Come For a Visit, Stay for a Lifetime: Profiles of Vermonters-At-Heart

by Jen Butson and Greg Gerdel

  • People are drawn to Vermont – beautiful mountains, neighborly and culturally rich downtowns, wholesome food that is fresh and local, and “get out and play” diversions that exist harmoniously with other commitments. We asked four people who chose to settle here: what led them to their decision to “make Vermont home?”

  • Kelly Pawlak:
  • Mount Snow Resort General Manager, 27 years • Dover •

    Kelly Pawlak

    What brought me to Vermont? I grew up skiing. After college, I was suddenly faced with a winter without my dad ready and willing to pay for my season pass. So I went searching for a job at a ski area and found one at Mount Snow Resort in southern Vermont. The longer I worked at Mount Snow, the more I fell in love with the ski industry and this region of Vermont in winter and of course, summer.

    What keeps me here? It sounds kind of corny but the primary reason I stay at Mount Snow is because I love the people I work with and the skiers and riders who come to this resort and its surrounding community year after year. Vermont is a great place to raise a family and take advantage of all the amazing recreational opportunities at the resort and around this region of Vermont. Because of where we live and what I do, my kids have had a lot of cool experiences. They’ve had a more active lifestyle than most, growing up skiing, meeting pro athletes, and that is such a great benefit. Every day I wake up anxious to get to the mountain and leave at the end of the day wanting to accomplish more. Where else do you get to spend your days with healthy, happy and fun people…and get paid for it?

  • Mark Simakaski:
  • Owner of Artesano Mead, 5 years • Groton •

    What brought me to Vermont? Vermont’s people, creatures, and ecosystem are what enticed me to come to the Green Mountain State. Honeybees visit about 1,500,000 flowers to make one bottle of mead, or honey wine. I discovered Vermont has so many resources for producing our wine, and that people have raised a consistent honey crop here for hundreds of years. A healthy environment and productive bees are critical to the production of mead; one colony of bees contains 40,000 to 60,000 individuals and can produce enough honey for about 90 bottles. We had been beekeeping for a number of years ourselves and realized that making mead in Vermont was a business strategy with great potential.
    What keeps me here? What made us stay was not only the support of small fruit growers and Vermonters in general, but also the great landscape in which we are able to work. With four active seasons and a beautiful backdrop, our honey wine business has continued to grow year after year. With such priority placed upon locally produced products, Vermont is a destination for “foodies” from all over. Our mead is crafted from essences that define Vermont. In addition to traditional mead, we make seasonal varieties such as blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, spiced, and chili cinnamon. As a business, we are committed to sourcing our honey and fruit from local producers so that our mead reflects all of the great flavors that Vermont has to offer.

  • Maurie Harrington:
  • Studio Painter and Teacher, 20 years. Art Director at Isle La Motte’s Fisk Farm, 10 years • Killington •

    What brought me to Vermont? My husband Jack and I both worked as ambassadors and taught skiing at Killington Ski Resort. We bought a ski house which eventually became our permanent home. Our sons competed in freestyle ski competitions and attended Killington Mountain School. I earned my master’s degree in art from Norwich University and my husband went to Middlebury College.

    What keeps me here? My artistic inspiration comes from the beauty found in Vermont, the magnificent views of Mount Mansfield that I see from my window at our summertime waterfront house in North Hero, as well as the beauty of Killington in winter. I guess I have the best of both worlds.

    My husband and I also love Vermont because of its music and art. He plays in a group called “Potluck Folk Singers.” I was one of the founding members of Killington Artists Guild which is still in existence today. Recent projects include a poetry book Gathering of Poets for which my painting was selected for the cover. Two of my poems are included in the book as well. I am a member of the Vermont Watercolor Society, Island Arts, Chaffee Art Center, League of Vermont Writers and National League of American Pen Women.

  • Matt Dodds:
  • Chief Brandthropologist at Brandthropology, 10 years • Burlington •

    What brought me to Vermont? Family brought me here. After spending many years in some of the world’s largest cities (Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore) we were ready to settle down in a less urban environment. In the early 80s I had summer jobs in Burlington, and came to love the scale of this wonderful place; large enough to offer many of the things that big cities have, but more intimate and socially connected. Burlington topped our list so we dug into savings and made a go of it.

    What keeps me here? One very critical thing that keeps me here is this wonderful, buoyant sense that the progressive things that we’re doing in Vermont have meaningful impact on the world. I take immense pleasure in working directly with exceptional people and institutions that are making a difference, which is rewarding and invigorating. Through my profession I have taken on projects that allow me to participate in the local food movement, environmental and social services fields, a more sustainable energy future, delivering healthcare services to the rural areas of the state, transforming the higher education model to be less costly and more adult learner friendly, reconnecting our children with nature, and more. It gives me a great sense of pride to be able to take the skills that I’ve learned in the greater world working for multinational companies and to be able to put these skills to use in a place to which I am deeply connected.

    Connections to my extended family keep me here as well. My maternal grandmother came from the Vermont side of Lake Champlain. I uncovered that my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Dan Johnson, came to what was then the New Hampshire Grants in 1787 and was one of the original Incorporators of Williston, where I now live. By shear happenstance, I bought a farm house on a part of that original Johnson farmland. Freaky – and so intriguing! On my dad’s side, I’m a direct descendant of a Green Mountain Boy, who was part of the citizen militia established in 1760 and led by Ethan Allen to maintain territorial independence. History’s an amazing thing. I just hope that I can impact some small part of Vermont’s history.