BARRE TOWN – He didn’t see it coming when the town thanked Jack Mitchell for his decades of service in various capacities from Select Board member to school bus driver.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Select Board awarded the Wendell F. Pelkey Citizenship & Service Award to Mitchell, a current member of the board. He had no idea he was to receive the award because town officials had worked behind the scenes on it. Board chair Paul White said this was because he knew Mitchell wouldn’t have allowed himself to be the recipient of such an award.
White had asked at the start of the meeting if he could add a resolution to the agenda, but he didn’t give any details. A large group of residents, including former and current town officials and employees, filed into the meeting room unannounced.
White started reading the resolution aloud and after saying Mitchell had been picked for the award, Mitchell let out a loud, “What?”
White said Mitchell has served on the Select Board for 28 years. He has also helped organize and operate the town’s bulk trash collection events for decades and served as chair of civil defense for 45 years. He said Mitchell’s service to Barre Town started as a school bus driver.
“Such that over 38 years he helped ensure generations of children had access to an education that laid the foundation for their contributions to this community and beyond.” White said.
Mitchell served as a per diem police officer for the town for 45 years and as a Washington County Sheriff’s Department deputy at the courthouse in Barre for 14 years.
White said Mitchell’s first elected office was as justice of the peace in 1970.
Residents talked about how they might have disagreed with Mitchell on certain topics over the years, but there were never any hard feelings and they always stayed friends after.
Cedric Sanborn said on top of everything else Mitchell had done for the town, he is also involved in the annual Father’s Day chicken barbecue put on by the fire department. There were discussions at the meeting about all the hats Mitchell wore in service to the town, and Sanborn gave Mitchell a framed photo of Mitchell sitting in a chair at one of the barbecues wearing his “chicken hat,” which Mitchell said was an old, straw deputy’s hat.
Upon seeing the photo, Mitchell let out “Oh, no (expletive)” and then apologized profusely for the obscenity uttered during the live-streamed meeting, which was met with a round of laughter.
Mitchell choked up while thanking the town for the recognition.
“I can’t believe you all came out tonight,” he said.
Tom White, who had served on the Select Board with Mitchell in the past, said Mitchell’s surprise to receive such an award is part of the reason why he’s the right person for it.
“You’ve been giving back to this community for a lot of years. And it’s not just Barre Town, it’s the Central Vermont area,” Tom White said.
Rep. Francis “Topper” McFaun, one of the two lawmakers who represent Barre Town in the House, said the man the award was named after gave his time to the town unselfishly.
“And Jack, after listening to that (resolution), people realized that you’re the epitome of that kind of a person. You give your time unselfishly to the betterment of the town. There aren’t many people who would do that. I personally want to thank you for that, Jack,” McFaun said.