by Doug McClure
WOLCOTT – The Wolcott Select Board chose Randall Szott as the new town administrator. Szott, currently a State Representative for Windsor-4-1 whose term is up, will take the reins in early October. Szott recently moved from Barnard to Montpelier.
“I knew I was going to be moving and wasn’t sure if I was living in the same legislative district,” Szott said. “I didn’t want to run and then have to resign and they’d have to scramble to find someone.”
Szott he “really enjoyed” his one term in the legislature. Szott also served on the Barnard Town Planning Commission, the development review board and, briefly, on the school board.
Before moving to Barnard, Szott lived in Charlotte and Bolton. He said Vermont was “the first state I moved to completely of my own choice, every other state was because of job or school.” His vacation visits to Vermont early in life convinced him he had to “figure out a way” to move here permanently, he said.
Szott is originally from Florida. He attended college in Ohio, where he obtained an undergraduate Liberal Arts degree and two graduate degrees, an M.A. and a M.F.A. His “original plan” was teaching, and he taught as an adjunct professor at Ohio State. Since then, Szott taught at the University of Chicago and Green Mountain College. When his Ohio State contract was not renewed, Szott took work as a professional chef while continuing a “parallel path of academic and scholarly work.” He worked as a chef for 15 years, Szott said.
He found his path back to Vermont in part through working as a merchant mariner for nine years aboard a dredge vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. He was the chef on that vessel, he said, and the work freed him to live wherever he chose.
Szott also worked as a public library director in Weston, and he said having worked in two very different worlds has benefited his understanding of humanity.
“The kind of dudes that work on board a boat in the Gulf of Mexico are not the same kinds of people you work with teaching college classes,” he said. “I can work with a wide range of people.”
Szott moved to Montpelier and took on a part-time position with Vermont Department of Children and Families (DCF) “doing grant administration for a program that tries to prevent people from becoming homeless.” He saw a posting for the Wolcott town administrator position on the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ site and felt the part-time position complemented his work with DCF.
“This job seemed like exactly the sort of thing I was looking for,” he said, “The range of topics and the nature of the work. It’s a different range of things but still a situation where you’re there to try and solve problems the same way as a legislator does with people who’ve hit roadblocks bureaucratically.”
He said his role at the library had given him a public connection that was “much more tangible” than his work in the legislature “where it seems very abstract. I think it’ll be refreshing to do work that’s much more direct and concrete.”
As for choosing Wolcott, Szott said “I sat right near Dan Noyes in legislature, so he and I would talk a lot, he’s a huge proponent of the town. It’s more of an Northeast Kingdom town and the district I represent is kind of like a ‘jewel box’ with a lot of second home owners and a higher median income [than most of Vermont]. I think Wolcott is a lot more like what Vermont is really like.”
He acknowledged with that reality came “all the challenges rural Vermont towns have throughout the state, declining tax bases and needs for infrastructure.”
He said that since taking the position, he’s been exploring Wolcott. “I made a point to go and visit and drive around, to drive the backroads,” he said.
“I love all of Vermont, not just the picturesque tourist towns. I’m definitely excited to get to know the community more.”