Nuovo leaves public service to ponder more of life’s mysteries
I really would like to figure out, ‘Do we live in a moral universe? Does right and wrong really make a fundamental difference?’ I think it does.
— Victor Nuovo
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Selectman Victor Nuovo has resigned from the selectboard, citing his desire to probe the philosophical mysteries of life during the balance of his golden years.
Nuovo, who marks his 89th birthday on Nov. 13, is the Charles A. Dana Prof. Emeritus of Philosophy at Middlebury College. He’s been a celebrated scholar, educator and writer in that field for six decades.
At the same time, Nuovo has been a dedicated community volunteer. He joined the selectboard in 2006, serving until 2014. He returned to the board in 2016. He was the most tenured member of the board, serving during a time when some of the town’s most ambitious and controversial projects were planned and executed. Among them: The new Cross Street Bridge, municipal building and downtown rail tunnel projects.
“I consider it a great honor to have served on the selectboard of this town,” Nuovo wrote in his resignation letter to board Chairman Brian Carpenter. “I leave the board with a sense of pride and gratitude, mixed with regret for the finitude of things. To you, and all the members of the board, to the Town Manager (Kathleen Ramsay) and all who serve in the town administration, I extend my gratitude and very best wishes. May you all live long and prosper.”
Nuovo earned a reputation as the board’s senior statesman, and some might add its moral compass, during his years of service. As per his longtime vocation and calling, Nuovo thought deeply about the impact his decisions would have on individuals and society in general, and he urged his colleagues to do the same.
“I enjoyed working things out with the people on the selectboard,” Nuovo said during a socially distanced interview late last week.
But philosophy — and Plato in particular — beckons. The past four years of President Donald Trump have prompted Nuovo to wonder about the conventional expectations for democracy, morality and governance.
“I really would like to figure out, ‘Do we live in a moral universe? Does right and wrong really make a fundamental difference?’ I think it does,” he said.
“Right and wrong count as much as up and down; we need to recapture our sense of that,” he added.
He’ll continue to write his regular, well-received column in the Addison Independent about all things philosophy.
He and wife Betty Nuovo — herself a former selectboard member who represented Middlebury for more than two decades in the Vermont House of Representatives — have been married for 67 years. Stepping away from the board will give the couple more freedom to travel together, Nuovo reasoned.
“We’re fortunate we’re both in good health,” he said.
Nuovo is confident his former colleagues will find a capable replacement, and believes he leaves the board in good hands — citing Carpenter, in particular.
“I think Brian has been an excellent chair,” Nuovo said.
“What other town has a general as its chair,” he added with a smile, referring to the rank Carpenter achieved in the Army National Guard prior to his retirement from the service in 2014.
Selectman Nick Artim was one of several who spoke fondly of Nuovo at the board’s Tuesday meeting. He recalled the days when he and Nuovo, following an in-person selectboard meeting at the municipal building, would occasionally adjourn to the nearby Two Brothers Tavern for a “wee Scottish dram.” He recalled Nuovo sometimes pausing, as he walked across the street, to gaze at the municipal building for a moment.
“He’d say something to the effect of, ‘This town is a good place and is well-governed,’” Artim said.
“While I don’t want Victor to resign, I’ve known him long enough to know he doesn’t undertake a decision like this without extensive thought and deliberation,” he added. “He is after all our board’s philosopher.”
Carpenter said, “It’s been an honor to serve with Victor. I think we all have appreciated him. His passion for deliberation, and what that means to the process of governance has really been helpful for me.”
Artim, Carpenter and fellow selectboard members Heather Seeley, Lindsey Fuentes-George, Farhad Khan and Dan Brown unanimously — though reluctantly — accepted Nuovo’s resignation on Tuesday. They also signed a resolution honoring their friend and colleague. The resolution acknowledged, among other things, Nuovo’s “love of knowledge and commitment to truth has been both a solid foundation and a guiding light for many of the selectboard’s discussions about important community issues.”
The board now turns its attention to appointing someone to serve in Nuovo’s stead until Town Meeting Day next March, when candidates will be able to run for the one-year balance of his term. Two three-year terms — currently held by Khan and Fuentes-George — will also be on the ballot.
Ramsay has mapped out a schedule calling for the position to be advertised in today’s edition of the Addison Independent, the nomination of candidates by Dec. 8, and the appointment of an interim selectboard member by Dec. 15. The new member would be sworn in on Jan. 12 and thus participate in three meetings before town meeting. The interim selectboard member would then be welcome to seek election to any of the three board posts that will be up for grabs on the March ballot.
Nuovo departs the board a happy and fulfilled man.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve lived a full life,” he said. “I’ve gotten most of the important things done.”
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