Dana Sweet is the recipient of the 2018 Jim Marvin Award Recognizing Excellence in Community Service. Congratulations, Dana! This award is well deserved.
Dana is serving in his 30th year on the selectboard for the town of Cambridge and is the current chair of the selectboard. From the press release about the award:
He has provided stability and leadership to a town that has almost doubled in population and grand list since his election to the board in 1989. During his tenure the town has replaced its entire infrastructure.
That infrastructure includes a town hall, town garage, fire station, rescue squad building, and 63 miles of town roads, all in good condition. The town’s finances are in good condition, too, with less than $1 million of outstanding debt for the fire station built in 2012 and which will be paid off in 2022.
The Jim Marvin Awards are presented annually by the Lamoille County Planning Commission, one of the regional planning commissions in Vermont. The awards honor the memory of Jim Marvin who was a long-time dedicated volunteer in Johnson. The awards were presented on June 12 at a reception in Hyde Park at The Governor’s House (a classic Vermont inn, not the home of the governor of Vermont). Cambridge, Johnson, and Hyde Park are all towns in Lamoille County. The award that Dana is holding in the photo above is in the shape of Lamoille County.
Several people from Cambridge were present to see Dana receive his award: the long-time town clerk 1974-2016 who worked with Dana for many years; the current town clerk; representatives from the listers, auditors, town office staff, and the village of Cambridge (which is distinct from the town of Cambridge); the other two members of the Cambridge selectboard; and family members.
Larry Wyckoff has served on the Cambridge selectboard with Dana since 2012 and says the following in the press release about the award:
Dana is a one of a kind. It is extremely rare for a community to be fortunate enough to have an individual such as Dana serve for so long. For that the Town of Cambridge is grateful.
Although I have only served on the Cambridge selectboard with Dana for a year, I have come to greatly respect his accomplishments and his judgment. Cambridge is a great town to live in! And that is due in significant part to leadership from people like Dana.
The Marvin Awards resonate with the question in the header of this blog: “What is a proper relationship between a free people and their government?” Part of the answer to that question is that you need people like Dana in local government.
Alexis de Tocqueville noted this aspect of democracy more than 175 years ago in Democracy in America. An astute observer, Tocqueville recognized the importance of local government in America—which was unlike anything in his experience in Europe. He was particularly impressed by the organization of local government in New England, and early in the book he wrote a long chapter describing it: “Necessity of Studying What Takes Place in the Particular States before Speaking of the Government of the Union” (Volume 1, Part 1, Chapter 5).
In this chapter Tocqueville dissects the structure of town government in an unnamed town in Massachusetts. He has a lot to say about the role of the selectmen (in that age it was always men) and then he has a long paragraph about all the other elected and appointed officials in the town: assessors, tax collectors, constable, clerk, cashier, overseer of the poor, school commissioners, highway inspectors, inspectors of several other kinds, etc. “In all,” Tocqueville wrote:
the principal offices of the township number nineteen.
Some of the roles and titles have changed over the years, but it still takes a selectboard and numerous other officials to run a town government. Some of them are in the photo above and in the other awards mentioned in the press release linked above.
Tocqueville believed that the success of the American experiment in self-government began with local government in the town:
The institutions of a township are to freedom what primary schools are to science; they put it within reach of the people; they make them taste its peaceful employ and habituate them to making use of it. Without the institutions of a township a nation can give itself a free government, but it does not have the spirit of freedom.
Thank you to Dana and to all who selflessly serve in town governments.
(Photo credit: Lamoille County Planning Commission)