Celebrating Each Other

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We all know that Jericho is an amazing place to live. Not only do we have great villages, open land, parks and places to eat, we have great PEOPLE who work and volunteer here too.

This page is the place where we are celebrating each other and our accomplishments.

This month's post features Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee member,

Soit Ole Musa.

Thank you to Jericho resident, Phyl Newbeck, who has generously volunteered to conduct and write our interviews.

We all know that Jericho is an amazing place to live. Not only do we have great villages, open land, parks and places to eat, we have great PEOPLE who work and volunteer here too.

This page is the place where we are celebrating each other and our accomplishments.

This month's post features Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee member,

Soit Ole Musa.

Thank you to Jericho resident, Phyl Newbeck, who has generously volunteered to conduct and write our interviews.

  • Soit Ole Musa (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee)

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    Soit Ole Musa: Student Representative on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

    A senior at MMU, Soitmatua (Soit) Ole Musa is part of a racial equity group called Cougars of Color. Their goal is to bring about change in the way the school and community discuss racial issues from a BIPOC perspective. When the advisor for that group told Musa the town of Jericho was forming a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and was looking for student volunteers, he decided to apply.

    Musa was the first person appointed to the committee. “It’s been great,” he said. “I really enjoy the work and think it’s really important.” He noted that even policies that aren’t directly exclusionary might not have been created with DEI values in mind so they might be unintentionally causing harm and should be examined.

    Musa isn’t fazed by the fact that he’s surrounded by adults on the committee. He admits that he doesn’t know all the procedures for committee work and respects the fact that the older members are well versed in that. “I really enjoy and value their wisdom on how we have to run as a group,” he said. “They’re great people and I respect them as mentors.” Musa said he has always spent time with people older than himself so working on the committee isn’t a stretch.

    Musa believes Jericho needs to improve access to housing to be more inclusive. “We need to work on our housing values,” he said “but that opens up a whole can of worms because you’re dealing with homeowners who may not want more neighbors. That becomes a larger conversation and that’s where the committee comes in.” Musa also thinks it’s important for Jericho to attract more diverse residents. “This is one of the whitest places I’ve ever been,” he said. “My graduating class has five Black people, and the grades below only have a couple. Attracting a more diverse presence would help Jericho’s growth.”

    Musa was a member of the Vermont Youth Philharmonia for two years and has been part of the Vermont Youth Orchestra since eighth grade. He plays French horn and this year he is the principal player. “I’ve been really committed to that,” he said, “and it’s been an amazing and formative experience.” In addition, Musa has been a member of the marching band since middle school and was twice invited to the Big E. “Marching is a completely different beast,” he said. He is unable to play the French horn in the band, so he plays a mellophone which he described as looking like a big trumpet. “You can use a French horn mouthpiece,” he said, “but it’s still quite different. It’s harder than being an ensemble player because you’re applying all that musicianship but also moving. You’re trying to remember the ebbs and flows of the music as well as where you’re supposed to be physically.”

    Musa has played at the District Festival since grade 7 and has gone to All States each year of high school except for his sophomore year when Covid led to its cancellation. This year, the group is playing the last movement of the New World Symphony which Musa described as having a massive horn solo. “It’s really terrifying,” he said, “because it goes really high.”

    Musa’s musical talents extend beyond the horn. He has also taken part in chorus since grade 5 and this year, on the realization that he had never attended a vocal festival, he went to the New England Chorus Festival and enjoyed the opportunity to sing with a group of 200 others.

    Not surprisingly, given the fact that music is such a huge part of his life, Musa will be attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston this fall. In addition to French horn performance, he will be studying film and media composition.

    Musa has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Jericho and although he’s not sure where he’ll end up after graduation, he does have one thought. “A long time from now, when I have kids,” he said, “I’d love to have them go to MMU.”

    Soit Plays a Sample of Strauss - Click Here to Listen

  • Pete Davis (Mobbs Farm Committee)

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    Peter Miller Davis: A Career of Skis and Trees

    The third burglary at Peter Miller Davis’s home in the North End of Burlington was the final affront. “They stole the hose off the front of our house,” he recalled. His wife Karen was pregnant with their first child, and she saw an ad for property that abutted the UVM Research Forest which was where Davis had studied forestry. “As soon as I got here, I knew that they’d be taking me out in a casket,” he said. “I knew it was where I wanted to spend my life. I just felt a connection to the land.”

