This story originally ran in the Addison Independent in the Sept. 14, 2017, edition.
By Gaen Murphree
After six and a half months of searching, Bristol has a new town administrator. Valerie Capels, Waitsfield town administrator since 2006, will take over that role in the Bristol town office on October 2.
“I am attracted to Bristol because it has a reputation for good local government, engaged citizens, and a strong sense of place,” Capels said. “I am also excited for the opportunity to work for a larger community that offers a wide range of services.”
Bristol Select Board member Peter Coffey said the town is just as excited to have her.
“We’re very much looking forward to working with Valerie,” said Coffey, who’s acting as interim town administrator. “We’re thrilled to have found someone with her experience and background. That’s really going to give us all a leg up as we all begin to work together.”
Last February, town administrator Therese Kirby notified the Bristol Select Board that she would not renew her contract, which ended June 30. The select board initiated a search in late March, interviewed candidates and made an offer. After some negotiation, that candidate rejected the select board’s final offer in early June. Kirby agreed to extend her stay as town administrator, though moving to Brookfield. She stayed through the end of August and Coffey assumed interim town administrator duties right after Labor Day.
The select board reopened its search in July and conducted another nationwide search, getting around nine applications in all. Coffey said Capels rose to the top because of her extensive experience as a town administrator. The select board interviewed Capels in August and offered her the job, which she accepted, but didn’t make the hire official until Monday night’s select board meeting because Capels requested time to notify the town of Waitsfield and to deal with a death in the family, Coffey said.
As Waitsfield town administrator, Capels oversaw the town’s recovery from Tropical Storm Irene, generating more than $408,000 in federal and state funds. She also secured a state Village Center Designation for historic Waitsfield Village and oversaw funding and construction on a new town office building.
Before coming to Waitsfield in 2006, Capels spent 11 years as director of planning and community development for the city of Montpelier. She worked as a planner for the city of Burlington from 1992 to 1995.
Capels is a member of the Vermont Town and City Manager Association, the American Planning Association (of which she is a past president), and the American Institute of Certified Planners. She served eight years on the Mad River Valley Certified Local Government Commission.
Capels holds a master of regional planning degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies from the State University of New York, Syracuse.
Kirby’s departure hasn’t been the only change in personnel for the Bristol town office. In August, Bristol zoning administrator Eric Forand took a job with Vermont Emergency Management as the state exercise administrator and administrative assistant Pam Correia left to become the new town treasurer-clerk for Panton. Coffey said the select board had just selected and approved Kris Perlee as the new zoning administrator and that the selection process for a new administrative assistant is underway.
Longtime Bristol Police Chief Kevin Gibbs retired at the end of August, and at its August 21 meeting, the select board voted to name Lt. Bruce Nason officer in charge. Coffey said the select board had not yet decided how it would approach finding a new chief of police or whether the board would conduct a search at all. It was likeliest that board members would finish out the year with Nason as officer in charge, Coffey said.