Opinion: Vergennes city manager will be sorely missed

Reaching the age of retirement for a dedicated and long-time community servant and leader undoubtedly heralds the passing of an era and is always bittersweet. On one hand we are happy for the person for reaching such a cherished life’s milestone, and on the other hand we are sad to see them go. 
As such an era is about to close and as we look back on times past, we become even more aware of just how lucky we were to have experienced those times with that person. The City of Vergennes is about to experience the passing of just such an era with the final retirement of City Manager Mel Hawley. 
Mel is a life-long resident of the City of Vergennes. His family roots go back to the earliest days of this community and Mel exemplified the age-old values of a Vermonter: hard-working and straight-forward, dedicated and loyal to his family and community, and frugal. Many a citizen of Vergennes will tell you they were very happy to have Mel looking after their city’s financial concerns. 
Mel knew everything about Vergennes — its residents, their families and extended families, historical knowledge of the city and its businesses, city infrastructure, past city leadership and folklore. If I needed to know something about someone, Mel was my primary go-to guy to ask. 
Mel adhered to a philosophy vitally important to those in public service and one that at times seems to be lacking in today’s era — customer service and hard work. Mel was insistent that the customer’s concerns needed to be addressed in a timely and professional manner, whether it be a person paying taxes or requesting information at city hall or filing a complaint to the police or seeking assistance. 
Mel is a dyed-in-the-wool Vergennes boy and his stories of days gone by were both entertaining and nostalgic. While in conversations with Mel, it was clear he was proud of his city and he performed his duties as a guardian of the residents’ concerns. Mel is a consummate mathematician, he got things right down to the penny and he was proud of it. He was always willing to speak with anyone that came to his office. He wore many hats in pursuit of his duties as city manager and wore them well. 
Mel, City Clerk Joan Devine, and Assistant City Clerk Melissa Wright made an exceptional team. They worked together to get the job done and they did it well. I can confidently say every city departmental supervisor appreciated Mel’s dedication to them, their departments and to our city. He assembled a professional city infrastructure, one that is dedicated to the community they serve and which works well together. 
As Hawley’s era as city manager comes to a close, we once again wax nostalgic. We will miss you Mel and we wish you much happiness in your retirement. Thank you and your family for your time and efforts, friendship and guidance. God bless you and be safe. 
George Merkle is the Vergennes City Police Chief.

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