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Q&A With BTV Ignite’s Michael Schirling | Next, Spring 2016

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Q&A

Michael Schirling of BTV Ignite

Michael Schirling, photographed by Ken Burris.

After 25 years with the Burlington Police Department (recently as its chief), lifelong Burlingtonian Michael Schirling is head of BTV Ignite, which brings together key tech players and leverages Burlington’s 1 gigabit high-speed Internet for economic growth. While it seems like an unusual transition, Schirling was co-founder of the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children task force and designed a police records management system when he became frustrated with the off-the-shelf options.

VL: How did community policing change over the course of your career?
MS: [In the late ’80s,] we’d have pieces of the [patrol] car that would fall off during a shift. Our portable radios would die in the middle of an event. We had to buy our own bulletproof vest, paper and pens, Polaroid film to process crime scenes, fingerprinting kit. … We had to cohabitate in the locker room with pigeons. We used to lose detainees out the window because their handcuffs were just attached to paneling with a D-ring. They’d pull it out of the wall and jump out the window. It’s changed a lot.

VL: Did philosophy change?
MS: It’s always been service-oriented, and I think it is still in a state of transition. Transition takes essentially a generation. Federal and state policy and resources have dramatically impacted the way things are done.

VL: For the better or worse?
MS: Worse. We have under-resourced mental health across the entire continuum, and when there aren’t resources anywhere else, it falls to two organizations to fix: police departments and emergency departments. There is no other place where the buck stops, where you call and walk

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Beware the Stereotype

Written by Mary Hegarty Nowlan on . Posted in Way of (Vermont) Life

Su16 Cover

Summer 2016, photographed by Daria Bishop.

Editor’s note: The following is from Summer 2016’s Inside VL department.

“Fossil-fueled, noisy, hell-bent and anything but agricultural, Thunder Road fits no stereotype of Vermont.” So begins Managing Editor Bill Anderson’s introduction to our photo essay on Thunder Road, Barre’s quarter-mile, highbanked, paved speedway (“Imported from Barre”). Yet, as Anderson points out, Thunder Road is an integral part of summer here, and racing roots run deep among many. Ken Squier, who founded the track in 1961, is NASCAR royalty; he is credited with convincing CBS that television viewers would actually watch the Daytona 500 in its entirety and then served as the lap-by-lap commentator for nearly 25 years.

Our cover photograph challenges another well-established Vermont stereotype — that everyone who lives here is white, and old, and a farmer. True, the state is among the whitest in the country, and we have the second-highest median age (behind Maine), but more interesting are some lesser-known statistics: Not only are we, like the rest of the country, becoming less white every day, the median age of African-Americans here is 24.7, eight years younger than the national average.

Halima Said, who appears on our cover, was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after her parents fled Somalia. Since first grade, she has spent time at Burlington’s King Street Center, a nonprofit social service agency that offers programs for low-income Vermonters, about 60 percent of whom are children of refugees. For 20 years, King Street has operated a lemonade stand in Burlington, making it a summer institution right alongside the street performers and outdoor dining on Church Street. As writer Tim Johnson (“Cool Job”) explains, the purpose of the lemonade stand is not to make a profit, but, like many other programs offered at King Street, to teach life and business skills. One look at Halima, and the other beautiful children photographed by Daria Bishop for this story, and you will want them all to have every opportunity available.

For Halima’s family, Vermont brings peace, as it does for another group of Vermonters afflicted by war: our veterans. In “Catch and Release,” Matt Crawford tells of a program at the Brattleboro Retreat, a mental health facility that treats depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. Three years ago, the Retreat began offering fly fishing excursions as part of its therapy for vets and first responders. The focus required for fly fishing can help calm their thoughts, allowing them to be mindful only of the currents and the cast.

Crawford adroitly describes the motion necessary for fly fishing: “an angler’s feet must be secure and balanced while the upper body rocks to the gentle rhythm of the cast.” It seems to me that Crawford’s artful description could be interpreted as more than physical instructions for angling success. It gives a way for these damaged warriors to accept the dichotomy of their lives, proving that it is possible to be rocked by events they have experienced, yet remain secure and balanced. Fly fishing is the perfect metaphor for accepting two realities at once.

So, too, can Vermont be many things at once. We can welcome raucous Thunder Road adrenaline junkies and tranquility-seeking fly fisherman; young refugees from Somalia and farmers who live their entire lives on the hillsides of Vermont. Vermont is progressing, yet steady; ambitious, yet serene: We are in the midst of an elegant dance into the future.

Mary Hegarty Nowlan, Editor

Meet Chris McGee

Written by Vermont Life on . Posted in Way of (Vermont) Life

Our in-house marketing specialist will help you reach Vermont Life readers

chris-260We are thrilled to welcome Chris McGee as our advertising sales director.

Chris has extensive experience helping Vermont businesses and organizations design advertising packages that get results. If you’d like to grow your business, reach new customers, announce career opportunities or promote an upcoming event, Chris can help you build an affordable print, digital or combination marketing package with Vermont Life media.

He is also here to help you order Vermont Life calendars, notecards and bulk copies of the magazine for your retail or lodging property. Our calendars and notecards practically sell themselves, providing you with an additional revenue stream!

Contact Chris at (802) 272-6253 or email chris.mcgee@vermontlife.com to develop your Vermont Life game plan. He looks forward to meeting you.

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