    When Jericho formed a committee to oversee the Mobbs Farm in 2008, Davis immediately applied. He took five years off when he worked at Stratton Mountain School but got back on the committee as soon as that job ended, and he’s been a member ever since. The property is near his house, and he spends time skiing, biking, and running on the trails.

    Davis’s career has been a fascinating series of twists and turns. He was on the UVM ski team and after graduation, he decided to focus on downhill in the hope of making the national team. On a whim, he offered to be a forerunner at a race at Pico and ended up joining the Peugeot Grand Prix ski circuit which he described as the B tour. That year, the primary circuit folded, so the faster racers ended up joining the B tour, upping the level of competition. Davis spent three years racing on the tour and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to travel the world.

    After retiring from racing, Davis started a business doing tree work in the summer while coaching several different ski clubs in the winter. He began doing some event announcing and had a local radio show called Friday Morning Funway on WRUV from 1980 to 1986. Davis enjoyed announcing ski races but since there were very few spectators, he launched an experiment to bring the mountain to the people instead of vice versa.

    In Burlington, snow was trucked in from the airport for an event that became the annual Burlington Winter Festival. The first year was so popular that race registration had to be capped at 250 people. Davis called the local television stations and got so much publicity that Anheuser Busch signed on as a sponsor and Busch City Ski was born. The group hosted 26 events a year across the country and found that the ones at beach resorts were the most popular. One event was held in front of the US Capitol.

    The ski events were on weekends and Davis continued to do tree work during the week but in 1991 he opted for more steady employment, signing on with Canstar Sports which was based out of Swanton. When Nike bought the company and moved it to New Hampshire, Davis balked at relocating so they allowed him to work out of his home for the last six years of his 11 years with the firm. From there he went to Rossignol where he managed a snowboard brand.

    Davis spent five years at Stratton Mountain School when his son, a Nordic racer, attended. From there, it was three years as the Executive Director of the USA Snowboard Association and a couple of years building the adventure center at Stowe. In 2008, looking to return to his forestry roots, Davis posted on Jericho Front Porch Forum about his desire to get back into tree work and immediately got 37 calls. These days, his work life is a combination of forestry work and event announcing.

    Davis chairs the Mobbs Committee and one of the things he loves about it is that everyone contributes. “It took the whole team to get Mobbs conserved,” he said, of the work which involved the Jericho Underhill and Vermont Land Trusts. “It was a three-year long process, and everyone was part of it.” Davis was gratified that when the question of conservation was put to the town for a vote, 91% were in favor.

    Now that he’s no longer racing, Davis enjoys having a quiet ski at Mobbs and credits Dan and Chris Smith for their work grooming the trails with a Snowdog. This winter he was also thrilled to see the use of the sliding trails by local kids. The Mobbs Committee is now focusing on grant opportunities and has just submitted a request for $20,000 in trail maintenance funds to improve the condition of the property’s bridges.

    Davis is hoping to establish a subcommittee to look into the feasibility of a community garden at Mobbs. A test patch close to the Brown’s Trace parking area showed that the soil was suitable for agriculture. Davis is also working on the Mobbs Farm orchard which currently has a dozen trees. He is hoping to add more apple, pear, plum, and northern climate peach, in addition to blueberry and raspberry bushes. He envisions a picnic area where people can relax, and wildlife can flourish. I call those my “big, hairy, audacious goals,” he said with a smile.

  • SJ Dube (Affordable Housing & Diversity,Equity and Inclusion Committees)

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    Sarahjane Dube: The Consummate Volunteer

    By Phyl Newbeck

    Sarahjane (SJ) Dube has a lot on her plate. In addition to her full-time job as a Research Specialist at UVM, she’s got two young children at home and she’s taking graduate courses in epidemiology. On top of that, she chairs Jericho’s Affordable Housing Committee and is a member of the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

    Dube moved to Vermont in 2008, purchasing a small home in the New North End with the goal of trying to decide if she and her husband wanted to stay in Vermont. They built up some equity and when their son was born in the fall of 2012, they decided to make their next move. Basing their decision on what they could afford, the status of the schools, and proximity to skiing for her husband, the two found a split-level ranch in Jericho in 2013 which would also provide room their new daughter.

    Initially, Dube concentrated on her job and raising her family but during the pandemic, she was able to attend evening meetings via Zoom and became intrigued by the options to serve her community. Dube watched Select Board and Planning Commission meetings while rubbing her daughter’s back and when Bob Robbins posted on Front Porch Forum that he needed people for a new Affordable Housing Committee, she volunteered. “I didn’t have the expertise,” she said, “but I was willing to help.”

