Tucker says he’s gotten an opportunity to meet all the heads of the departments he’ll be overseeing in his new post, which include finance, highway, police, and fire as well as the lister’s office, the water treatment facility, and the transfer station. “We have a great staff here,” says Tucker. “They really know what they’re doing. The process now is for me to learn as much as possible from everybody. And then together, we’ll move forward.”
Tucker describes his new job as being a bit of an orchestrator, and he sees the heads of each of the departments as experts in their own fields. “Sometimes voters and visitors don’t get a chance to really talk to the people working behind the scenes and making things happen,” says Tucker. “I have to say, they’re really in good hands here.”
Tucker is a retired police officer. He served “more than 37 years” (he says some estimate it to be 38, but he’s not sure) in that capacity in Rutland. Prior to that, he headed security, emergency management, fire, and ambulance services at Lyndon State College.
While working in Rutland, Tucker lived in Clarendon, a small town just outside Rutland. “It’s about the same size as Wilmington,” says Tucker, “but without the village area or diversity of businesses.” In Wilmington, he’s taken a small apartment off South Main Street, where he’s living Monday through Friday. On the weekends, he returns to Clarendon, where his family still lives.
Tucker says the hopes his prior experiences will be of benefit to Wilmington. In Rutland, his last title was Commander of Community Outreach, and he was named executive director of Project Vision, an ongoing city rehabilitation effort that brought police, government, and social leaders together to restore a problematic 12-block area in the northwest portion of Rutland.
Tucker explains that in 2012 when Project Vision began, Rutland was in a critical moment. “Much of the community was up in arms about the opiates, and at the same time there was political frustration, and there was media frustration that you could read in stories. Labor and management weren’t really getting along.”
The tipping point came when a young girl, Carly Ferro, was hit and killed by a driver who was using drugs before getting behind the wheel. “That was the impetus to move from talking to doing,” says Tucker. “My former boss said it’ll be like throwing spaghetti on the wall. Let’s see what sticks. Let’s just do some things and see what happens.”
From there, Tucker says, Project Vision “really took on a life of its own.” The city received a $1.25 million grant for rehabilitation, which was managed by Neighborworks of Western Vermont, an organization that rehabilitated abandoned residences with the goal of boosting home ownership, which would in turn create a stronger sense of ownership and pride in the area. Green spaces were also created, where community barbecues, picnics, and movie screenings are now held.
Additionally, as part of the overall Project Vision effort, a portion of the police station’s building became Project Vision’s brick and mortar headquarters, where at any given time, between eight and 12 professionals from all sectors of public and community service are working side by side.
“There is a crisis clinician who works there full time, a parent-child center with two social workers, the state’s attorney and the attorney general’s office would be there part time,” says Tucker, noting that the shared workspace has had a “water-cooler effect.”
“We wanted people to create relationships so that when things are really serious and you need help, you already know the people who are showing up,” says Tucker. “You’ve spent time at lunch together, you’ve had meetings together, you’ve had cups of coffee together. You’re rubbing elbows with everybody.”
Project Vision has had success, with burglaries down 60% and larceny down 45%. Tucker, who is now on the board of Neighborworks of Western Vermont, says he’s leaving the police force in Rutland because they’re kicking him out.
“I have to retire at a particular age,” says Tucker with a laugh, “and that age is coming in mid-September.”
But he wasn’t ready to stop working. Wilmington caught Tucker’s eye because his former boss in Rutland, Agostinho “Augie” Fernandes, moved here many years ago to become police chief.
“When I saw the town manager position had opened up, I thought this might be a pretty interesting place to look into,” says Tucker. He’s still getting to know Wilmington, but said that he feels drawn to the passion and spirit here.
“There’s a lot of energy, I think, that came out of Irene. It’s in a lot of Vermont, but particularly here,” says Tucker. “And the people that I have met here are all extraordinarily passionate about Wilmington and about their work. I really enjoy that.”