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Jessie Baker Heads For Winooski

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Photo by Carla Occaso

by Carla Occaso

MONTPELIER — Assistant City Manager Jessie Baker is taking another step up the municipal management ladder. Baker has been hired away from Montpelier to become the next city manager of Winooski in Chittenden County.

In a recent interview with The Bridge, Baker said that she has learned a lot from City Manager William Fraser, and enjoyed working with others in Montpelier’s City Hall. “The part of working here I enjoyed the most was working with our team. I think Montpelier is a unique city. It is a small town by municipal standards.” She observed how city officials have aggressive goals, and how the city is able to attract high caliber talent such as Fraser, Police Chief Anthony Facos and Fire Chief Robert Gowans. She also tipped her hat to City Planner Michael Miller, Mayor John Hollar and all the members of the city council. Then there are the volunteers. Baker pointed out that many residents volunteer to sit on the town’s many boards and committees. “You don’t see that in other towns,” she noted.

Clearly a person who does not like to brag about herself, The Bridge tried to coax Baker into saying what she feels were her best accomplishments. “It is tough because there is nothing that I did solely,” she said, always crediting the team. “The thing I am most excited about is the new commitment by Montpelier to economic development,” she said, explaining how in the last year she, along with others, completed an economic development plan. The group took input from the community and provided a roadmap to show how to move forward. With Montpelier now on the brink of new promise, Baker noted, “I am very sad to walk away, to view the progress from afar and not be an integral part of it.”

Fraser had nothing but good words for his outgoing assistant, describing her as a consummate professional with an incredible work ethic. “She came intuitively with the ‘get it done’ attitude. We are a good team. She helped reinforce the message I was promoting. Our skills were complementary — she was good at some things and I was good at others,” Fraser said. Although he wishes the timing of her departure was different, he recognizes how rare it is for an opportunity of the magnitude she had to occur. “She is ready to make the move. She has the skills and abilities. I am happy for her,” he said.

Baker said she heard about the job in Winooski when Katherine “Deac” Decarreau announced she would be stepping down. Decarreau is leaving for a job as executive director of finance and operations at the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, according to a news report.

“I am a young person. I am ambitious. I am ready to be a manager. Opportunities in Vermont don’t come along that often for young people who want to progress. When an opportunity comes along you have to jump at it,” Baker said.

Before working in Montpelier, Baker worked as director of personnel in the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, after serving as an aide to Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. Before that she was a social worker for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Boston. Prior to that, she worked for other child welfare agencies.

She has a certificate of completion from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, a master’s from the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning at Tufts University and a bachelor’s in anthropology and psychology from Columbia University.

Looking ahead, Baker describes the qualities of her new position. Winooski is a Sanctuary City, as is Montpelier, but it is more culturally diverse. There has been a lot of new development, and therefore the municipality is working on how to keep affordable housing for those who live there while accommodating new development. “Winooski has seen an enormous amount of private investment. The council is interested in how to continue that … and not push people out,” Baker said.

Baker will assume her position in Winooski in March after having been with Montpelier since April 1, 2013.

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