    When Robbins left the committee, Dube took over as chair. “There was a need,” she said, “and I was willing to try it until the following March when the term would expire.” March came and went and Dube is still the chair. “I just fell into it,” she said.

    While listening to Vermont Edition, Dube learned about the Declaration of Inclusion movement across the state. She approached Town Administrator John Abbott who told her that the Select Board had just tasked him with creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Dube again raised her hand to volunteer, and the committee has just adopted a charter.

    Dube’s day job is as a research specialist at UVM in the Department of Psychiatry. She is involved in two research projects. One is with the Vermont Center of Behavior and Health and the second one is part of the national Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study. Although those areas are very different from the ones where she volunteers, Dube believes her expertise in information gathering, analysis, and reporting has been useful in her municipal volunteer work.

    Dube is studying for a graduate certificate in epidemiology which she believes will provide a good background for a potential move into the field of social justice through public health. All of this doesn’t leave much time for hobbies, but Dube said she likes to have busy hands. She enjoys knitting, crocheting, and quilting, as well as hiking, reading, and being outside with her dog.

    Dube’s entry into the world of municipal volunteering coincided with her daughter aging out of her toddler period. “I was just starting to be more than a mom,” Dube said. “I was coming out of the fog and woods of the infant and toddler years, and I got excited about having a brain that was working and having some time on my hands.”

    Another impetus for Dube’s volunteer efforts was her concern about the state of the world. “Between the pandemic and the social and cultural state of the country at that time, things got dark,” she said. “I went to a place of feeling overwhelming despair but then I started thinking about how I could help people.” Dube started by sewing masks and offering to run errands for immunocompromised people. “Those little acts of agency made me feel a little better and a little more empowered,” she said. “I was finally able to come out from the early years of motherhood and connect with people again. I wanted to be more connected and to serve my community.”

  • Roger Miller (Jericho Highway Department)

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    Roger Miller: Jericho’s Own King of the Road

    By Phyl Newbeck

    Back in July of 2001, Roger Miller joined the Jericho Road Crew and he’s been making sure residents can get to and from their homes and businesses ever since. The six-member crew has been down to four since last summer, but they’ve been able to keep up with everything the weather throws at them.

    Winter work on the road crew involves plowing snow and sanding to prevent rain from freezing on the roads. Gravel roads can’t be graded in winter, but the crew is still out, filling in potholes. Summer is the time for grading those gravel roads. “People like to see that you’ve done it,” Miller said “but they’re not happy while you’re doing it. People like to see you arrive and they like it when you’ve finished, but they don’t really want to see you there.”

    Miller said other summer work involves ditching to make sure water doesn’t run into the road. He noted that state guidelines require ditches to have a lining and a specified level of depth. In all seasons, the crew takes care of trees that come down during storms. The exception is the trees that land on power lines. “We have this thing about not getting sparked,” Miller said with a smile. Even when they’re not on the roads, the crew is busy with upkeep on their vehicles.

    Jericho has 60 miles of roads, almost evenly divided between paved and gravel. The number of gravel roads is unlikely to grow but new developments, particularly in the Riverside area may add more paved roads. Additionally, some existing development roads may become public roads at some point in time. Sidewalks are a relatively new addition to the road crew’s duties and require continued maintenance.

    Miller said that it is more expensive to build a paved road but if it has a good base, it will last at least 20 years before it needs significant work. “A gravel road is less expensive to maintain,” he said, “but you’re always maintaining them.” In addition to regular grading in the summer, some gravel roads require additional work to keep the dust down. “Occasionally the grader operator will have to wait go out until the roads are beyond where they should be because of the rain,” he said. “They have to wait with the work until the road is dry and then sometimes the potholes are deep enough to swallow a Volkswagen.”

    The job of the road crew has changed over the years. “It’s not like it used to be,” Miller said. “Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, a lot of muscle was needed. There is still manual labor in things like cleaning culverts, but you don’t need to be muscle-bound to work on a road crew although it does come in handy if you are.”

    Although many people might think some of Jericho’s bigger snowstorms would cause the most problems, Miller said the worst weather he’s had to work through was the summer a few years ago when there were a number of heavy rainstorms one after the other. He recalls that one major rainstorm came around the Fourth of July and another fell around Bennington Battle Day. “The first was bad enough that before we could get everything fixed, the next one hit.” Miller recalls, adding that the crew needed five or six different contractors during that storm and relied on cooperation from the road crews of several other towns.

