GUILFORD—Peder Rude, the new town administrator, doesn’t live in town.
And this job is his first foray into municipal employment.
However, Rude said that the many threads of his previous work experiences and his personal interests weave nicely into this position.
“I’ve had an interest in public policy for quite a long time,” he said. “Local government is one way people can be the most active and make the biggest changes.”
Even though the town administrator has no decision-making power, Rude says one way he can help the town is by researching information and making recommendations to the Selectboard.
“I like to work behind the scenes [and] making others’ jobs easier to do,” he said. “I see myself as a collaborator, helping bring people together, finding people’s commonality in any situation ... breaking down barriers.”
Rude’s first day was Nov. 15, “and the first thing we had to tackle when I got here was the budget,” he said, explaining this is the time when the Selectboard begins their annual budgeting process for the following year.
Rude’s experience in financial management came in handy almost immediately.
“I felt fortunate this was something I felt comfortable with,” he said. “I’ve done this sort of thing at other jobs,” noting he was accustomed to “trying to be as efficient as possible with the resources we have, which in this case, all come from our residents. Taxes going up can be very hard on people.”
When asked about the learning curve in his few weeks on the job, Rude said, “right now, not too bad.”
Although Rude characterized the next few weeks leading up to Town Meeting Day in March as “an uphill climb,” he said he looks forward to learning as much as possible about his part in it.
“I love Town Meeting Day! It’s great that we still have that for citizens to participate in and have a voice in how our community runs,” Rude said, noting he has attended Representative Town Meeting in Brattleboro, where he lives with his wife, and Town Meeting in other Vermont towns where he has lived in the past.
Rude, originally from Minnesota, received a bachelor’s degree from Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, and received two master’s degrees: one in sustainable development with a concentration on policy advocacy and analysis from the School for International Training, and one in teaching for social justice from the Marlboro College Graduate School.
Other than the budget and Town Meeting, the next challenges Rude sees in his work with the town are researching the town’s options on trash hauling — “this has the potential for having a serious financial impact on the residents of the town,” he said — and the Route 5 bridge project this coming summer in Algiers, which will require a lengthy detour through Bernardston, Massachusetts, and cut the southern part of Guilford off from the northern portion.
“I place great value in rural communities — it’s part of my family background. I think it’s important to respect our heritage and the past, but we also need to move forward,” Rude said.
One way to advance is “for people to get involved,” he said.
“I want to make sure this town stays a great place to live, and for young people to stay here or come back after college,” Rude said. “We can retain our rural character and bring new businesses here.”