Sustainability coordinator hired

Stephen Dotson will be Brattleboro's first sustainability coordinator.

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BRATTLEBORO — Stephen Dotson is looking forward to delving into issues around energy, food, housing, wastewater and water pollution.

Those are some of the things he will take on as the town of Brattleboro's first sustainability coordinator.

"The thing I feel most lucky for is all the work that's preceded this," the Putney resident said in an interview Wednesday. "There's a lot of really solid, solid work from the Energy Committee and the folks who created the energy audit for the town. I just feel fortunate to have such a strong foundation to start from and I'm looking forward to making this position one that can leave a lasting impact on the community."

Town Manager Peter Elwell announced the news at the Select Board meeting Tuesday. Dotson will begin working for the town Feb. 3.

More than 75 people applied for the new position, according to a news release. Elwell called the applicant pool the strongest he has seen since becoming town manager in 2015. He said many of the applicants have "very strong education, experience and other qualifications."

"I feel very, very honored to have made it with such stiff competition," Dotson said. "It also shows how much there's a desire to do this work in the world and it's needed. It's good to see it."

Dotson earned a dual bachelor's degree in philosophy and sociology at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. During an environmental ethics course, he read "Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World" by Alan Weisman, which inspired him to go down the career path he has been on.

"It's a story about a community in Columbia that figured out how to be resilient and self sustaining in ways you would never imagine," he said.

Dotson has mostly been involved in communications roles in more than a decade of work related to sustainability and social action, according to the news release. In recent years in the Brattleboro area, Dotson has served as director of communications and marketing for the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, corporate sustainability operations associate for OneReport, Inc., and associate director of the Rich Earth Institute. Mostly recently, he has helped Brattleboro Savings & Loan get special certification for being a socially and environmentally responsible business, and Friends of the West River Trail with connecting trails along the West and Connecticut rivers.

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Dotson served as a commissioner on the Windham Regional Commission, a member of the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies board, and a leadership team member for the Ecovation Hub. He has assisted Retreat Farm, the Resilient Design Institute, and Strolling of the Heifers' Slow Living Summit.

Initially as sustainability coordinator, Dotson said he expects "a lot of planning and assessment." He plans to identify priorities with the community and Energy Committee.

"It's going to be a lot of stepping back and trying to plan for some big moves," he said. "It's a marathon, not a sprint."

Dotson will report to Planning Services Director Sue Fillion.

"We are impressed by the breadth of Stephen's experience, by the sharpness of his analytical work, and by the quiet intensity with which he engages in community building," Fillion said in a statement. "We are excited to be bringing him onto our team."

The news release says Elwell, Fillion, Select Board members Elizabeth McLoughlin and Dave Schoales, Brattleboro Human Resources Director Sally Nix, Public Works Director Steve Barrett, Energy Committee Chairman Oscar Heller, and Windham & Windsor Housing Trust Executive Director Elizabeth Bridgewater reviewed all the applications, conducted telephone interviews with 16 applicants, and conducted face-to-face interviews with six semi-finalists. Elwell said there were two "outstanding finalists" before he and Fillion decided to hire Dotson.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.