique opportunity in Oregon with my boys there.”
Officials from OSU’s veterinary school recruited him, he said. As part of his Vermont practice over the years, Klopfenstein has shepherded University of Vermont students while making his rounds, and he has done some classroom work for UVM.
And, he said, he has always found those tasks rewarding. A year ago, his alma mater, Purdue University, also recruited Klopfenstein. Although he ultimately did not get that post, the seed was planted.
“It kind of got me thinking. I’ve always loved teaching. I’ve been encouraged to do it at the vet school level, at the college level. And I’d better hurry up and get it done. I don’t have that much time left,” he said.
The new job will include elements of what Klopfenstein does now, but he said it will be less physically demanding.
“I’m going to be teaching, probably mostly going on farm calls for clients, taking care of animals for clients of the university, but I’ll have students with me, teaching them what I do, basically,” he said. “That’s about 70 percent of my responsibility, and I’ll also have some classroom teaching responsibility, some teaching in the clinics in the school and some opportunity to do some research.”
In March, Klopfenstein was re-elected for his fourth two-year city council term — he was the top vote-getter in a four-way race for three seats.
Mayor Bill Benton, in his fifth year on the council, remembers joining Klopfenstein as an alderman.
“He predated me, and when I got on the council I kind of looked up to him. He was always thoughtful, levelheaded,” Benton said. “I think everything he did had the community’s best interest at heart, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Of his council service, Klopfenstein said he remains disappointed that citizens did not perceive the benefits of a proposed East Street preschool playground that a recreation committee he led proposed, but said the council did much of which it could be proud in the past seven years.
“The biggest thing has been the (Vermont Council on Rural Development) ‘Community Visit’ we had, sort of binding together a lot of the various projects, the basin, the downtown,” he said. “We’ve overseen the city plan, that was a big thing, one of the major accomplishments in my time. The successful bond vote and building the new police station, I’m really proud of that.”
The recreation committee also did good work, Klopfenstein said, and he is confident about recreation’s future in Vergennes.
“My time on the rec committee, as you know, there was some rocky stuff,” he said. “But we got a good foundation down. And we’re working now with the development of a recreation plan, where we can get a better, more focused approach to that.”
Benton praised Klopfenstein’s approach as a public servant.
“Everybody that worked with him in any one of a number of different areas respected him and respected his opinion. And he obviously respected theirs,” he said. “He was obviously very civil in all of his communications and interactions with people, and I think that’s what you need to do to get stuff accomplished.”
Many more know Klopfenstein for playing the trumpet, something he calls “a big part of my life.”
He estimates he has played his instrument for as many as 27 Vergennes Union High School musicals, starting, he believes, with “Damn Yankees” in 1987.
Eleven years ago, Klopfenstein became a charter member of Champlain Philharmonic, for which he will play his last concert on Oct. 11.
For the past 28 years, he has also blown his horn for the Vergennes City Band.
“Vergennes Day was my final performance with the Vergennes City Band. That was bittersweet,” Klopfenstein said.
Klopfenstein, who since 2009 has written a veterinary medicine column for the Independent, and Murphy broke their large-animal practice out of the Vergennes Animal Hospital in 2007. They list more than 300 clients, of whom 33 are active dairy farms.
Klopfenstein estimated those farms provide 90 or 95 percent of their business, and that Murphy would continue to serve those clients.
“Some of our farms are quite large, and we go there every week,” he said.
Klopfenstein and Benton said Nancy Klopfenstein would also be missed in Addison County. A longtime nurse in Porter Hospital’s birthing center, she has also served on many key hospital committees.
Joe Klopfenstein said one of her major contributions was helping Ferrisburgh resident Martha Redpath and others found and operate Tapestry Midwifery.  He said Tapestry, which opened in 2007, now has three midwives and has “brought nearly 640 babies into the world” in addition to providing general women’s health care.
“That practice has had a huge influence on women’s health in this area. I am proud of what she’s done,” Klopfenstein said. “She’s certainly been as instrumental in people’s lives as I’ve been, that’s for sure.”
Benton said both Klopfensteins will be missed.
“He and Nancy are both the epitome of what a citizen should be,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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