BRATTLEBORO—The man whose voice has kept the community abreast of important news for more than 40 years bowed his head, humbled, as he approached the podium at the front of the Retreat’s Education Conference Center.
For a moment, Tim Johnson Arsenault, news director for WTSA, disappeared within the crowd as members of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce gave the news veteran a standing ovation.
Re-emerging from the sea of applauding Chamber members, Johnson graciously accepted the Chamber’s 2014 Person of the Year award from Board President Jim Landrigan.
The organization presented the award during its annual meeting on Feb. 19.
A flustered Johnson said with a smile that co-worker Steve Cormier duped him into coming that day. Cormier told Johnson that he was to honor the late Richard Guthrie that morning.
Johnson took a moment to remember some advice Guthrie gave him after a long and frustrating day.
Johnson remembers Guthrie held up a pencil and said, “See this? It has an eraser. We all make mistakes.”
Johnson thanked his co-workers at WTSA and his wife who often witnessed his penchant for “tilting at windmills.”
“Brattleboro is very quirky,” said Johnson. “But it grows on you.”
He thanked the community for being a place that allowed him to succeed on his own terms.
One of the last radio news directors in Vermont, Johnson was inducted into the Vermont Associations of Broadcasters Hall of Fame last year. He grew up on a farm in Vernon. While in high school he decided he wanted to work in radio.
Known on the air as Tim Johnson, he started his career in 1973 at WKVT, also based in Brattleboro. Johnson talked his way into the job while a senior at Brattleboro Union High School. Speaking in time to music and a Dale Carnegie course helped Johnson overcome a stutter.
Johnson made a brief stop in Springfield at WCFR during the 1980s. He took over the news director chair at WTSA from Larry Smith in 1997.
He has also served as town moderator in Vernon for 17 years, and as moderator of the annual BUHS District Meeting.
More than cars
The Chamber honored Brattleboro Ford/Subaru with its 2014 Corporate Citizen of the Year award.
Brattleboro Ford/Subaru started as one company in 2009. It expanded into two car dealerships in 2012, said Landrigan.
The company has served this community beyond its hours of operation, said Landrigan, focusing on customer service and charitable giving.
Owner Frank Hanenberger said the dealerships’ success rests with their 75 employees.
“They make our success possible,” he said.
Hanenberger said another measure of the company’s success is its charitable giving.
The “goal is always to give back,” he said.
On its website, Brattleboro Ford/Subaru writes, “While we are a new and used car dealership selling a national brand, we are also a small business.”
“As a thank you to all the small businesses and people of the community who choose to do business with us everyday, Brattleboro Subaru would like to continue returning that same respect and give back to that same community,” continued the company on its website.
Organizations like Brattleboro Area Hospice, Windham County Humane Society, Make-A-Wish, and Youth Services have received thousands of dollars in donations from the dealership, said Hanenberger.
The Chamber awarded a special community recognition to the West Brattleboro Association. This all-volunteer group works toward creating a village center for West B, improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and increasing economic development.
Landrigan also handed out recognition to businesses marking milestone anniversaries.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital marked 110 years of operation. Union Institute & University marked 50 years, and the Brattleboro Food Co-op followed with 40 years. Everyone’s Books and Landmark College both celebrated 30 years. Kitchen Sync has kept cooks’ kitchens stocked for 20 years, while the Center for Health and Learning has promoted health in schools for 10 years.
Despite what Treasurer Julie Hamilton described as “a tough year,” the Chamber ended 2014 with money in the bank.
The organization’s books and membership roles took a hit with the evaporation of its ability to sell health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, said Hamilton.
Membership at the basic level dropped 18 percent, she said.
On an up note, the Chamber added 39 members across its other membership levels.
The Chamber still offers dental, vision, and life insurance plans.
Staff managed to cut expenses to keep the organization’s budget in line, said Hamilton.
Donations from more than 100 members and fundraising efforts also helped the coffers, she said. The One and Only campaign raised almost $10,000. The Chamber and WTSA also collaborated on the successful Brattleboro Brewers Festival.
The Chamber launched two new events last year: “Brattleboro Baconfest: Bacon, Blues Brews,” in coordination with WKVT, which brought more than 2,500 visitors to the area, and the “Jingle Bell Jog,” a December fun run organized by Elizabeth Wohl. Local business owner and Brattleboro Union High School #6 school board chair Robert “Woody” Woodworth donned his Santa suit and presided over the event, which saw nearly 120 runners participating.
Look for both events in 2015, said members of the Chamber board.
One of the goals behind the events, said board members, is to entice visitors into making Brattleboro their home.
Landrigan credited the help of larger local businesses with helping the Chamber jump the financial hurdle left after it had to drop health insurance from its member benefits.
As was the case last year, the Chamber opposes Brattleboro enacting a 1 percent local option tax and statewide mandatory paid sick leave, said Landrigan.