Clerk phones in to Bristol town meeting from maternity bed

BRISTOL — Jen Stetson Myers’s baby was due on Saturday, March 3, but as she left work the day before Myers was focused on the Bristol town meeting scheduled for Monday, March 5. She is, after all, the Bristol town clerk and treasurer.
“I didn’t think I would have the baby over the weekend, and I was planning to attend town meeting,” Myers said in an interview last week. “I was already in the mind-set.”
Her baby, apparently, had a different mind-set.
Lucy Marilyn Myers, weighing in at 9 pounds, 7 ounces, arrived right on schedule, at 8:13 a.m. on March 3.
Perhaps, Myers thought, she wouldn’t be attending town meeting after all.
Bristol town leaders, apparently, had a different thought.
Two evenings later, a half hour into that meeting at Holley Hall, Bristol resident (and state representative) David Sharpe introduced an amendment that would reduce the penalty on delinquent taxes. Discussion ensued and the inevitable question arose: Where does the revenue from those penalties go?
It turned out the best person to answer that question was absent — spending time with her newborn baby.
But the town of Bristol needed answers and they needed them immediately. Selectboard member Michelle Perlee picked up her phone.
A moment later, Myers just happened to notice that she’d received a text. It was from Perlee, who was asking if Myers was watching the meeting — Bristol’s Northeast Addison Television was broadcasting it live on cable channel 16 — then asked about tax collection.
“I didn’t even think twice,” Myers said. She picked up her phone and began to tap out an answer.
Selectboard member Joel Bouvier read her response into the microphone:
“Can’t watch, still in the hospital, blah-blah …”
Laughter filled Holley Hall. It was warm and knowing and sprang from the place where small-town intimacy and hyperconnectivity meet.
Bouvier paused to let it pass, then read the rest. Myers’s explanation seemed to clear up any confusion, and after light discussion, Sharpe’s amendment passed.
Just like that.
The notion of comparing laws with sausages was first floated by a Vermonter, John Godfrey Saxe, who in 1839 said they “cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” Variations on his phrasing persist today.
This year’s annual town meeting in Bristol, however, produced altogether different images: a mother with infant and smartphone, and the 125 people dependent on her expertise, who in the middle of everyday business paused to acknowledge the everyday miracle of new life.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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