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Q&A: Mary Powell

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Q&A, Web Exclusives

Editor’s note: The following is the extended version of an interview with Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell. A version of this interview appears in the Autumn 2015 issue of Vermont Life.

Mary Powell, 54, is the CEO of Green Mountain Power, a role she never envisioned for herself as a young, outdoorsy New York transplant. Today she’s one of the most influential Vermont voices in energy, leadership and workplace issues.

Mary Powell at Green Mountain Power in Colchester. Photographed by Gary Hall.

Mary Powell at Green Mountain Power in Colchester. Photographed by Gary Hall.

VL: You left a corporate gig in Manhattan to move to Vermont. Why Vermont?
MP: My dad’s grandfather purchased a piece of land on the lake in Colchester, I think in 1910. So the family has always come to Vermont, in fact, my family still has that same cottage. Vermont was always my second home, and I usually spent at least half of my summer here. When my parents retired, they retired to Vermont. My sister and her family moved to Vermont, and Mark and I had the opportunity to transition up here — and it was for a lot of the same reasons, I think, that I love Vermont 26 years later; which is, it’s an amazing quality of life. It’s an amazing place to live in.

VL: You’ve worked in business, banking and utilities. What would you tell your younger self who thought these fields were “stuffy”?
MP: I would still say to my younger self, “Don’t work for stuffy, bureaucratic organizations.” Actually one of the lines I like is “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” I think while I ended up in these situations I never thought I’d be in, obviously, I was open enough that at the end of the day I did try (them). So I think staying open and being willing to try different things is really important.

VL: It’s worked out.
MP: It has. It really has. I would also say, adding to that, I would say a huge part of why things have worked for me is that I was always willing to bring my authentic self to wherever I went. That is something I would probably encourage even stronger in my younger self, and I encourage in others, is tap into those wonderful, authentic qualities that you have and figure out how to bring them to the situation and leverage them in a way that’s positive for whatever organization you’re working for. Don’t try to conform. So many times I hear people when they’re going for interviews, they want advice, they’ll research exactly what [the companies are looking] for, and exactly what the

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Growing Need

Written by Susan Reid on . Posted in Q&A, Way of (Vermont) Life

The center employs a hands-on approach in teaching life skills, and found success building a garden shared by mothers and their children.

The center employs a hands-on approach in teaching life skills, and found success building a garden shared by mothers and their children. Photo by Daria Bishop.

The high quality of life apparent in Vermont’s thriving ski towns and college hubs can sometimes mask problems that exist in other parts of the state. Springfield, a community of 9,000, is currently coping with the decline of manufacturing jobs. The Springfield Area Parent Child Center provides local residents with everything from child care and playgroups to free evening parenting classes and professional help with learning delays and behavior problems. Administrative manager Jan Zona talks about the center’s efforts to provide real-world solutions for struggling Vermonters.

VL: What first brought you to Vermont?
JZ: I moved to Springfield from Fairfield County, Connecticut, 13 years ago with my husband, Gary. We were looking to live and work in a less congested area and enjoy life in a more rural setting. When I was a child, my dad helped build a camp for a friend in East Wallingford, and we spent many weekends there. The first time I ever skied was at Okemo Mountain. Little did I know that years later I would work there!

VL: You were guest services manager there for 10 years before joining the Parent Child Center. That’s an unusual transition.
JZ: It might seem like a leap to go from a resort to a nonprofit, but in reality, I have just moved from one service industry to another. Now, rather than help visitors enjoy their time here, I can help the youngest citizens in our community and 
their families.

VL: What has been the biggest change at the center since it began?
JZ: Our growth. We started in a small house on Myrtle Street in 1992 with a core group of six to eight employees. Now we have a staff of

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Arts Spotlight: Jazz Ambassador Reuben Jackson

Written by Bill Anderson on . Posted in The Arts

ReubenJackson_credit Stephanie Seguino

Reuben Jackson. Courtesy photo by Stephanie Seguino.

A treasure in our midst, Reuben Jackson, host of VPR’s “Friday Night Jazz,” moved to Vermont in 2011 after 20 years as the curator of the Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As a teenager, he first encountered Vermont in 1974 en route home from a vacation in Montreal, and while, at first, he says he was panic-stricken — “I’d never been stared at before,” — by the time he left, “I was smitten by the state’s beauty.”

He returned to attend Goddard College, and after working in D.C., he came back to Vermont; then in 2012 he took over as host of “Friday Night Jazz.” Calm and equipoised, Jackson’s show reliably presents, as one listener commented online, “an elegantly eclectic mix of textures, tempos and eras.” Each program displays a formidable range, yet never feels forced.

“I try to balance old and new,” Jackson says, “and I love cross-pollinations. I enjoy looking at the relationships between the music, and the evolution of that which continues to influence jazz.”

To read the extended version of this spotlight, see page 16 in the Summer 2015 issue.

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