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Vergennes to host pair of community conversations

This is not a partisan or policy conversation. This is a forum by Vergennes, for Vergennes, to think about our own shared responsibility in the well-being of our little city.
— Sarah Stroup

VERGENNES — Vergennes residents are being offered two Community Conversations, each of which organizers plan to be a “respectful, inclusive, productive engagement” led by non-partisan professional facilitators. 
According to organizers Jon Kidde and Sarah Stroup, the “Community Conversations” will be held via Zoom on Oct. 8 and Oct. 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. both evenings.
Those interested may join by Zoom or phone by emailing [email protected] to get log-in information.
Susan Clark, author of  “Slow Democracy,” and Delia Clark will guide the conversations, and Stroup said she and Kidde are recruiting others to lead the small-group discussions into which the larger group will break out. A grant from the Vermont Community Foundation is supporting their participation. 
Stroup said organizers also wanted to recruit outside experts to lead the effort.
“We thought it was important to have a neutral party facilitate these conversations,” she said.
Stroup said organizers hope for a strong turnout. She noted about six-dozen residents attended the online July 16 Vergennes City Council meeting that ultimately led to four councilors’ resignations and the recent special election, and the Community Conversations organizers have obtained a license for up to 500 people. 
“The recent events in our city have been sometimes divisive, but also have generated heightened community engagement,” she wrote in an email. “As we see it, Vergennes has an opportunity to launch a fresh conversation about how we want to work together.”
Stroup added organizers have no agenda except to create a dialogue, and with luck a shared agenda for progress.
“This is not a partisan or policy conversation. This is a forum by Vergennes, for Vergennes, to think about our own shared responsibility in the well-being of our little city,” she wrote.  
As well as seeking that “respectful, inclusive, productive engagement,” the other goals Stroup listed for the conversations included “meet new neighbors in small-group discussions,” “discover shared values and priorities,” and “identify next action steps.”
According to Stroup’s email, the Bixby Library, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes, Fr. Yvon Royer of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Rokeby Museum, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church are also supportive of the conversations. 
Stroup hopes the effort can spark some understanding and progress. 
“We hope people who don’t normally have a chance to talk to one another can do so in productive and respectful way,” she said.

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