    Miller used to play volleyball regularly but these days his main exercise is walking. In the spring he sugars the traditional way with buckets. For him, the best part of the job is having someone say thank you. “Sometimes when a road is really bad or rutty, when we’re out there filling the potholes, we’ll get a thumbs up,” he said, “and that’s really gratifying.”

  • Linda Blasch (Town Planner)

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    Welcome to Linda Blasch, Our New Town Planner

    -Phyl Newbeck

    One advantage to Linda Blasch’s new job as Jericho’s Planning & Development Coordinator is her commute. She can walk from her Jericho Corners home to her office. While some people might be hesitant about taking a municipal job in their hometown, Blasch was willing to take that chance. “I’ve worked with people around the state and with many municipalities,” she said. “I felt that I had a skill set that would bring significant value to my town and that outweighed any potential negatives. I care about this community and its future.”

    Prior to joining the staff at Town Hall, Blasch was a planner for the Northwest Regional Planning Commission in St. Albans, including two years as a Grants Manager. Before that she spent seven years as the Coordinator of the Better Roads Program, a non-profit which was taken over by the Vermont Agency of Transportation during her tenure. “My background is focused on natural resources, environmental conservation, and transportation,” she said. “I’ve also worked in water quality so that’s a comfort zone, as well.” Blasch noted that her background as a grants manager involved both grant writing and project management and she’s hoping to be able to use those skills to help her town.

    Blasch is pleased with what she’s seen so far at the Planning and Zoning Office. “There have been a lot of good zoning changes recently,” she said, “including those intending to incentivize affordable housing through accessory dwelling units and planning for bicyclists and pedestrians.” Blasch likes the fact that the town has been investigating the potential for wastewater facilities in the village centers. “I think there is a good management of the balance between the village centers and the rural environment,” she said.

    Blasch has lived in Vermont for 20 years with the last five of those in Jericho. One of the things that drew her family to the town was the availability of publicly accessible trails for walking and hiking. “I love that Jericho has a great combination of villages and access to open space right outside the village,” she said, noting that she can walk to Jericho Elementary School, the Old Red Mill, and Joe’s Snack Bar. She and her husband picked Jericho in part because it’s a midway point between Burlington and the mountains, but also because of the reputation of the school district.

    In her spare time, Blasch enjoys downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, walking, hiking, and canoeing. Her artistic side is displayed in the round nature mandalas with radial symmetry which she creates using flower petals and leaves. In the summer she makes them outside, often at Old Red Mill Park, and usually leaves them there after taking a picture. “I wonder if people even see them,” she said. In the winter she makes her creations inside and occasionally buys cut flowers so she can continue in her preferred artistic medium.

    Blasch said she is looking forward to working with the community, as well as the Planning Commission. “I hope we can identify planning priorities and strategies to manage the inevitable growth and change that Jericho will experience,” she said. “Jericho has a unique character and that’s something to be mindful of maintaining as best we can. Feedback from the Planning Commission’s first question of the month was clear that residents don't want Jericho to look like Williston or South Burlington, so that’s great information to start working with.”

    She hasn’t been on the job long, but Blasch is already excited by the potential of her new position. An added benefit is getting to know residents she had never met before. She welcomes people to come to the office to say hello but if she’s busy there is an alternative way to learn more about her; a painting representing of one of her mandalas is hanging right behind the table in the conference room.

  • Connor Lahiff (Planning Commission Member)

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    Featured in 2020

    Conor has lived in Jericho since 2005 along with his wife who is born and raised here and his two boys. He has a deep appreciation for the town and its residents. He is a member of the Jericho Planning Commission where he is working to help preserve the town's heritage and beauty, while also acknowledging its future.

    During the day (an sometimes the night) he is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

    Conor is also a part time photographer. His subject of choice is landscape photography, and brings a touch of the surreal to each of his photos. As a meteorologist, Conor brings his interest in weather to slightly surreal photos of Vermont's natural and man-made landscapes, which might feature a red barn under the dramatic Milky Way or wispy cirrus clouds above rural dirt roads.

    From July through October, Burlington City Arts will feature the Conor's landscape photography at the Burlington International Airport along the walls facing security for Gates 1 through 8.

    Fun fact - Do you know the great photo of Mt. Mansfield on the home page of this website? That was shot was captured by Conor! Thank you so much, Conor, for sharing your work with us!
    You can learn more about Conor and see more of is amazing photography at conorlahiffphotography.com

    During the day (an sometimes the night) he is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Page last updated: 04 Jun 2023, 02:04 PM