Vasseur, Vision and Vitality win awards

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Bob Vasseur, Fayston, was named Citizen Planner of the Year. Photo: Andrew Nemethy

Bob Vasseur, Fayston, was named Citizen Planner of the Year. Photo: Andrew Nemethy

Bob Vasseur, longtime member of the Fayston Select Board, won the Vermont Planners Association Citizen Planner of the Year Award. The Vermont Planners Association also awarded the Mad River Valley Economic Vision and Vitality Series its Project of the Year Award.

Vasseur and representatives of the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce will receive their awards at a Vermont State House ceremony on April 28 at 4 p.m. in the Cedar Creek Room.

The 2016 Project of the Year Award recognizes the Mad River Valley Vision and Vitality Series and subsequent Economic Forum. The project was a joint initiative of the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce. The work acknowledges the individuality of the Mad River Valley towns, each with different goals and roles to play in the regional economy. Heavily influenced by mountain resort tourism and a legacy of agriculture, economic planning tended to look to the past rather than the future.

Econ Food

Using three different consulting firms to guide the process, the Economic Study included quantitative information – data, statistics and trends – but also gathered qualitative data through community conversations, online surveys and an Economic Summit and Community Picnic where participants voted on community priorities for economic vitality.

The resulting efforts served as the basis for last summer’s Vision and Vitality Workshop Series, leading to the 2015 MRV Economic Summit and further launching the Mad River Valley communities forward through a continuing process of implementation and action. The community conversations have involved hundreds of residents, business owners, environmental organizations and state agencies. Goals of the overall project are to increase greater economic vitality and resilience in the Mad River Valley through community engagement, policy development and implementation.

Described as an “accidental planner,” Vasseur is recognized as the 2016 Citizen Planner of the Year for his commitment to the Mad River Valley. Vasseur spent a lifetime serving Fayston and the Mad River Valley. He is a founding member of the Mad River Valley Planning District and served on its steering committee for 20 years. For the last 57 years, Vasseur has served on the Fayston Select Board.

“He really does represent so much good history of the Mad River Valley and Fayston in particular. He’s a wonderfully perceptive man,” said fellow select board member Jared Cadwell.

“Select board members are often responsible for implementing local planning efforts and Bob has done just that. His simple, direct and honest approach has been recognized as a way for him to change over time. During Fayston’s growth spurt in the 1960s and 1970s, Bob was there to oversee new growth and to ensure concerns about Fayston’s environment and rural character were heard. These values are leading Bob into a new kind of planning effort today as he works with other maple producers in the area on a sustainability and commercial sugaring endeavor,” Cadwell said.

Fayston Planning Commission chair Polly McMurtry said of her neighbor, “Bob feels strongly about his community and improving its quality of life, which is really the point of planning.”

This is the third time in four years that Mad River Valley efforts have been recognized by the Vermont Planners Association’s annual awards. The Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development’s Vermont Action Team (VDAT) received the 2014 Project of the Year Award for its vitality and resiliency work in eight Vermont villages, including Waitsfield and Warren.

The 2013 Project of the Year Award was given to the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Mad River Valley Rural Resource Commission for their Hill Farm Research Project, which explored how the MRV’s topography and relationship to its river have influenced and influences agriculture and land use.

For over 20 years, these awards have recognized outstanding achievement in community planning in Vermont. Nominees came from all corners of the state and represent the best in local, regional and state planning by citizen and professional planners over the last year.

According to Sarah Hadd, president of the Vermont Planners Association, “This year’s recipients demonstrate excellent examples of resourcefulness and engagement in long-term community planning.”

For more information about these and other Vermont Planners Association awards, visit their website at www.vermontplanners.org/awards.html. The Vermont Planners Association is a statewide, nonprofit, membership-based organization of professional and citizen planners and other related professionals, dedicated to advancing the art and science of planning in Vermont. VPA supports the planning profession through outreach and professional development opportunities and encourages all members to maintain an open dialogue on contemporary planning issues. The New Hampshire Planners Association judged this year’s Vermont Planners Association awards.